Sam at Radio City

So far, 2015 has seen some great recognition for students studying radio at Birmingham City University. In March, I travelled to New York with recent graduate Sophie Sparham and Kristian Baycroft, Station Manager of Scratch Radio, (the University’s Student Radio Station) to attend the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System (IBS) Awards, held in the historic Hotel Pennsylvania.

Birmingham City University funded the trip after Sophie and Kris were awarded the Gold and Silver Microphone Awards in the ‘Most Innovative Programme’ and ‘Most Creative Show’ categories. I was happy to tag along…


The team presented a panel discussion at the 75th Annual IBS International Radio & Webcasting Conference, which ran from March 6‐8 and accompanied the awards. The panel was titled “UK/US College Radio Partnerships” and took place on the Friday afternoon in the Penn Top North room on the 18th Floor – with a stunning view looking out towards the Empire State Building. Joe Lanzerotti and Jessica Schell, from Radio De Paul in Chicago, joined Sophie, Kris and myself on the stage for the presentation. We mostly talked about the “The Sister City Connection” – a radio project created in partnership between the two Universities as well as about opportunities for similar international partnerships in the future.


The programme was eligible for the US awards – as Sophie’s content had played out on US College Radio. Birmingham and Chicago are ‘Sister Cities’ – and to celebrate the relationship, Scratch (from Birmingham City University) and Radio DePaul (from DePaul University) collaborated to create a series of 4 x 1 hour programs, which explored the culture, sport and music of both cities. Sophie produced, wrote and presented the work in Brum, with help from Joe and Jessica who helped compile and present the content from Chicago.

Cafe Wha

After the panel ended, we went out to celebrate at the famous ‘Café Wha’ in Greenwhich, and had a memorable night in the Village.

I also took the chance to visit Ground Zero (in a blizzard) and managed to meet up with Rose Anderson from the New York Radio Festivals.

KCXV KZLX plaque

Next on the itinerary was a delayed flight to Kansas City, via Cleveland due to a technical malfunction with the plane (!), before driving north to visit the Campus of Northwest Missouri State University. Northwest’s radio stations KXCV and KRNW cater to both a campus based audience – as well as the wider public.

truck stop

Programming includes leading NPR content, such as the famed “All Things Considered”. I visited the studios, met some of the students (a great team) and spoke to Patty Holley, the Operations Manager.

Then, after treating my arteries to a hearty truck stop breakfast, it was back to the airport for the final stop on my US tour – Chicago.

It was my first time in the windy city – and I indulged in some good old fashion sightseeing at the superb Art Institute of Chicago, John Hancock Tower etc. I also got to visit student station WCRX Radio 88.1FM. They broadcast from Columbia College in the same building as the Radio Department of the School of Media Arts on East Congress Blvd – just a short taxi ride from my hotel. WCRX is an award winning station, which broadcasts a ‘Top 40’ format around the Columbia campus and to a fair chunk of the inner city.

I was shown around the station by Carlos Mendez, who is a supervisor and trainer for WCRX and also teaches practicum classes at Columbia. In fact, Mendez grew up listening to the station as a teenager. We spoke in his office, where I recorded an audio interview with him.

After returning to Brum, the next conference on the agenda was the “Connecting Communities: Storytelling & the Digital Archive Conference”, which took place Friday 27th and Saturday 28th March 2015 at stage@leeds, University of Leeds.

Birmingham City University made a team effort – with Vanessa Jackson, Dave Harte and Jez Collins also attending with me. Jez and I investigated a few cocktail bars around the Leeds city centre after arriving the day before the conference started – and, as a result of some stringent studies, can endorse ‘Smokestack‘ on Lower Briggate Street.

My paper was entitled; “Press Play/Record; Audio Cassette Preservation and Archiving” which investigated the digital archiving of analogue audiocassettes that I’m currently undertaking with the Birmingham Centre For Media and Cultural Research. The paper also looked at “wider issues regarding the conservation of analogue artifacts in the digital age, along with methods of constructing media archives and the provision of public access to audio collections”. Although, with only 15 – 20 minutes, time was tight.

Then in April, I travelled to Portugal for what I except to be my last conference of the year. The International Conference Net Station (on Radio, Sound and Internet) was held at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal and ran from the 23 – 24 April, 2015. The paper I delivered was called: “I didn’t write this stuff… But I’m willing to present”; Changing presentation practices in radio documentary / feature production”.

I mostly focused on the use of ‘celebrity’ presenters in securing radio documentary commissions – while assessing the critical response to these productions. The presentation included audio examples and drew on my own practice-based PhD research into music documentary production for radio.

It was great to catch up with fellow UK radio academics – and to meet with co-presenters from Portugal, Spain, Brazil and across Europe. A great conference – with many thanks to the Birmingham Centre For Media and Cultural Research for covering the flights – as well as accommodation at the Golden Tulip Hotel. The hotel was on the hillside overlooking the city – and is right next door to the Restaurante Dona Júlia, which I highly recommend.

So, it’s been a busy start to the year – but a chance to see new places and meet with some amazing radio practitioners and academics from around the world.