AN EVENING AT THE UK’S ONLY ART RADIO STATION

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

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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.

20170131_204852Downstairs 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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