What We Do You Can’t Get Anywhere Else – DemonFM @ Oxjam

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Oct 242012

Mark Lisle – Produced DemonFM’s Oxjam Sessions

Saturday 20th October was the day when Leicester went live music crazy. Oxjam is the annual national music festival designed to raise funds and awareness for Oxfam and their campaigns to fund essential services in countries and communities who are faced with extreme deprivation and poverty. Leicester’s Oxjam contribution was a takeover of the cities Cultural Quarter, over fourteen venues and two hundred bands and performers. This is turning into a monumental event for Leicester and showcased the immense amount of talent in the city and the passions there is for live music.

DemonFM played it’s part by running the stage at Thread and broadcasting live for the day. Twelve bands performing live and broadcast to Leicester is no easy thing to do. There’s a lot of organisation and planning that has to go in to getting people and equipment int he right places at the right time, being informed and saying the right things, while also having a good sense of fun and ensuring that the listener at home gets a full sense of what the event is about.


Jess & Caz Producing DemonFM’s On-Air Oxjam Content

Originally the DemonFM volunteers wanted to broadcast from 1pm to 5pm, but it soon became apparent that more could be achieved. Mark Lisle, who had taken the helm for organising the event was unruffled by the many twists and turns. He was well supported by Jess Temby and Caz Harby who provided support and back-up for the broadcast, Among the presenters for the day Chris Longman and Dan Ansell did stirling work in keeping the listeners engaged with the flow of the day. With Aaron, Sam and Danni working the desk and the stage throughout the day and ensuring that the bands started and finished on time.

I only intended to hang around for a couple of hours, but the whole event was such a buzz that I ended-up lugging equipment back into the De Montfort University studios well past midnight. It had been a long day for the team, and they looked shattered, and yet the elation at having succeeded in producing such a memorable outside broadcast was tangible. I can’t wait for the next OB to take place.

No Quarter Given Show Six

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Oct 192012

I feel that I’m getting quite good now at putting together the No Quarter Given Show. This is the sixth show to go out as a pre-record, and the content is improving each week. Kirsty Munro has recorded some great interviews with the guys who are touring Obama Mamba at the Curve Theatre, and Nathan Human has been continuing to get out and about and talk to the organisers of the Oxjam Music Festival that is taking place in Leicester this weekend.

Armed with a spreadsheet to measure the time of the running order, a couple of smartphones and a Soundcloud account, we’ve been putting the shows together each week – sometimes in a state of panic, but increasingly with a sense of assurance and capability, if I do say so myself. The features are spot-on, and really reflect the passions and the commitments of the reporters.

As we bring in more radio production students into the process of reporting for the programme, developing content and managing the production process, I’n sure the show will get stronger and more relevant. As we each get out and about more and go and see some events in the city, then I’ll be very happy to hear that the knowledge and focus of the show will become stronger and more appealing to a creative audience who want to stay ahead of the curve in Leicester’s growing cultural scene.

You Can’t Get This Anywhere Else

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Oct 182012

One of the less obvious but no less tangible benefits of being a capable and independent media producer is being able to produce content that no one else can produce and which has an essential flavour of yourself as a producer. I was discussing the process of developing sound identity packages for DemonFM with our station sound producer, Chris Longman, as we are trying to give DemonFM a more independent and unique identity. We talked about how station sound producers work and what they bring to the process of creating an aural-soundscape for a radio station – or for that matter anything that uses sound. What would make the station stand out and when Chris is applying for work in the industry, what will make him stand out?

A rather obvious thought struck me, if we originate all of the sounds, music and voices that are packaged into DemonFM ourselves, then in the process we will be able to more clearly articulate a unique identity that can’t be found anywhere else. Think of the top record producers. They each have a unique sound profile that makes them stand-out. They get this because they spend a lot of time customising the studios that they use, they treat microphones in a specific way, they use certain types of processors, the instruments that they use have a unique characteristic that they zone-in on.

If DemonFM can develop a sound style for it’s jingles and indents that are based on original productions, rather than the rather lame canned sound-effects that can be downloaded from the internet, then the station will begin to show it’s rather unique identity more easily. If you can get this sound anywhere else then why are we using it? If you can get this voice anywhere else then why are we using it? If you can hear these messages anywhere else then why are we repeating them? These questions certainly set a challenge in producing unique sound content for the station, but after-all that’s what we are here for.

