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Sunny Govan community radio station: A platform for expression

 Street News Service 13 December 2019

A stone’s throw away from BBC Scotland is a modest building with a large banner draped across its front. The banner reads ‘Sunny Govan Radio 103.5 fm’ making sure that it is noticed against the imposing skyline of the Scottish media park. (671 Words) - By Chloe Dean

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Sunny Govan community radio station:  A platform for expression 3

 Sunny Govan Radio, 103.5 FM. Photo: Chloe Dean

Sunny Govan Community Radio Station is a community run and community centred non-profit organisation in Glasgow. Arriving at the studio in the pouring rain, I found that Sunny Govan lives up to its name. I was greeted with a cup of tea and a warm welcome into the organisation's headquarters. Inside, the walls are plastered with informative leaflets heralding important messages from local social and cultural organisations.

 

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Since getting its FM License three years ago, the radio station has become a platform for under-represented voices. Jim McMillan, the initiative's outreach worker, tells me about Sunny Govan's role as a community and confidence building organisation.

"Many of the people who volunteer at Sunny Govan are here to learn new skills and build up confidence to move on to other things. By doing a job as part of a team they develop the skills and self-confidence to 'fly away'. When people are depressed, they are often suppressed. Allowing them to actively engage the creative side of the brain is a nourishing process." he says.

Everybody is welcome at Sunny Govan and has something to contribute regardless of social, cultural or medical background. In recent years, the Glasgow area has seen a huge influx of asylum seekers and refugees who have, in many ways, brought big changes to the area. The radio station embraces the diversity of the local area, known by some as the 'United Nations of the Govan', by inviting new perspectives to be expressed on the radio through music and discussion.

On a Tuesday night between 10 pm and midnight, the Polish community is welcomed to the airwaves with a show broadcast entirely in Polish. Sunny Govan's musical output is driven by the community (researched through questionnaires), the radio station aware that it is important to represent and support groups through music.

 

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The diverse output ranges from African music to 'The Reggae Show' on which Bob Marley's son once appeared.  Although a community focused organisation, the initiative has an international reach. The music library that was inherited by Sunny Govan acts as a music archive for community radio throughout Scotland and provides Sunny Govan with a selection music from across the globe (Egyptian music anyone?!)

Sunny Govan also has the capacity to act as an emergency service for the surrounding area.  The wealth of time and broadcasting freedom that Sunny Govan has in comparison to their colossal neighbours allows them to tailor each day towards the needs and demand of the local community. Jim tells me that the station can disseminate important information that would otherwise be inaccessible, for example in harsh weather they can let local residents know which roads are iced over and which have been gritted.

As a charity, Sunny Govan has to be creative both on and off air. Although run successfully by volunteers, funding always remains an issue. However, recently Sunny Govan was recognised by a Glaswegian born businessman on Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire. Gordon McAlpine, a successful entrepreneur who made his fortune in London after selling his software company, was inspired by Sunny Govan's community spirit and the support and opportunities offered at the station for those with disabilities and special needs.

After eight nights living in social housing in the Govan area, where unemployment is more than double the national average, McAlpine offered Sunny Govan radio £15,000 and his experience at the station was shown on Channel 4 in November 2010.

Sunny Govan continues to play a vital role within the Govan community and the wider Glasgow area, opening channels of communication that would otherwise be closed to those most in need, keeping the welfare of the community at the core of its ethos.

Sunny Govan on Channel 4's The Secret Millionaire can be seen until the 18th of December on Channel 4oD.

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