Letting Our Hearts Be Heard

Photo: Naomi Contopoulous
Photo: Naomi Contopoulous
Photo: Naomi Contopoulous
Photo: Naomi Contopoulous
IMG_8038 2
Photo: Naomi Contopoulous

Our Radio returned for another broadcast on Friday October 23rd with yet another content packed few hours. The afternoon was entitled Let Your Heart Be Heard and amongst a stellar cast, our guest of the day had to be Mr David Brown.  David had travelled down from Wales for the day and it was great to listen to his convictions and belief in Mencap’s five core principles as he shared stories with our CEO Janine Tregelles alongside top anchor man Harry Roche. An atmosphere of fun and excitement permeated the studio throughout the afternoon, punctuated by news, views inspired music and wordy pearls of wisdom.

We started the afternoon off with the Magpie dance group who had travelled up from Kent for the day and were due to give a performance in our breakout area upstairs. Robert and Owen put a great performance on to a full house and they along with their dance tutor Avril were most inspiring. It was good to have them down in the studio and hear their tales of dance, how they got into it, what inspires them, and how it shapes and defines their lives. For anybody out there who would like to express themselves through movement and maybe install a regular workout into their lives we couldn’t recommend Magpie enough. They have been unlocking individual potential and ability and have been at the forefront of dance for people with learning disabilities for 30 years now. A great achievement.

Mary Spillane was our guest on Old Street Island Discs, she had an intriguing selection of songs and was very eloquent in telling us what they meant to her growing up in the town of Tralee and then coming over to live in London and making her way in the world. For me it was great to hear Lust for Life played on Our Radio and have a great blast of positivity from Mary.
Things then got extremely creative as the Power and Control group provided us with a great radio role play entitled Keeping Safe On The Internet. The piece was packed full of good advice and top tips about what to do and not to do when spending time on the internet and who to tell if things seem wrong. Big up to Paul, Michelle, Lloyd, Nabeel and Adelle from Elfrida Society’s PAC, we will definitely have more from them in the future. Before we knew it the day was up and we finished the afternoon’s Broadcast with a piece of Sound Art / Poetry that the Islington Me Time group had devised, inspired by the afternoon’s subject of Letting Our Heart’s Be Heard.

So what next? Our next broadcast will be Friday November 20th and Heart and Soul will be our guests on the day. On the day we loved the tweets that were flying about and we always appreciate the likes on Facebook. Our aim is to use social media as much as possible and make as many contacts as we can both in the LD community and without. The best thing though is knowing we have the possibility of communication, that people might be listening and there is a chance our voices might be heard, let’s hope we can keep transmitting and build on what we have with Our Radio.

Post-Election Special – 15th May

In the Studio
In the Studio

Our program on the 15th May had a more serious approach than previous Friday broadcasts. We wanted to know how people felt about the recent elections and indeed how they thought the election results would affect people with learning disabilities, and to that end we cut down on the music and limited ourselves to the three groups who we thought had most to say. These three groups were the Young Ambassadors, London Include Me & our own Islington Social Crew.

Young Ambassadors
Young Ambassadors

A fortnight earlier we had given our portable Zoom recorder to the Young Ambassadors, and they had visited a select few polling stations with some leading questions. They recorded some great answers. These sound bites had been posted to Erin earlier in the week, and were edited and ready to go by the time the 12 ‘o’clock start was upon us. We were primed with plenty of choice, and had found lots of topical and suitable songs.

Nikki with Ciara and Katie of London Include Me
Nikki with Ciara and Katie of London Include Me

First in the studio was London Include Me with Ciara and Katie, who were hosted by Nikki from the Islington Social Crew. Nikki asked them what they hoped would change for the future with Mencap strategy, and also asked about the Hear My Voice campaign. A whole range of subjects were covered, and the group’s passion really came across. But to hear their answers in full we suggest you listen to our archive of the full show here.

Young Ambassadors
Young Ambassadors

And then, a veritable whirlwind blew into the studio in the form of the Young Ambassadors. Wow! These guys know how to rock. We spent two hours exploring many subjects, playing favourite records & hearing from the man in the street. We’re not sure if we’ve got everyone’s names here but BIG shout out to Jamie, Kelsey, Michelle, Krishan, Sahil, Ellie, Hussain, Charlotte, Ollie, Paul, Carl, Sam, Hannah, & Eve. We covered a range of topics from food banks to Williams Syndrome. All in all it was a superb show and for a first foray into radio these guys were bang on, and made the studio their own territory.

Finally, we ended with Message in Our Music. Adrian and Celia from the Islington Social Crew came in and talked quite candidly about their love for each other and what it means to live together as a couple with LD. We had asked them to bring songs in that meant a lot to them, and that represented different parts of their lives. And in the spirit of election week, and in a jukebox jury kind of manner we played them politically minded topical songs from down the years and asked them for their response. It was a very interesting and thought provoking hour, and rounded off the afternoon’s broadcast in a heartfelt & life enhancing manner.

