The freelance world is a lovely place to be on a bright and warm early Autumn day. I took a drive out East to Sheppey – the highest point in Sheppey actually – where the studio of BRFM sits atop the Windy Ridge overlooking the Thames Estuary, within sight of the wind turbines to the right and the old forts dead ahead.
My quarry was Daniel Nash, who brings a slice of culture to Sheppey’s Monday nights with his community show on BRFM, Sheppey’s local radio station on 95.6fm. Interviewing interesting people doing interesting things in the local community, Daniel, an artist himself, is keen to make art accessible to as many folk as possible.
“There’s a big arts community here – Big Fish Arts Trust, The Swale Arts Forum – the Sheppey Little Theatre is always involved, particularly with Promenade this weekend – but many local people get involved with organising things, like in the Art, History and Tourism Celebration in 2009, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight by in Britain, by a Briton (JTC Moore Brabazon), which took place in Leysdown in 1909.”
The station is manned by volunteers: there are no brand new branded motor cars here, just a couple of trailers, an aerial – and a distinct lack of being governed by commercial interests, although the station is supported by local businesses and other partners.
“BRFM support whatever area you’re in – I’m arts so they help with that. The island boundary makes it a very close knit community and the DJs bring their expertise to the radio station. It’s a nurturing network, whether it’s football, art or tourism, as long as it benefits the local community, making the most of the volunteer’s expertise.”
For aspiring DJs, Daniel recommends beginning with hospital or internet radio or a media course to gain some insight and experience.
“It’s increasingly harder to find a way in, as many bigger stations are now networks. The BBC is a good place to try, as they employ a lot of volunteers behind the scenes. I started out at the local community hospital here – just two wards, a waiting room and reception. I was interested in the technology side of things and I volunteered about nine years ago. I got the freedom to practice and make mistakes; it was a really good training ground. Then BRFM did a series of trials and from being involved in some shape or form for a few years, I progressed to the community show six years ago, interviewing someone every Monday.”
Having studied at the University of Creative Arts in Rochester, Daniel has a degree and MA in 3Dimensional Design, specialising in concrete sculptures. With a keen interest in photography, which plays its part in recording his work, art is his ‘day job’ but there’s always been a fascination with radio.
“I was involved with art long before radio, although when I was younger I used to make my own tapes and record my own shows. I grew away from it at Uni until I came across hospital radio and decided to get involved. But yes, my day job is as an artist. I’ve had a couple of exhibitions but I’m just starting out and getting known.”
It isn’t just the arts community that Daniel promotes on BRFM. He works with many other individuals and organisations on the Island to ensure the community are fully informed of what’s happening in the area.
“The coast guard is a regular visitor, along with the Sheppey Horticultural Society – there’s a regular slot for them to give gardening advice throughout the seasons. Depending on what’s happening, the neighbourhood PC pops in, as does the Fire Brigade with safety reminders – they’re due again soon, with Bonfire Night nearly upon us. Another regular is James Crane, our Community Warden. I’ve known him since the early days and it’s he who organises things like the Emergency Services Day, bringing all of them together in a fun day out for the family.”
It’s easy to understand why the community have embraced their local radio station: camaraderie between the presenters is obvious, as is a love of what they’re doing. Providing an effective portal with which to engage and share, BRFM operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with live presenters between 7am and 10pm each day. Daniel’s Monday night show is on between 7pm and 10pm and he also does the weekend breakfast shows, from 7am – 10am.