Last week, Manchester’s Reform Radio celebrated the opening of it’s new home – two brand new studios, and office and workshop space. The space was created in collaboration with Jagermeister, who have a history of working within the music industry and aptly named The Jäger X Reform Studio.
Whilst I couldn’t make it to the launch party, I was intrigued by the whole project. Reform Radio have been very quietly on my radar – ticking away on my social media feed, but without me really understanding what they do. I spoke to director and co-founder of Reform Radio, Sam Oliveira about what they do, their new space, and wondered if they had room for another volunteer.
How did Reform Radio start?
Good question! I guess Reform was really based on my personal experience – graduating at the height of the recession, I realising that none of the jobs were were promised when we were going to uni were going to materialise. I was volunteering at a radio station in London for a bit, and that experience was one of the best things going on in my life at that time. It kept my head above water, kept me motivated and taught me loads of skills that I took with me to other jobs. So, when I moved up north, I kept reflecting on that experience. I wondered if we could do something similar – where radio can be used to reach out to people who are struggling with employment or motivation and confidence. Can we use it as a tool to engage with them or help them?
There was also a deeper thinking. I was quite lucky that I had parents who could support me whilst I was doing the work experience, but there are people who don’t have that support, aren’t as lucky to be in that position. Some organisations expect people to do a month’s worth of work experience before they’ve even got a look in. That’s not practical for people who’ve got families, or who are working already. Our thoughts were around that and the whole media industry being set up around internships. We wanted to create a gateway into the industry that’s inclusive for everyone.
When we started we were only going to use Reform as a way to deliver projects – but we thought we should probably do a couple of radio shows to prove we can do what we’re talking about. I bumped into Jenna G, who I’m a big fan of, at an event, and casually asked if she wanted to do a radio show from our basement in Chorlton and she said ‘yeah alright then!’. It grew from there. A couple more people got involved, and at this point there weren’t really any online stations. Within a couple of months we couldn’t host any more shows in our basement because it was pissing off the rest of our housemates, we needed to grow, and it’s snowballed from there really.
How does it work if someone wants to do something or get involved?
Just reach out to us. We’ve got a volunteer scheme, again we believe that everyone who comes to us, from DJs to those on outreach programmes and volunteers, should get a beneficial experience. We’ve designed the volunteers programme which is supported by Manchester City Council, so the idea is that they come in and learn loads of really useful skills. When they come out of it, they’ve not just helped us, but they have new skills they can take forward – and in some cases a qualification. It’s just a case of getting in touch with us and saying they want to volunteer, or maybe do a show, we have an open door policy here, you can just turn up and you’re welcome.
It’s open for everyone, and everyone should get the same experience.
How will the new studio help?
It’s going to give us so much more space. Where we were before was amazing, we were really lucky to be able to use the old dubbing suites from Coronation Street, but we’ve just outgrown it really quickly. We’re in the position where we have two programmes running at once, so we need two areas where we can run workshops from and live shows going out, and then also a new thing for us is renting out the studio space that we’ve built, as a more sustainable income route. It’s going to help us grow massively, I think we need it, we’re bursting at the seams. We’ve been out of our space for a couple of months now and we’ve realised how essential good space it.
Looking around Manchester we don’t think there is anything like this that suits our needs as perfectly. There’s loads of really good spaces, but nothing quite like this. So it’s really exciting and kind of daunting at the same time.
More plans for the future? I presume you’re going to take some time to settle in first?
Completely, yeah. It’s been a massively ambitious projects. We’re in the Bonded Warehouse, which is a listed building underneath the arch in the basement. So it’s this really beautiful red brick building and we were really keen to keep as much of that as possible. Building studios you want to build rooms within rooms and it was just a big challenge. We wanted to get the most use out of the space, so we’ve pushed it to the max, and I think it’s been worth it. I hope it’s been worth it. We’ll have a settling in period – checking everything is working how we want it to, seeing where we might need to make adjustments, getting used to everything.
Then it’s just about making people aware of the space – it’s not just for what we want to do, it can be used for events, for corporate parties, all sorts of things.
I’ll definitely be stopping in for a nosey around – and if you fancy finding out more, or just a listen online, you can visit their website here.