No Quarter Given Show Launches

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Sep 172012

For some time now a small group of people who are passionate about Leicester’s cultural scene have been working to launch a show on DemonFM that tells the story of what’s going on each week. Presented by Kirsty Monroe with contributions from Nathan Human and myself.

We have been gearing up to launch the show for a few weeks now. The team, so far consists of Kirsty, Nathan and myself, each with a different experience of the Leicester cultural scene, and with different approaches to the way that we tell the story of what’s going on in Leicester.

So I’ve taken the role of producer at this point. Assembling the material that Kirsty and Nathan have gathered and putting it into a running order. Kirsty and Nathan have been out and about meeting people and recording quick interviews with them. What’s amazing is that the interviews are recorded on mobile phones and then uploaded onto Soundcloud and sent to me to download and edit. It works amazingly well, there were very few issues with the recordings, just a couple of tweaks that needed to be made.

I set myself the challenge of producing the ‘Charity Shop Challenge’, with the aim of going to a local charity shop and finding three interesting things that we can turn into performed pieces. My first trawl brought up a Japanese film Tony Takitani, a CD of John Barry film scores and a book of poems. I put them together as three separate sequences and they gave a nice interlude to the show, a creative reading.

Charity Shop Challenge – Sounds Good Sequence

We had a brainwave on the day when we met to put the show together. With all the fuss last week about the potential unearthing of Richard III’s bones, we thought it would be great to put in a reading from Shakespeare’s Richard III. Mike Leo Brown very ably delivered the reading. I hope we’ll be getting Mike in each week to do a different reading as it’s lovely to hear a reading given by a decent performer.

Shakespeare’s Richard III – read by Mike Leo Brown

Now to start planning the next show.

Intermission Reports Weekly Show Themes

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Jul 212012

Intermission Reports

We are mid-way through the summer break for students on BSc Radio Production & Technology, and while many will be relaxing, sitting on a beach or reading books, most of us are holding down jobs, earning a hard-won living or planning for the new academic year that starts in September. But enough moaning, what media technology, media production and radio production learners in the second year at De Montfort University really want to know is what will they be doing on TECH2005 Radio Production this year?

Learners who sign-up for this module get to run the Intermission Reports programme on DemonFM. The programme goes out live Monday to Friday from 12pm to 1pm. It is then followed by Intermission Introduces, which is run by the latest batch of year one radio production students. The aim of this programme is to build-up the experience of the programme teams in producing and managing a spoken-word magazine style programme on DemonFM.


Trevor Philips Interviewed on Intermission

While the vast majority of programming on DemonFM is music and entertainment derived, the Intermission Reports programme is a chance for learners to develop a wider set of skills in radio content production and programme management. This is a programme that is run by the learners themselves. They set-up and establish teams. They have to figure out a way to communicate with one another, and they have to be able to reflect on the practice of producing spoken word content for an audience that ranges across Leicester.

In previous years the Intermission Show has evolved from a set of general themes with a personality edge, into a programme that is all about the lives and views of the listeners. Rather than relying on banter and chat between presenters in the studio, Intermission Reports is going to put the listener up-front in the form of interviews, location reports, debates, outside broadcasts and invited VIP guests to the studio.


Shelagh Fogarty BBC 5Live

The best model for this type of programme can be found on stations like BBC 5 Live, and the Lunch Time News. BBC Five Live is a news, sport and features station. Shelagh Fogarty is in charge for for two hours, with a combination of reports, panel discussions and current events. Overall BBC 5 Live station takes a very flexible and adaptable approach to the daytime schedule. They follow events and report on news as it breaks. It’s not for nothing that BBC Five Live has repeatedly won the Station of the Year at the prestigious Sony Radio Awards.

One innovation that we are introducing to the Intermission Reports programme this year is how we will diary-in specific social action programming based around issues that are relevant to the DemonFM audience. Chris Smith has volunteered to start researching the social action themes for the programme for the coming year, and is going to develop a list that covers each week. From housing and finance issues, to drugs, alcohol and general health issues. We want to talk about issues that impact on the lives of the DemonFM audience. Crime is a big issues for young people. Identity, faith and community are huge issues.

The recent news that Leicester has the largest population of under-twenty-fives in the country means that there will be no shortage of issues to talk about. Getting jobs will be a high priority for many young people. Likewise volunteering is something that many people will do to help improve their job prospects. Not everyone in life, though, has a good start and a strong network of support around them. How can Intermission Reports reflect and guide the concerns of young people as they seek to get a head start in life.

