A Cuppa Media: Forge Radio forges for support

It was a petition James Kenny hoped he didn’t have to write.

It was a petition James Kenny hoped he didn’t have to write. Kenny, the former station manager of Forge Radio, the student radio station of the University of Sheffield, studying for a Master’s in Creative Writing, had called on the university’s Student Union to approve his proposal for Forge to be played in Our Shop, the Union’s shop on campus.

The Union had supported the work of Forge Radio, however, Kenny said the issue was on the suitability of Forge Radio as a station, and after initial requests for the station’s output to be played, a breakdown in communication occurred.

“Our Shop wanted lively, current music which their members could relate to while they make their purchases in the 2-3 minutes they were in the shop,” Kenny said. “Our Shop also felt Forge Radio would have too much discussion to be suitable.”

‘We should be supporting other students’

Kenny says the daytime output is chosen by a music committee, with the playlist updated every fortnight.

“Daytime playout has a quota of songs they need to play in an hour and aside from song links and quick features all the shows are predominantly about the music,” Kenny said. “The recent trial we had playing out in the SU salad shop New Leaf was arranged through constructive discussions, which is far more conducive to moving forward and building ties with the outlets and commercial side of the Students’ Union than the approach that Our Shop have seemingly adopted with us.”

A telephone message left for the manager of Our Shop seeking comment was not returned.

Many students have signalled their support for Kenny’s petition, including journalism finalist Pippa Moyle, saying the work of other students should be supported.

“I barely ever like the music played in shops but that doesn’t stop them playing it and we should be supporting other students and all the hard work that they do,” Moyle said. “The Forge Radio team work hard to get listeners and not everyone knows that they exist – they’re the union’s radio station, so they should be played in the union.”

Supportive Sheffield

Kenny’s petition also appears to have the support of the Union. In a brief statement, Ally Buckle, the president of Sheffield’s Student Union, said he would be in favour of it.

“I’m glad to work in an organisation where our members have the power to directly influence how we are run,” Buckle said. “Whilst I don’t know the exact details of how we’ve come to this point with regards to Forge Radio being played in Our Shop, I am principally keen on the idea.”

Student radio, for many universities, has become one of the beacons of student life. It is a medium accustomed to and represents much of the thinking of the students that pass through the doors of its supporting institution.

For student media as a whole in Sheffield, including Forge Radio, Kenny says the state of student media is in good hands regardless of the outcome of this petition considering the strength of student media at the university, but would be a strong endorsement of the work of the presenters and others.

Yet, despite the strong support, he hoped it had not come to this.

“I’ve gone through two years of being Station Manager at Forge Radio and previously the Assistant Station Manager and in that time seen a station that has grown so much and become such an important part of what the Students’ Union is all about,” Kenny said. “We’ve been the Working Committee of the Year within the Students’ Union for the last three years which is unprecedented, and with Sheffield Students’ Union being voted No.1 in the country [according to] the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey, it seems strange of Our Shop to ignore Forge Radio completely when we’ve bought into exactly what Sheffield Students’ Union should be in terms of student involvement in the last few years.”

As this petition is considered, the ball is now firmly in the Union’s court, to see whether they can allow Forge Radio to forge their way to the heart of the university, the same way it has with student radio in the UK.

You can learn more about the petition here. What do you think? Should Forge Radio be played at Our Shop? What role does student radio have in student life? Have your say in the comments section below.