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A Magazine for Sheffield

Community Radio

You could sail through any city and never experience one particularly invisible part of its culture - the radio stations. People who don't surf the airwaves miss out on a deep sea of local programmes, especially here in Sheffield.

It wasn't always so. Way back when the Britannic BBC Empire ruled the airwaves, it had to be challenged by brave pirate radio, broadcasting from ships just outside UK waters. This direct action brought pressure for a sea change and commercial radio was launched. At last! Variety, competition, the counter-culture... Ah yes... that was the dream that died. With few exceptions, mainstream radio stations all occupy the same tiny part of our cultural headspace. The latest scheming scandalism of Lady GaGa gets replayed on every music show and picked over on every talk channel. We're close to returning to a tedious 1950s style monoculture.

Think about this. How many times do you switch on the radio and hear a non-English language song? Not often, is it? We don't realise how the broadcast media are dominated by content from the West - i.e. the USA and its English-speaking friends. The latest celebrity press releases are farmed out endlessly, from Chile to China, but do we hear about China or Chile's celebs? American and British authors are massively translated into other languages but there's a near-silence in the other direction. What ideas are bouncing around in, say, Nigeria? We don't hear that. Instead we're fed slick PR and dumbed-down news in bullet points.

Where's all this leading? This month Alt-Sheff would like to hoist a flag for Sheffield Live! This hyper-local community radio station is our own treasure trove of audio gems. It's quirky, it's staffed by volunteers, and it offers various accents and flavours. It's got massively long trailers between presenter change-overs. It doesn't always get things right, but that doesn't matter. It's abundantly full of life, real in a way that slimysmooth commercial stations can never be. Radio Sheffield (bless it) sounds bland in comparison. You can listen to Sheffield Live! on 93.2FM, or live online, or download the programme after it has been broadcast. There's a good chance you'll hit a slot that's not in English when you first tune in, but don't be put off. Dip in and out. The international music selection is a real breath of fresh air and there's plenty of English spoken along with news from the various other cultures in our community. Check out the website for the full schedule and you'll soon find the programmes you like best. One favourite is Communities Live, for discussion of what's happening. It's amateur and we love it.

By the way, if you're out for fun this June and July, don't forget that the major free and community festivals are all listed on Sheffield's alternative website, Alt-Sheff, with lots of other good things in between. More of our favourite activities. Loads of people getting out and doing stuff - not for money but for fun and good causes. From Abbeyfield to Woodseats, Broomhill to Firth Park, not forgetting Pride, the Green Fair and Tramlines. Go on, surprise yourself. Share yourself out! We all live in communities, so why not enjoy it? Otherwise where would we all be? Alone in our rooms, slowly glazing over in front of the TV or PC screen? Happy days! )

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