Young Ambassadors in the studio
Young Ambassadors in the studio

We have some great themes lined up for future broadcasts, and the next one will be a week long series of shows for Learning Disability Week 15-21st June. Yea roll on Our Radio!

The Day We Marched Into Spring

So, Our Radio returned for it’s second broadcast on Friday March 6th and what an eventful content packed few hours it was. I must say the star of the day was Mr Harry Roche who anchored the five hours on air with great panache and flair and always seemed to ask the right question at the right time. Harry was supported immensely by the Islington Me Time group and an atmosphere of fun and excitement permeated the studio throughout the afternoon, though there were moments of poignancy to such as the tribute to Tracey Stirling and the IMT telling us why they loved Music with a Message in it.

Harry 06.03.15

A big thanks too to Mary and Andrew in fundraising as the technical side of the station ran smoothly without any hitches or glitches thanks to the new studio hardware we now have. Thanks guys, drinks are on us soon!

We started off with Message in Our Music and the IMT chose some politically and spiritually inspired songs, songs about bad times gone and God times to come and people going out and changing their lives for the better. It was a great way to start the day. We also sneaked the new PKN single in, they being the Finnish LD punk band who have entered the Eurovision Song Contest this year. We don’t know what Terry Wogan will make of the great punk sound of PKN but we will definitely be rooting for them.

After that early flurry of excitement it was time for a breather so thankfully we were able to play another great Bob Pearce podcast. This month Bob talked to Ben about his love of Dr Who which made everyone in the studio space minded and had us thinking we were in a tar dis of our own. Things were warming up nicely and Harry then took the time to tell us about his work with the Inclusion Europe Group.

Next up was a slice of drama workshop as Joe and Isa acted out a section of dialogue they have been writing themselves and rehearsing for a play that is going to be staged in June at the Soho Theatre in collaboration with London Artbox Theatre. The play is called Going Places and we will be testing more sections out on Our Radio over the next few months.

Things then got quite serious and unashamedly sentimental as friends of Tracey Stirling crowded in to the studio live room to pay respects to Tracey Stirling. Tracey was a much loved person on the Islington LD scene and it was heartwarming to hear so much love and respect being poured out for her. It was quite hard to keep it together with so many tears flowing I must say but big props to Erin and Kyle in the control rom for keeping things flowing through the mixing desk. Next to Harry they were true stars on a day of big stars.

And a truly big star was about to join us in the form of Djanan Turan who came in to ‘Introducing Our Guest’ to tell us about the new album she it’s just made and is about to release. The guys asked her about her songwriting skills and techniques and even got to jam with her, the IMT rapping along with Djanan, who in turn was genuinely impressed by their mic skills.

Lloyd 06.03.15

Then all of a sudden time was almost up and the afternoon had flew by and all that was left was for Harry to introduce the last show of this months Transmission. After all the positivity and gravity of the hours gone it was fantastic to end on a high and light Freddy Mercury styled note as we got around the table to say that The Show Must Go On! Lloyd and Emma persuaded the sceptical Our Radio team that Queen were the bees knees in the rock music field. They were very convincing. It was great off-the-wall radio. It made us want to break free. We were all set up for the weekend. Our Radio had done it again!

So what next? Our next broadcast will be Friday April 10th and already we are searching out new and interesting guests. On the day we loved the tweets that were flying about and we always appreciate the likes on Facebook. Our aim is to use social media as much as possible and make as many contacts as we can both in the LD community and without. The best thing though is knowing we have the possibility of communication, that people might be listening and there is a chance our voices might be heard, around all that is the fact that doing Our Radio is just damn good fun. The best fun in the world right now!

Archived segments of the show can be found at

First Transmission: Our Big Plan

Our Radio
Our Radio Studio
What an amazing day! Our first broadcast as Our Radio was not without its trials and tribulations, but that just seemed to make it more exciting and worthwhile. We had worked around the clock to have a five hour schedule ready for the Mencap OUR BIG PLAN day, taking up the challenge from the inspiring and inspired Liz Clyro. We knew time was short, but in the spirit of good alternative radio we decided to go for it.

We had set up a WordPress page to host the site and a Ustream account to broadcast from. Next was the important matter of getting the correct broadcasting licences from the PPL and PRS. Once we had paid our licence fees, we set ourselves up on Facebook, Instagram and most importantly Twitter. Having done that we sat around the table with the Our Radio crew and made up a wishlist of guests and decided which issues we would like to talk about on the day.

Studio Equiptment
Studio Equipment
Discrimination was a big theme with the group, but they also felt that for our opening day we should be pushing a sense of fun, promoting wellbeing and generally put across a positive message. This was a positive moment in itself as it chimed right in with the themes of ‘Our Big Plan’ and we could riff off some of the keywords such as Caring, Trustworthy, Inclusive and Positive. Excitement was building in the room. A great meeting!

