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24 hours, 2 brilliant causes & the magic of community radio!

Updated: Jan 21, 2020

It'll come as no surprise to hear that radio is a huge love of ours. There's always something magical yet familiar about it - stories, music and people to connect with, whenever you want or need them. It was National Radio Day earlier this week and to mark the day, we decided to look back at a very special community radio show we created a few months ago.

The 'Somerset coolathon' raised funds for two amazing causes – Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue who help to save dogs from the horror of the Chinese meat trade (amongst a whole host of other awesome things they do) and Lurcher SOS, who are dedicated to saving sighthounds from neglect, abandonment and death. We managed a 24 hour non-stop takeover of Frome FM, with your amazing support... and what a 24 hours it was!

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24 hours, bringing people together to raise funds for two amazing causes

Not only were we raising funds to support the coolathon causes, we were also celebrating wildlife, photography, makers, art, food and drink and music throughout the show – and after setting the scene in Hour One, which was kindly sponsored by the guys at Hurds Hill, we had some awesome guests in the studio to help us!

Somerset cool, Frome FM
Emma Green from Reminiscence Learning dropped in to give us a very much needed hand... and fancy dress box!

Our ‘Wildlife Hour’ saw artist Jackie Curtis, Nature photographer Carl Bovis and Lost Words campaigner John Fish, join us for a brilliant chat about why wildlife is so crucial to us all... and of course we *might* have mentioned the wonderful places to see it in Somerset and beyond. It was fantastic hearing about the ways in which wildlife inspires Jackie’s work too.

Big shout out to Natural Animals for sponsoring this part of the coolathon, and you can listen again to the wildlife chat and our kick off hour, right here.

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John, Jackie and Carl made Wildlife Hour fly by!

Whether it’s beautiful, inspirational, colourful or quirky, you know we love a cracking photo and so we couldn’t let the coolathon pass without ‘Photography Hour’. Carl stayed with us for that of course, and we also welcomed talented photographer and videographer Jonathan Warner to the studio, plus ace photographer Polly Skene.

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Photographers unite! Jonathan, Polly and Carl were the dream team on the coolathon

The hour went so quickly, with lively, passionate discussion on all things photographic and I asked the guys to pick their favourite photo of each other’s too, so it was great to hear about the things they love in each other’s work. Our sponsor for the hour, Clevedon Pier, sent in some of their favourite shots of that much-loved Somerset icon. Click here to listen to the hour again.

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Clevedon Pier's choice of favourite Pier photos, on Photography Hour

Next up was Makers Hour, sponsored by the awesome guys at Boo Cottage Botanicals. This was a cracker! We love championing talented makers from all walks of life and we had award-winning cake artist Zoe Burmester with us in the studio, talking about her incredible cake sculptures and what it’s like being part of the Channel 4 series, Extreme Cake Makers.

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Zoe Burmester had some very exciting news to share during Makers Hour, sponsored by Boo Cottage Botanicals

Plus, we had a pretty cool announcement to make! Zoe gifted us a cake sculpture commission, to auction off to raise money for our causes. We launched it this hour and the auction itself ended a couple of weeks later, with winning bidder, Shona Gleave, having an edible sculpture of her son’s Bassett Hound, Lola, created by Zoe.

And that’s not all.

We all got the chance to be part of the TV programme too, as the experience was filmed for Channel 4, with the cake unveiled live on our follow up radio show! Errr... wow! :)

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A bassett hound cake? Now that's barking brilliant!

On Makers Hour, we also had fab chats with our sponsors, going behind the scenes at one of their soap making workshops, and we caught up with ace makers Jacks & Stripes too. It was definitely a makers celebration alright! The hour will be available to listen to on demand very soon.

Now from here, things got very tasty indeed! The next hour was dedicated to one of our favourite subjects... food... and what Somerset cool ‘Foodie Hour’ would be complete without a cheese tasting live in the studio?

Katherine and John, of the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, joined us to take us through all things authentic Cheddar and to share their story of making cheese by hand, using traditional methods. Plot spoiler: it’s definitely a workout and a half! ;)

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Getting cheesy in the studio and it was certainly tasty!

Patrick Blandford from Riverford brought in lots of juicy organic fruits too - and yes there was a cheese and watermelon tasting moment! Who knew they would go so well together?