With this in mind, how can DemonFM hold powerful people to account? Can Intermission Reports provide a platform where the people who make the decisions and spend money are quizzed by young people themselves? Intermission Reports aims to be fully interactive with the DemonFM audience, putting the views across and asking the questions that young people want answering.


Student Elections

Continuing from the success of last years Intermission Show teams will be the content strand that looks at DMU Life. There is a lot that goes on every day at De Montfort University, and Intermission Reports is a great opportunity to tell people about it and report on it. The life of students around the university is a rich stream for the programme teams to mine. Likewise the expertise that is on-hand across the different faculties and professional support teams. Last year the show teams ran a RAG week outside broadcast, that followed the elections to the De Montfort Students’ Union team. These gave a vibrant and up-front platform for learners to engage with subject that are close to home.


DemonFM Outside Broadcast - Square Mile Launch

A little further afield, but no less important to the life of De Montfort University is the Square Mile project. The square Mile project aims to engage “with students, staff and residents as well as public services, the local authority and businesses in identifying and responding to the needs and challenges faced by the local area.” This high-profile initiative by the Vice Chancellor is a great opportunity for radio production students to engage with a real community in Leicester, and demonstrate that they can think beyond the De Montfort University campus.

As ever there is loads of potential for programming content with Intermission Reports, and the challenge will be to introduce learners to a style of programme making that needs consistent and in-depth research, as well as a good sense of what keeps an audience listening and engaged.

Carina Tillson – Regulation of Radio #RadioLab Lecture

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Apr 272012

The final DMU #RadioLab Lecture for this session was given by Carina Tillson of Global Radio, who guided DMU radio students and volunteers for DemonFM through the minefield that is compliance and broadcast regulation in the UK. Effortlessly engaging and brimming with examples of why community radio stations need to take compliance seriously, Carina mapped-out the scope of regulation for radio broadcasters, from the application process to the complaints process, and often what happens when things slip between.

Carina is Head of Compliance at Global Radio, and as such is responsible for over 2500 hours of broadcast content each week – a mighty task by any standards. This content is split across national network stations, such as Capital, Heart, Classic FM and LBC. Carina’s philosophy is that everyone at a station is responsible for ensuring that the stations stays on the right side of the law and the broadcast code. It doesn’t matter which department you work in, radio is a team effort, and so everyone should be listening-out for issues that might damage the trust that a station has built with it’s audience.

In an increasingly competitive jobs market, Carina’s advice to the students and volunteers at DMU focussed on a couple of key points: be better at your job than everyone else; make the most of your opportunities; and look for ways that you can get an edge on the other candidates. According to Carina students and volunteers at DemonFM will never get a better chance to gain as much experience as they can while running a community radio station. The privilege of making shows that say something about you as a person is enormous, but there is a heavy burden of responsibility to make sure that you get it right and do it properly. Breaking the trust of the listener can have lots of consequences, so use it wisely, was Carina’s message.


Broadcasting Codes of Practice

Carina was impressed that so many of our volunteers on DemonFM know their way around the broadcasting code, and where able at one point to recite it back! Ultimately, Carina argued, it is down to the individual presenter to take responsibility for their output, but the general rule can be summed up in four words – don’t be a dick!. If you want to avoid the Ofcom Sanctions Panel, then a station can take prudent steps to ensure that their content is free from the potential to cause offence and harm, and if it is not able to guarantee that content won’t cause offence that it at least is broadcast at a time when children won’t be listening.

It was refreshing to hear the rules for broadcasting explained with such passion and knowledge. Keeping trust with your listeners is not something to be taken lightly, but has to be nurtured and protected at all times. Carina gave us a clear account of our responsibilities then urged us to make the most of our creative freedom.


Sound Women

Carina gave a massive plug for Sound Women, the newly established group that promotes the interest of women in the radio and audio industries. More information can be found at www.soundwomen.net.

Phenomenal Week for DemonFM

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Mar 092012

I’ve come over all emotional today, as the impact of the events surrounding the Queens Visit to De Montfort University have finally begun to sink in. A massive day for De Montfort University and Leicester was driven with passion and commitment by Professor Dominic Shellard, the Vice-Chancellor, who staged a massive spectacle using the best of the university’s creative teams. The fashion show and shoe competition have been picked-up extensively by the press, and really show the university as a confident and vibrant place to be.

