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Episode from the podcastThe Untold

Phoenix from the Airwaves

Released Friday, 3rd January 2020
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In a community centre in inner city Bristol, next to the nursery, and the café and the hall for local meet-ups and yoga, sits a very special place. The BCfm – Bristol Community FM – radio station. From their studio next to Easton community centre’s reception, 204 volunteer radio presenters broadcast to the city of Bristol and beyond. Dezzi Rankin (the resident Sunday morning reggae host), Shout Out (LGBTQ+), Silver Sound (for the older listener), Mid-Week Sports bar, Real Women – they’re all here.

Pat Hart has been the station manager for ten years – and also the station’s breakfast presenter. “I don’t think there’s a single part of life in Bristol we don’t represent.”

It is always a struggle, but with grants drying up, the station has found itself living more and more of a hand to mouth existence. At the beginning of 2019 he found himself asking the council for more support, but nothing could prepare him for what was around the corner. “If I’d have had a crystal ball, I might have run away at the beginning of 2019.”

One fateful day in August at 11am, Tony Johnson launched his 50th Anniversary of the Moon landings special with Telstar. “I plugged my MP3 stick into the usual slot… and then I smelt something strange. Looked to my left, and saw the smoke coming from somewhere behind the desk.” He did his next link, alerted the receptionist to the need for a fire engine, and then as the studio filled with acrid smoke, he queued up an hour’s worth of music. “The radio host’s worst nightmare is dead air.”

Pat arrived to find the studio completely destroyed, the insurance documents illegible from fire damage, and his thoughts turned to the listeners. The longer the station is off air, the more perilous their situation becomes.

Can Pat get the station back on air - and fast?

Produced by Polly Weston
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