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'Beardy Veg Man', Patrick Blandford, living life on the veg!

The hour was sponsored by the brilliant Francine Lee from Bumblee's preserves. We tried some of Fran’s delicious chutneys on air too and had a fab chat with the lady herself about what it really means to be an artisan maker.

Fran also gifted us an ‘Act of Kindness’, to give away as a surprise to someone who’d donated to our cause - and who wouldn’t want a basket of Bumblee's brilliant preserves? There was definitely a longing in Graeme’s eyes!! ;) You can listen again to the hour right here.

Bumblee's preserves went brilliantly with the amazing authentic Cheddar from The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

As the show hurtled in to its fifth hour (with barely time to dash to the loo for me ;)) the artists descended! For ‘Art Hour’ we had an awesome chat with artists Fiona Campbell, Kate Cochrane and Camilla Frederick and one of my favourite topics, ‘art for all’, was firmly on the agenda.

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A passionate discussion about art and the impact it has on our lives

Camilla gifted us a very special act of kindness too – a pet painting commission, and we gave that away to Anna Walker. Lurcher, Elf, was the light of her life.

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Camilla's painting of Elf, in Anna's home

Art Hour will be available to listen to again very soon.

Heading full on in to the evening, the next part of the show was one of my favourites... because it had your experiences in it!

Rescues and Requests, sponsored by Winston James Woof, gave you the chance to share the stories of your rescue animals. Michelle and Paul from The Cheddar Paws Bakery came in to help us tell them, and we laughed, we cried and our voices often faltered with emotion. Mine certainly did when sharing the story of Elf the lurcher, who Camilla painted. Elf helped owner Anna through a difficult time in her life and sounded like such a beautiful boy.

We also had stories of handles being chewed off cookers, joints of beef (complete with carving forks) being stolen off worktops and sausages being stolen from the BBQ’s of complete strangers...

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A happy & emotional time in the studio with The Cheddar Paws Bakery team, during Rescues & Requests

...but throughout all the stories, happy and sad, one thing was clear. The companionship of all of the rescue animals featured on our show is priceless. You can listen again to Rescue and Requests right here, to experience that too.

The guys at Cheddar Paws were wonderful supporters of the show and even gifted a 'party for your pupper' complete with personalised celebratory cake, balloons and a whole host of treats for us to give away! Zoe Cox and her rescue dog Betsie bagged that, and here's a little sneak peak of their special celebration.

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Betsie & Belle had a 'sisters forever' party at The Cheddar Paws Bakery for Dogs in Cheddar. Photo by Zoe Cox.

The 24 hours had many other highlights as well. From Johnny leading our seventies show, sponsored by The Regency Chess Company, to Graeme flying solo with his 90’s show supported by Tickety Boo Creative. He definitely likes to move it move it! ;)

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Bleary-eyed Graeme and still-smiling Jenn!

Liz and Colin Stewart, founders of Somerset and Dorset Animal Rescue, joined us for the 11pm-midnight slot, to share more about the animals they rescue and to talk about the three collies they helped Rushton Dog Rescue to save from the meat trade in China.

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Hope, Alfie and Daisy, enjoying their new lives after the horror of the past

If you listened to the show, you won't be able to forget Hope, Alfie and Daisy. They all went through hell on earth in a Chinese slaughterhouse, but were saved, brought to the UK and now they all have new lives with people who adore them. We adopted Hope and can't imagine life without her. Alfie was adopted by a lady who lives in London and who takes him to work every day, where he is constantly fussed over... and little Daisy, who you might remember is blind, has stayed with Liz and gets up to lots of mischief with her new best friend - Liz's other dog, Sox!

It was brilliant to be able to share their stories on the radio with you and to play an interview by Lurcher SOS founder, Laurie Harkness, who spoke movingly about the dogs she saves, with the help of her supporters.

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Liz and Colin joined us in the studio for a special late night programme

Cracking on through the night, my ‘Jenn goes crazy hour’ at 3am, sponsored by Simple Brighter Days, was a mix of songs I normally whack on when I’ve had a few ;) and some other guilty pleasures. It was embarrassing, but it certainly kept me awake!

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Ida and Jenn, keeping spirits high in the early hours!

