Students are going gaga for radio at a children’s charity station in Sutton that helps gives youngsters the chance to shine.
Takeover 106.9 is based at Sutton Community Academy on High Pavement and broadcasts live shows on weekdays between 8am and 8pm in term time and 9am to 5pm for the duration of the summer holidays.
It gives eight to 18-year-olds their first taste of the airwaves, whether it be as a presenter, producer or working on outside broadcasts, news and sport.
The station was set up in January 2010, with the school keen to set up a broadcasting outlet, As a result, they made contact with Graham Coley, who had established a similar venture in Leicestershire and was able to do help likewise in the Ashfield area.
While the school provides the studio space rent-free, the rest of Takeover’s activities are funded entirely by grants, which includes the wages of two staff members, overheads and training schemes for the children, one of which is called Broadcast to Achieve.
Volunteers - around 15 to 20 children at present - each take on hour-and-a-half shifts between 3.30pm and 5pm, 5pm and 6.30pm and 6.30pm to 8pm. They are encouraged to take on a wide selection of roles and given extensive guidance as they ease their way into the broadcasting process.
Children’s producer and assistant station manager Craig Priest, who works alongside station manager James Finlayson, believes Broadcast to Achieve is working well.
“We try to give young people a free taste in all aspects of the media industry and help improve their skill set and their confidence at the same time,” he said.
“But rather than just give youngsters a means to do it, we also aim to provide a series of different tasks that can help them explore the different roles.
“We then reward those who successfully go through it with certificates, t-shirts, hoodies and other memorabilia.
“Our aim is to try to make it an adult environment, so it is not like they are back at school and being taught, with staff acting as mentors.
“It’s something we are looking to expand in the future so that we can improve the quality of the experience, but it obviously depends on funding.”
Broadcast and Achieve has it’s own website that gives more information on what Richard Bacon wannabes can expect if they get involved.
Those who do apply to Takeover 106.9 are then invited in to look around before being given the chance to complete a six-week trial, which can then lead to more regular shifts.
The project has already received plenty of positive feedback and thrown up a number of success stories.
Craig added: “The only thing we ask for from those wanting to join in is that they have a genuine interest in the media. It’s mainly people from the Ashfield area, but we have had some from the Mansfield area too.
“We have had some phenomenal praise for the work we have been doing both from schools and parents, which is great to hear.
“One of our students suffers from dyslexia and was being predicted Ds and Es in his exams, but since coming to the station, that has gone up to Bs and Cs.
“Another suffers from Asperger’s and autism and some of his fellow students used to take the mickey behind his back, but now everyone around his school knows him and has a lot of respect for him because of his radio work.
“And a third, Alison Davey, who started training last summer, now has her own 90-minute show, is very promising, and is doing media in her GCSEs with a view to taking it on to university and a career.
“Not everyone is going to make a career out if it, but if it can improve their skills and make them more self-confident, that is the most important thing.”
Broadcast and Achieve has been given a firm thumbs up by the students themselves. Anthony Davies, 14, who attends Sutton Community Academy, says working at Takeover 106.9 has helped boost his confidence.
He said: “When I first came to the school, I saw an advert for it and thought I would give it a go.
“I love listening to music anyway and this is a good way of getting work experience, talking to others and getting involved in something.
“I mostly like doing the presenting, but I have done a bit of everything, including the planning of our own shows.
“We try to make the shows as tight as possible, and while things can go wrong, you can usually recover it with live radio.
“By doing outside broadcasts and going out and interviewing people, it has made me feel more comfortable in what I’m doing.
“If I wasn’t doing this, then I would just be sat in my room playing on my computer.”
And Nathan Tomlinson, 15, who also goes to Sutton Community Academy, believes it is an ideal project to give him something meaningful to do over the summer holidays.
“I have been teaming up with another presenter, John, which has brought an extra dimension to what I have been doing.
“Working with Craig has helped me develop my skills and we’ve been researching to do a longer three-hour holiday show.
“If I were to do it all summer, every day, then I probably couldn’t last, but to do it for some of the time is a nice balance and gives you something to fill your time.”
So if Anthony, Nathan or another young DJ from the Ashfield area makes it onto Radio One in years to come, you may well have heard them on Takeover 106.9 first.
To find out more about Takeover 106.9, contact Craig Priest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org