Playing a part in this was DemonFM, who broadcast live from Magazine Square, at the heart of the campus activities. Going live at 8am and not finishing until 2pm, we gave continuous coverage to the events around campus, spoke with the people who joined in the celebrations, and had a damn good time.

The outside broadcast was professionally managed by the first and second year BSc Radio Production & Technology students, who demonstrated that they are able to undertake the challenge of putting together the resources and the programming for the day. Bringing our equipment over to the Magazine Square at 6am, then setting-up the tents at 7am. Adam Jinkerson and Chris Longman, DemonFM’s Breakfast Show team of the day, started live links with Erica Dancer in the DemonFM studio at 8am, and ran almost continuously through the day. Ably supported and produced by Jess Tenby, Caz Harby and Jon Jackson. Telling the stories of the people in the square, why they where there, and what the day meant to them.

Embedded in the Press Area was DemonFM’s head of news, Dan Purves, who reported live from his phone as the Queen arrived, was greeted by the Vice-Chancellor,  then entered the Hugh Ashton building where the Faculty of Business and Law is based. Dan gave DemonFM listeners an eye-witness account of the events that took place, and was able to describe how the sizeable crowd reacted to seeing members of the royal party arriving.

Helping gather stories from around the square, the radio production, television and journalism students gathered around the DemonFM media hub, and was alive with people tweeting, posting to blogs and sending messages out on Facebook. I believe that DemonFM achieved a high proportion of the posts with the #royaldmu tag, showing that the station has a really strong following within the younger, tech-savy audiences in Leicester.

My feelings have been riding high all day. After listening to the DemonFM Breakfast Show and hearing the highlights of the event replayed, made me realise how well DemonFM had done to bring this off. We can’t compete with the big-boys of broadcasting, the BBC, SKY and CNN, but we can hit our niche and make some waves when it comes to live events.

The planning and preparation of the students and volunteers from across DemonFM was a model example of what can be achieved when we trust and support our students. Raising the standard of the DMU student media output now has to be a clear priority of all the media staff in the university. If this is what we can achieve at such short notice, imagine what we can achieve with more investment and the sense that we are being driven with the passion and support that was demonstrated by De Montfort University for this event.

Personally, this feels like a watershed moment. Five years steady and progressive work to build a rock-solid base for DemonFM. So that learners and volunteers can come and develop their talents, dream about the possibilities they might imagine for their lives, and turn the potential they show into something real and concrete.

I am immensely proud of everyone who participated in the event, everyone who supported it, and everyone who wished it well and encouraged us to make it happen. Watch this space, who knows what we will achieve next.

Queens Visit to DMU – DemonFM Outside Broadcast 8th March 2012

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Mar 092012

Dan Purves - DemonFM's News Co-ordinator Frontrunner


6am Start for 8am Live Broadcast


Simon Walsh Feeling Regal


Aaron Horn with the elusive gang-sockets


Setting-Up the OB Equipment


Adam & Chris Linking to the DemonFM Studio


Adam & Chris Linking to the DemonFM Studio


Jon Jackson Talking-Back to the Studio


Chris Longman


Adam Jinkerson


Roaming Mic - Out with the Performers


Jess Tenby & Adam Jinkerson


Lord Alli After his Interview


Gareth Lapworth - Enough Said!


Prof Andy Collop, ProVC/Dean Technology


Queens Honour Guard Talk to DemonFM


Caz Harby Producing


Media Hub - Writing Links, Posting to Social Media


Neil Kewn & Jess Tenby


Prof Andy Downton - Nice Headgear


Chris with Student Performers


Chris Catches-Up with Student Performers

#RadioLab Lecture – Tom Bateman

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Mar 022012

Tom Bateman – Editor BBC Today

The latest in the #RadioLab lecture series saw BBC Radio 1’s Tom Bateman give a talk to De Montfort University media students about his experiences as a Senior News Producer for Newsbeat and BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

Tom gave us the low-down on how to get a job in radio. He shared some of the experiences of the Radio 1 Newsbeat Team as they introduce more mobile media technology into the production of news shows, and he made a passionate argument that news is about judgement and trust, the essential building blocks for the defining relationship with BBC Radio’s audience. If you want to be employable, according to Tom, you have to tell interesting stories.