And we’ve got to say a huge thank you to Teenage Kicks for their 1am show, and to Dr David Smith for the early morning Rock Hours, from 4 to 6 am. They gave me a chance to frantically plan out the Sunday a little bit! ;)

When the dawn broke and 6am arrived, it was time for the two-hour ‘dawn chorus’ show, sponsored by The Drawing Room at Butleigh. What a show that was! We had a fantastic chat with TV and radio broadcaster, author, and President of the Somerset Wildlife Trust, Stephen Moss and a flower crown making workshop in the studio, with the wonderful Lara Smith from Manor Farm Cottage Flowers. Beautiful blooms really does not cover it!

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Lara and her stunning flowers were a sight for sore eyes at 6am

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Feeling fresh 19 hours in, thanks to Lara's fresh flower crowns

Dog Friendly Frome joined the party and Jade, show sponsor from The Drawing Room, brought in cake, energy drink and joined us for a good old chinwag in the studio! The hours just flew by... a bit like those dawn chorus birds ;).

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Jade from The Drawing Room gave us all a lift on the 7am show!

Before we knew it, it was time for the Somerset coolathon’s very own book club... magnificently led by book reviewer John Fish. We had a fab chat about which books you might like to pop on your own reading list (our bookshelves are now bulging – too many crackers, John!) and John also interviewed bestselling author Wendy Holden.

The book club will be available to listen to again next week so if you missed it, keep an eye out for that.

The superhero that is Ida Down, led the Sunday Sizzler for the next 3 hours with music to keep all our spirits up, funny chat, help from the awesome Graham and Debra and some great studio guests. Brett and Susan from Salad Days and Holi Moli Dunster Beach Huts and their dog, Maverick, came in to see us... and radio star Maverick had lots to say on air ;).

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Dunster Beach Hut dog, Maverick, popped in to bark hello!

The guys also kindly gifted us a wonderful stay at their beach hut to give away to one of our lucky donators... and we did that on the show too. The excitement was HUGE!

Brett & Susan from Salad Days & Holiday Moli Beach Huts at Dunster Beach

Before we knew it, the finale had arrived. That’s right... the holy grail of the twenty-fourth hour!

And what a finale it was.

If anyone tells you 80’s aerobics can’t be done after 24 hours broadcasting live on the radio with no sleep, laugh in their faces, stick on a bit of Wham! and call the legend that is Cheryl Sprinkler of Mojo Moves. Honestly, she put us through our paces like a combination of Mr Motivator, Pans People and Cat Woman all rolled in to one... but BETTER! ;)

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Who you gonna call? Cheryl Sprinkler!

The hour was sponsored by The Cheddar Gorge Cheese company and I think they would’ve been very proud of our cheesey 80’s dance moves! ;) You can hear what we got up to right here... and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Cheryl, AKA Ginny from Rare Species, is simply brilliant.

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Ain't nothing gonna break our stride. Oh no! Not with Cheryl in the house.

As we said an emotional thank you and goodbye at the end of the show, we almost couldn’t believe it had all really happened - with varying degrees of quality, yes, but the very best bit was that we had your unbelievable support all the way... and you raised a whopping £2,404 for the causes involved. That was what it had all been about and we can't thank you enough.

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Some of the funds raised went to help Lurcher SOS rescue dog, Arwen. You can see here just how much progress she has made from photo 1 (when she was saved) to photo 4 (now). She's been given proper medical care & treated with love & kindness. She will make someone a wonderful companion.

So... 36 hours next year then? ;). I AM joking I think... but what radio has done for us, whether we're making our monthly shows, one-off specials or listening to other people over the airwaves, is bring warmth and fun into our lives in a way that nothing else has. Personally, I love knowing I can always switch on that little blue box in the corner of our kitchen and there'll be something to raise a smile or bring a tear to my eye.

On our show, chatting to the different types of people I do makes my heart sing, so we'll be raising a big glass of something fizzy to the wireless this week (showing my age there ;)) as well as to Ida, who invited me on her own Frome FM show when we first moved to Somerset. It was Ida who persuaded me to do the monthly show in the first place and she was a total star throughout the 24 hours.

As well as meeting some great people, radio is responsible for me making a very kind and generous friend... and that's definitely something to celebrate.

Thanks to everyone who's been on our FromeFM radio show so far. You've been brilliant. If you'd like to listen to our shows, or think you might like to chat to me on air, you can check out all of our programmes here.


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