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Independent radio: keep it locked

At times like this, says founder of Boogaloo Radio Jennifer Crothers, it’s more important than ever to reach out to each other, keep calm and carry on. To that end the station has left its pub base and DJs will be coming at you from home. You’ve been warned!

03 April, 2020 — By Jennifer Crothers

Jennifer Crothers

BOOGALOO Radio is the world’s first and only radio station to broadcast 24/7 from a pub, but of course, due to the coronavius crisis, we were faced with two options – shut up shop or adapt and overcome.

Set up in a home-built studio overlooking the beer garden of the Boogaloo pub in Highgate, it has become a byword for new, independent radio – broadcasting to listeners around the globe.

Running now for three years, it boasts a roster of names that would grace any professional station. They range from the well-known – Alan McGee and Bernard Butler host weekly shows – to other slots featuring leading DJs from a range of genres.

Abandoning the ship felt like we were letting ourselves and our listeners down and when I first pitched this ambitious idea to our core team, I expected a few dust balls to roll through my inbox.

However, I am happy to report it is full steam ahead on all fronts. Already, we’ve been busy training up the presenters so they can create their live shows from home, using cobbled together audio equipment they can find in their houses.

“In lonely times like these, a familiar voice on Boogaloo Radio means good company,” says Julie Hamill, who hosts her Hamill Time show every Tuesday.

Some DJs, including Luke Haines, went as far as describing it as our “civic duty” to keep calm and carry on broadcasting.

In all seriousness, having contact with the world beyond our own walls is so important right now and I think we’d be fools to underestimate the connection that radio provides, be it Boogaloo or BBC.

Shows will be coming to you live from bedrooms, kitchens or hey, maybe a few bathrooms. And it has let us expand to include shows by people who would otherwise not make their way up to our Archway Road HQ.

We’ve already had broadcasts from Dundalk, Brighton, NYC, New Jersey, New Zealand and various corners of the UK.

Before this lockdown started, you might have had a drunk punter crashing through the studio doors to say hi or offer up a request or the window cleaner popping up in to our cosy beer garden studio. Now it’s more likely to be the hosts’ kids, partner or cat – both Andy Crofts (bassist for Paul Weller and frontman of The Moons) and Libertines’ drummer Gary Powell’s children have infiltrated their home broadcasts.

Rowena Alice of the Riot Diet show

Gary says: “I think it’s important – not so that people can hear my voice, but so they can tune into the power of music in these dark times.”

It would be fairly self-aggrandising to suggest that Boogaloo Radio wears any kind of hero cape, but we are definitely one example of how people can escape the myriad of “news” – fake or otherwise – for just a moment of sanity.

“Keep in touch with your scene, keep tabs on your culture and breathe new life into it,” says Tony Gleed, who hosts Tales of The Dublin Castle on Boogaloo Radio.

Tony has also said he will be broadcasting from home in his pants, surrounded by pots and pans – let’s hope this is fake news.

I dread to think how many creatives have lost their livelihoods in a matter of days. Normally it is to these people that we turn for comfort during hard times and so it has become a Catch-22 situation.

Producer (and host of the BB & The King show) Bernard Butler says that “at the crossroads: creativity is all we have and it is everywhere. Creative desires and impulses are racing. We need to connect and music is our soul provider… On Boogaloo Radio we play what we want and say what we want. And that might be the only freedom left at this time.”

Crisis or no crisis, we have always been advocates of freedom of speech when it comes to our shows. I trust our team to bring the listeners a show like no other, playing and saying whatever they want.

To quote Luke Haines, who hosts his Righteous In The Afternoon show each week: “Where else will people get their weekly hit of Japanese psych musicals, The Manson Family, and The Wurzels?’.

We coined the phrase “Global Local” way back in 2018 when we launched and I hope during this time we can continue to be exactly that, helping people remember how to do their favourite dance moves with the Dig It Sound System on Fridays at 5pm, and utilising the power of social media where we can be with our listeners directly.

One example of this is actor David Morrissey’s show, which is by far our most interactive. He describes it as “one large conversation interspersed with music”.

Andy Ross, of Food Records (now of Boogaloo Radio) made the point that “people are going to be (comparatively) restricted to what they [used to] consume live, exposure to a station such as Boogaloo might just expose music lovers to music they may not otherwise have stumbled upon”. This is exactly why I am so passionate about creating fresh, live content. Nobody wants to hear old shows about Glastonbury’s lineup, or what’s on this weekend – it’s all just salt in the wound at this stage and there’s something rather bittersweet about being in this mess, together.

There is nothing like the intimacy that radio provides. Niall Jackson who hosts our Irish Jam show wholly defends this argument: “[radio] is at its best when curated with heart and with personality and the feeling that someone is talking to you directly… that is not something a bullshit algorithm can do”. So, if you hate algorithms and love DIY radio hosted by the least tech-savvy bunch around, you’re in luck.

Jim O’Donoghue’s (who hosts the Dusk Moves show) gave me his two cents on the matter. “I view Boogaloo Radio as a motley crew of folk just dying to play the listener something they’ll not easily forget.” And I have to say, I completely agree.

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