On the technical front however things were a bit more difficult. We spent a few days trying to get the phone lines to work, but it was a bit beyond our scope and time frame, so we put the phone on the back burner for another day. On the guest front though things were hotting up. The amazing Ciara Lawrence-Evans came in with a proposal for London Include Me to host an hour or so and they had a brilliant playlist of songs. The Our Radio team wanted to invite guests from the world of theatre, song and Mencap itself so we set about finding the people they wanted. We had a radio drama that we had written produced and presented at Resonance 104.4FM before Xmas, also Bob Pearce sent in a lovely podcast of an interview he had made with a woman called Grace (available now to listen on our homepage) and that was the icing on the cake. Could we see out five hours of broadcasting? Fingers crossed!

Come the morning of the 29th all the Our Radio crew were in bright and early, and busied themselves sticking up posters, printing out playlists and concentrating on their questions and prompts for the day. Anticipation and excitement was running high but the crew reassured and inspired each other, and all of a sudden it was 12 o clock and the bright red LIVE ON AIR sign was flashing, and we were away.

Live in the Studio
Live in the Studio
We started with an hour of music and chat and shout outs and already the Twitter feed was busy and maybe making up for a lack of phone line. We were all feeling pretty confident. Liz brought Oonagh Smyth into the room to be grilled by the team on the direction of Mencap and Our Big Plan and gutwrenchingly this is when disaster chose it’s moment to strike. We got a flurry of texts and some concerned listeners on various floors of the office came down to tell us that the signal was down and Al they could hear was pure static. It was a real heart in the mouth moment with the fear that all the previous weeks work might go to waste and we would mess up on such a big day. Thankfully though the problem was located and the computers rebooted and we were able to proceed. Oonagh was gracious enough to redo her interview and the guys got some great answers out of her. Thank you Oonagh and big shout out to Erin for overcoming the technical Heebie Jeebies.

The podcast of Grace was played whilst the group handed over to Ciara, Jack, Bernadette and Harry of the Include Me team. Wow! These guys were on it. All four members supplied 90 minutes of passionate articulate thought and reasoning, as well as playing some outrageously good tunes. We would like more please London Include Me team- you are an inspiration to our presenters! Whilst we’re on the topic, a big congratulations to Harry for his new role as Mencap’s European ambassador. Time was flying in the studio.

London Include Me
London Include Me group
Our Radio are currently writing a drama called Going Places so it was a brilliant surprise for them when the six members of London Artbox Productions burst through the door. Artbox are from the Central School of Speech and Drama and are going to be working with the group soon. An inspired conversation ensued around the table on the nature of theatre and how it can inspire and empower the lonely and disadvantaged. We look forward to working with them in the future.

Artbox Productions cram into the studio
Artbox Productions cram into the studio
Hot on the heels of the Artbox group, the Our Radio presenters interviewed two amazing singer-songwriters Katy Carr and Helen Macookerybook. Lots of great ground was covered, and we ended the show on a real high.

Singer-songwriters Helen and Katy
Singer-songwriters Helen and Katy
Thank you to everyone who contributed on the day but especially our team of Nikki, Christian, Richmond and Joseph. It is early days for the Our Radio team but already their confidence and communication skills are building. The next year should be a total adventure.

Discussion in the studio
Discussion in the studio

The big surprise of the day was certainly the amount of Twitter traffic that ensued and we were retweeted by the likes of Gloria Gaynor and Irvine Welsh as well as a great deal of cross-pollination between different Mencap offices across the country. Social media is definitely the way to get ourselves out there, is important to interact with listeners and is a great compliment to online radio. Our next challenge is to overcome our technical gremlins and install a new mixer and then maintain a steady, varied and inspired radio timetable.

Our Big Plan for Our Radio! Yes indeed.

New Beginnings

At the start of 2014 we began to set up the OurRadio online station for people with learning disabilities project.
We had already been running a radio session at the immense ResonanceFM and at a discussion the group said they would like to take things even further and start their own online station.
The recording studio in the Mencap basement had lain dormant for a long time and a radio station seemed to be the perfect excuse to reactivate the space.
We asked the guys what they wanted and the consensus was that they would like to be a voice for the community and turn people on to great sounds and more than that be in control of their dreams hopes fears and wishes.
So…. Our Radio
The plan is to have a functioning online station putting out five hours of content to coincide with Mencap‘s Big Plan launch on Thursday 29th of January. Once the station is up and running our aim is to have service users from the Islington Me Time group and beyond trained up as radio programme makers, to be producers and presenters.
The adventure starts here and this blog will hopefully capture the trials and tribulations as well as moments of glory of running an LD radio station. Keep tuned….