When you make a show for Resonance FM you are blessed by the gods of alternative culture. That’s how it feels. Exceptional. It’s something other from everyday life. Pass through the iron gates between the big red postbox and Costas, into the hidden courtyard and you become part of an inner sanctum of creativity.
I joined Resonance FM in January 2014 and after an initial six week season have been producing the weekly show ‘The News Agents’ ever since. Its byline began as ‘where news meets arts’, but this has morphed over the years into ‘experiments with news and arts’. When I began to make the show it was in response to my daily work at Reuters, archiving international television news. But I was also an artist. And I noticed that my fellow artist friend saw journalists as the enemy. Knowing people who put themselves in danger to report on their communities to the world, I wanted to show something of the other side.
I left Reuters in 2016 and since then the show has become more about interesting projects and people I encounter in my artistic life. It has an international flavour from my years of working with international news.
But looking beyond my own show, what of others shows on the station? One that always sticks out for me is Hello Goodbye, as I’m lucky enough to be programmed on the same day, a wonderful, eclectic music show that gives bands active on the London, British and beyond music scenes a chance to perform live on Saturday mornings. Presented and hosted by DeXter Bentley with a willing band of engineers, currently including Nick Cron, Julian Sander, Pip McKenzie and Livia Garcia, it goes out between 12noon and 1.30pm. The studio is mayhem on a Saturday with complicated multiple set ups challenging the skills and patience with the inevitable technical hiccoughs. Sometimes, it seems, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. But the shows rarely show the panic and hardwork behind the scenes.
One band I discovered recently on Resonance FM is the fabulous neo-pagan, spectacular, amusing Mermaid Chunky, over from Stroud. It’s a thrill to see bands come in from far flung counties and beyond to tie in a Resonance spot on Hello Goodbye while playing a weekend gig. They park their vans in the Resonance carpark, run into trouble with people who obstruct the gates, rush in and out to Borough Market and Sainsbury’s and wherever for snacks. Mermaid Chunky called their name after a special colourful wool. They’re homespun, DIY, love children’s toys that make sounds and children’s TV shows. Fans of The Herbs and, I presume, The Teletubbies, they mix the delight of sounds for children with a club vibe. And they’re very good musicians.
Other favourite Resonance shows include Very Loose Women by Leonore Schick and Soila Apparicio. Their byline is about making private conversations public and focus on art and activism. Their show also goes out on acast as a podcast. Recently Leo visited Green Party HQ to chat to German MEP Terry Reintke about the challenges of her work as an MEP, how the European Parliament works and her role in speaking out about sexual harassment. What’s impressive about Very Loose Women is that they are casual without becoming banal or disengaged. Great studio listening for artists who want a break from listening to music but don’t want the incessant usual prejudice or samey opinions that seem part and parcel of a lot of Talk Radio.
There’s shows about literature, theatre and film. Another long lasting series is Nick Hennegan’s Literary London. The enterprising reader and writer goes on the trail of figures like Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, even characters such as Sherlock Holmes. Women writers on the show have included Natasha Pulley talking about her debut The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and Fiona Rule introducing her book Streets of Sin – A Dark Biography of Notting Hill. Recently Nick was backstage at the Assembly Rooms at the Edinburgh Festival, with singer and writer Melinda Hughes, talking about British film, classical music, her new album and her fringe festival performance. Coming up soon is an episode on how to make a book an international multi-media best seller – the story of The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. Nick has a great sense of fun in his voice. It’s a delight to hear him open his show with his seductively thespian tones!
DeXter Bentley reflects on the evolution of Hello Goodbye. ‘I do not believe that there is any chance that Hello GoodBye could have developed into the show that it is today without the nurturing and tolerant free reign afforded me by Ed Baxter & co. upon the advent of 104.4 FM back in 2002 and I still live by the two word manifesto kindly bestowed upon me by Ed back in the spring of that year when he said…’BE BOLD!… and here I am, completely and utterly autonomous and influence free a full 18 years later, still striving to be bold on a week by week basis, giving vitally compelling musicians and artists of all ilks an essential platform from which to project their ideas in the most immediate of ways, live and in the moment!’
I too think that there’s no way I could be moving forward as a creative broadcaster and journalist without the support of Resonance FM. The hands-off but helpful approach of the station has enabled me to surpass my initial expectations and try to make something popular, crazy and beautiful, pushing the boundaries in each episode of The News Agents. I’d like to quote a presenter a recent addition to the schedule, Bears at a Picnic Naked and Laughing, Andrea Spisto, who I met at the theatre for a new show Kill the Princess (a feminist female-centered wrestle with gender put together and performed by the other Bears at a Picnic host Michelle Madsen with fellow clown Lizzy Shakespeare). On the spur of the moment Andrea gushed, ‘Resonance is a dream. It was my dream to be on Resonance, and here I am, living the dream!’ I knew exactly what she meant. I feel the same.
To propose your show to Resonance FM or to volunteer for training as an engineer – details online at WWW.RESONANCEFM.COM
And watch Mermaid Chunky perform on Hello Goodbye! See you in Stroud, perhaps next time . . . ?