For six hours every Tuesday evening I manage a radio station dedicated to the idea of ‘art radio’. Since it’s inception in 1998 Resonance FM has broadcast a unique, diverse and sometimes eccentric mix of shows that would otherwise not find air. Their mission statement reads:
“Imagine a radio station like no other. A radio station that makes public those artworks that have no place in traditional broadcasting. A radio station that is an archive of the new, the undiscovered, the forgotten, the impossible. That is an invisible gallery, a virtual arts centre whose location is at once local, global and timeless. And that is itself a work of art. Imagine a radio station that responds rapidly to new initiatives, has time to draw breath and reflect. A laboratory for experimentation, that by virtue of its uniqueness brings into being a new audience of listeners and creators. All this and more, Resonance104.4fm aims to make London’s airwaves available to the widest possible range of practitioners of contemporary art.”
— Resonance FM
When I arrive N.N. Dee, presenter of ‘The Workplace’ is quizzing artist Bob and Roberta Smith. N.N. Dee, also known as Pat, is trying to ascertain whether Bob will mention any female or ethnic minority artists in his top three visual artists of all time. He does. They were X, Y and Z. She congratulates Bob because so far in her research this hasn’t happened very often.
Downstairs I set up studio 1 for Flora Pitrolo’s eight o’clock show, ‘A Colder Consciousness’. Flora is a DJ who collates music from ‘the dark synth underground’. Her show (link) broadcasts monthly on a Tuesday evening. It’s a simple set up just requiring me to run her over the studio basics and turn off the light. Flora finds the studios fluorescent lights a little harsh, which is understandable when playing the best that the dark synth underground has to offer. She always brings a torch.
The next live show is called ‘Make Your Own Damn Music’, presented by artist Bob & Roberta Smith, who is also an art tutor at London City University. ‘Bob and Roberta Smith’ gave himself this nom de plume after finding that it was the pseudonym that won the most arts grants.
The show requires me to set up a piano, a drum kit and a bass guitar. Over the next hour Bob, along with his co presenter and art dealer friend George Lionel Barker improvise songs and sing. Bob plays the drums with a fork and a washing up brush, George plays the bass and then switches to piano. Bob reads prepared lyrics that appear to be written on toilet roll. The first song has the Labour Party as it’s subject.
The lyrics begin, “The only difference between the Nazi Party and the Labour Party is the logo. Beat them up at the border. Trigger article fifty. Their tough minded people at the Labour Party,. They don’t like to mess around. They wear starch uniforms. When they march through the streets they can be pretty frightening. It’s a fashion statement. To be in the Labour Party.”
The show changes tone just after the half way point however when Bob pulls out an old record of BBC sound effects. George is particularly excited by this and for the rest of the show they pass commentary over the record and it’s highlights. Both Bob and George spend part of the listen frustrated as they wait for ‘The Greenwich Pips’, unfortunately for them they have to sit through four or five minutes of glockenspiel’s ringing out in various styles before the pips announce themselves.
L.A musician Art Terry presents the final show of the evening ‘Is Black Music’. He opens with a fifteen minute piano and vocal jam, sometimes accompanied by a friend on the bongos. The aim of ‘Is Black Music’ is to showcase alternative black music from it’s rich history. At the end of last year Art made a trip around Africa and so recently a lot of the shows have featured recordings he made of local musicians along the way.
Resonance FM is funded entirely by donations and kept operational by the dedication of around 300 unpaid volunteers. The selection of shows featured here is only one slice of a huge pie that includes over a hundred hours of live programming a week. They are currently embarking on a funding drive and you can make a donation here. You can also bid on a range of unique experiences and objects donated by contributors and put up for auction by Resonance as well as attend several special events in support of the station.
Photos taken in Marrakesh between 21st-25th January 2017. Images are displayed in order taken.
Tonight I am performing at a poetry night in Brighton. For the last month I have been whispering the poem to myself on tubes, platforms, buses, and escalators, all in preparation for this evening. In all instances I paid the fare. Today I will not.
I work freelance (the glamorous way to refer to refer to contract-less employment) and just about make things work, but recently I’ve been leaning on the good will of housemates, relatives and friends more than is socially acceptable. Right now, I have the £10 in my pocket for my Thames Link (formerly First Capital Connect) super off peak train to Brighton. There awaits wine, a stage, a spotlight, a crowd of people with score cards, and no doubt someone performing pseudo political rap bullshit that ends up over shadowing my ‘real’ poem. I digress.
At the ticket machines outside London bridge station I can see through a glass wall into the busy ticket office. There are four operational counters serving a queue of twenty-seven people. This is mostly tourist and backpacker types with some large family groups as well. I am thankful I know the fare I require and the ticket machine layout so I am not subject to a tax on my time in the manner that those unfamiliar with the system are. If this were the case, I would never make my train departing in seven minutes and may miss my performance this evening.
Looking around the ticket machine options, the ticket I require does not appear. As I tap gently at the screen a hard ball of anxiety forms in my chest. I cannot find the weekend super off peak fare. The superiority I felt in avoiding that humongous line of non-Londoners melts away into sympathy and regret. At £16.30 I cannot afford the cheapest available on screen ticket, a 40% price hike from the fare I know should be purchasable. I have a choice between paying with my time or with my money and neither are affordable.
How do I get to Brighton? My ‘bank of mum’ credit is used up. A moustache of cold sweat forms across my upper lip. And then, I recall a trick a friend of mine developed while unemployed last year. To get to and from interviews he resorted to something he referred to as ‘snuggling’. This essentially involves snuggling up behind another traveller as they go through the ticket stile, extending a hand complete with empty oyster card over the sensor, and, on occasion saying ‘beep’. Apparently if you place your hands gently on the gate as you step behind another individual the gates will remain open, imagining perhaps that you are the victim from the human centipede movie. The trick is to time your stroll through the gates alongside a rush of people where personal space is not a priority and maintaining a consistent flow of commuters through to the platform is.
There are plenty of people about and my timely approach to the turnstile attracts neither the attention of the person in front, nor the attendant who has better things to do than pick on the poor. I sit in my free seat, on one of the oldest trains on the UK network, a train that has been paid for time and time again, and I begin to establish my moral relativism in order to calm my nerves. I tried to pay the correct fare. I am not a regular fare evader.
In order to avoid complications at Brighton, I step off the train one stop before Brighton and buy a ticket from Preston Park. This comes to a grand total of £2.60 and costs me an extra fifteen minutes journey time but is worth it to ensure I am not accosted at the gates metres from my destination. At this point I move distinctly into the field of fare evasion rather than avoidance. I have ceased to be virtuous, I am now a rebel. After reading up on train operators across the South East, specifically how awful they are (and have been forever) and how much cash they make I feel happy about removing £7.30 from this equation. The purchase of a ticket from Preston Park is also the moment on my journey from which I have a valid ticket. At Brighton I pass through the barriers and taste freedom as my anxiety passes. Why wasn’t my ticket available? What is the law regarding fare evasion? These are questions I should have answers to soon.
Are you a fare hopper?
Do you program ticket machines?
Please get in touch.