Students taking over a radio station for 24 hours and a college staff member and headmaster pledging to duet to Kylie and Jason’s ‘Especially for you’, complete with bubble perm wigs? Yep... it’s time for our first community story to celebrate Somerset Day and the people doing things differently in our very cool county.
What better way to start than with a takeover of FromeFM by 30 students of Frome College who broadcast for 24 hours non-stop, to raise money for their college Radio Club (and for the set-up of a satellite studio at the college).
The takeover happened last bank holiday weekend and it caught our eye because of the sheer determination of the students (and staff) to do something that had never been achieved before. It was the very first time a group of school-aged children (between 13 and 18 years old) had broadcast live, from a UK community radio station, continuously for 24 hours - and what a brilliant job they did!
Regular presenters stepped aside and all the programmes were written and presented by students and college staff. They covered topics from Cookery to Maths as well as Music, as students still had to meet FromeFM’s community radio agreement of a 30/70 ratio of talk to music.
People get nervous about talking on the radio and it was initially hard to persuade staff to join in, but once they did they loved it! In fact Dr Smith, the college’s Physics teacher (and FromeFM’s new version of Professor Brian Cox), has found a calling as a DJ! He hosted a science show during the day and returned at 2.30am for another 3 hours of shows with the students. Now that’s what we call science stamina!
Between the hours of 11pm and 1am, the FromeFM studios also became a vibrant concert venue, with over 20 students performing live music sets, under the direction of Nick Waterhouse from the College music department.
The idea really captured the hearts of Frome's community too. Local businesses donated £400 before the broadcast even started and as support staff member (and champion of the fundraiser) Jennie Smith explained, the support of the local community meant such a lot.
Jennie shed more than a few tears at the lovely messages of support they received whilst on air - over 300 messages in to the studio and even more on social media. Listeners tuned in from all over the UK, as well as from New York, Melbourne, Kentucky and the Falkland Islands. A seal of approval was even given on Twitter by astronaut Tim Peake! TIM FLIPPIN’ PEAKE, PEOPLE!! :)
As Jennie told me;
“I’m properly proud of the kids at this school… and other people seeing how talented they are was just wonderful. It was great that colleagues who stepped out of their comfort zone and broadcast on air really loved it. They could see how worthwhile it is getting kids involved in their community and making their voices heard. So many people see teenagers in a negative way and this was a way of showing just how amazing young people are.”
And, these amazing young people raised an awesome amount for their radio club that doubled initial expectations! Jennie set the bar at £500, but club members May, Amy, Megs and Steph wanted to set the target at £1,000. This led to a few rash promises and yes… the Jason and Kylie duet pledge that is set to become infamous!
“ When I made the STUPID promise to do a Jason/Kylie duet with the Headmaster at the whole school end of year assembly if we raised £1k online, it was during hour 22 and I honestly thought we had no chance. Afterwards, we suddenly got some larger donations… people can be so cruel,"
“I think people really donated as they could hear the effort and the work the students had put in,”
Jennie said... and the total currently stands at £1,300.
If you fancy listening to some of the vibrant and exciting shows the students put together, they’re still available to download from the FromeFM website. Donations can also still be made either directly to Frome College or online at frome.fm/donate
P.S. A little birdie told us that in some quarters, Victoria Beckham buying a bottle of water 100 yards up the road from the radio station was the hot topic of news that bank holiday weekend. Well, we know you’ll be more interested in the stuff that fuelled the show (not Vicky B’s water), so here’s the rundown - 12 packets of biscuits, 2 boxes of ‘Say it with Brownies’, a chocolate traybake, 36 packets of crisps, 15 bags of sweets, a jar of hot chocolate, 2 bottles of squash, 6 pizzas, a load of bacon sandwiches and a punnet of grapes!! :)
P.P.S With funding from Frome Town Council (and working in association with FromeFM, Sounds of Frome and local community groups) the school will be producing and airing a fortnightly programme ‘Frome College Matters’ - a magazine style show with special features on Maths, Science, English and Local History. ‘Frome College Matters’ means that students meet, and get to know, older people within the community and have a say in services that affect them. Go go go Frome College broadcasters! :)