For Tom, what makes a news story interesting is the ‘compelling characters’ and the ‘real people’ that any news producer encounters. Tom’s warned against producing content that is pre-scripted and cheesy, while keeping the feel of a report spontaneous and emotionally authentic.

Any station is a coalition of listeners, according to Tom. At BBC Radio 1 the level of commitment and interest varies, from those who are content with the music output, and who have more mainstream tastes, to those who are restless, and like to shift their listening patterns about – on to those who are ‘scensters’ and who like the more specialist music output.


Tom Talks About News Priorities

Tom talked us through the production process for any typical Newsbeat show, and how mobile phone technology is helping to bring programme content together much more quickly, from locations that are much more spread about, and using a range of voices that are much more diverse. Connecting to the Newsbeat studios across data networks, while still not perfect, is giving programme teams the chance to email-in stories that are in much higher quality than telephones, and more up-to-date than anything that needs to be physically edited.

But as the speed of turn-around increases, the desire for more creativity also increases. Tom reckons that while it’s good to know the rules, it’s also good to be able to break the rules – or at least bend them a little. Keeping stories light and playful is important, but Tom warned against being afraid to ask ‘what if?’

And so, Tom’s tips for a good story are:

Use a range of different treatments.
Use different techniques at the same time.
Think about getting to the ‘nitty-gritty’ of a story.
Be prepared to make decisions quickly.
Be prepared to make fine judgements everyday.

In short, Tom’s advice is to always keep your stories authentic, honest and passionate.

It was great having Tom visit De Montfort University and talk with students and volunteers on DemonFM. We’ll certainly take him up on his offer to come back and talk with us again.

Cultural Quarter Podcasts Roundtable Meeting

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Feb 202012

This weekend was something of a watershed moment for the production team behind DemonFM’s Cultural Quarter Podcasts. The general feeling among the team was that the show isn’t being as well supported as it might be. This week’s show ran short of content and was felt by all involved to be light on material.

Rather than struggling to have a decent debate and discussion in our usual computer lab venue, we moved into the Queens Building meeting room, tucked just behind the staff tea room. We could sit in one place, face-to-face, and discuss why we felt that the show was lacking cohesion.

It was a very frank discussion with some very realistic assessments of the issues being put forward and discussed, but what really made the difference was that it was all done in a sensitive and collaborative manner. Rather than lead the discussion I took the role of note keeper, which was very useful because it forced me not to interrupt and to listen intently to all the points of view expressed.

Once we had established a list of issues that everyone agreed on as in urgent need of attention, we then put together a list of fixes and some simplifications to the production process for managing this content, including the usual who and what? Then we thought about how and in what way? We don’t tend to ask why, because the answer is often too vague.

It was established that:

  • Facebook is sole point of communication and alert – we have a TECH3013 Cultural Quarter podcasts group which can be used to share information, ideas, links to documents, etc.
  • Simon Cooper is going to be the sole presenter. Rather than struggling to find a presenter who can be cajoled in to giving the links some credibility, it was agreed that Simon gets this already and so makes the most suitable choice.
  • Ryan Arnold and Elle Hall are going to assist Simon with production issues, and will do the chasing of the events and the production team to ensure that content gets made, shared on the DemonFM website, and broadcast on air.
  • There’s a pressing need to set up a media share resource, with a set of file name conventions, standard file formats and a process for alerting the producers that the material has been posted, and acknowledging that the material has been downloaded.
  • All content producers are able to upload content to Rivendell for play-out on the broadcast systems. What names and tags are given to this content needs to be identified.
  • It was agreed that Google Docs would be used for planning each show in detail and to share script information, background and research documents.
  • Each person is going to self-edit and mix their own audio, and they will be asked to write a detailed cue sheet. This cue can also be sued for information posted online about the podcast.
  • Each piece will need a standard ‘top & tail’ to link the feature into the podcasts as a stand alone and as part of the general programme.
  • The deadline for delivering the audio to Simon is 9am each Friday morning, giving him time to sequence the material and write a linking script.
  • Everyone agreed that taking photos of event and the interviews sessions would be a great idea, as it looks better on a site if it is visualised as well.
  • Finally, Simon Cooper will collate and share everyone’s contact details via Facebook and the Google Docs.

So, in the end, not a bad session. There’s much more of a sense of urgency now about the content, and I’m looking forward to listening to the content that they produce for Cultural Exchanges next week – oh, that’s after the next show on Saturday. Tune in. DemonFM, Saturday, 12-1pm.