25 hour show to celebrate 25 years on air

Tue 10 May, 2022
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The University of Bedfordshire’s community radio station, Radio LaB, is marking 25 years on air this month – celebrating with a marathon 25-hour broadcast.

The award-winning station was founded as Luton FM in May 1997, with it going on to be the starting ground for many successful radio alumni from the University – as well as joint ventures with the local community. 

To mark this long-standing achievement, the station will broadcast a special show running for 25 hours from 4pm on Tuesday 10th May, with each hour playing music from iconic artists from the last 25 years, including the likes of Adele, Britney Spears, Girls Aloud, and Coldplay.

Radio LaB student managers, Nathan Randle and Toby Crabb, will also chat with Radio LaB alumni and staff from the years gone by to ask about their experiences, memories and what happened to them next.

Nathan, a third-year Radio & Audio student, has been involved in organising this lengthy broadcast. 

He commented: “I am really excited to be organising this programme to celebrate 25 years on air for Radio LaB. I'm proud to be a part of the rich radio history here at the University, and I'm looking forward to the challenge of hosting a 25-hour live show, whilst playing some of the biggest hits from the last 25 years and speaking to many of our station's previous presenters."

Among the guests set to feature on the special broadcast is a host of Radio LaB alumni now working in the industry, including Melvin Odoom, Toby Friedner, and Kelly Betts.

Terry Lee, Senior Tutor in Radio & Audio, who oversees the running of Radio LaB said: “Making radio is a real privilege – it is amazing to think that radio has been prevalent at the University for over 25 years now. I am immensely proud to have been a part of this story since I joined Bedfordshire in 2014.  

“Radio and audio are as important as ever – we are committed to ensuring Radio LaB’s facilities are representative of professional broadcasters, and that our output remains relevant to students and young people across Luton and Bedfordshire.” 

Click on the names below to hear from former Radio LaB staff and alumni about their memories of the station…

“The station helped me realise that I had a passion for radio. It helped me realise that I do have that love and I could see myself doing this as a job. 

All my memories of the station are so positive - the show, the people we worked with, the music we had, I loved every minute of it and I feel like I learnt a lot from our lecturers and from Rickie [Haywood-Williams, Melvin’s presenting partner and fellow Bedfordshire graduate].”

“Being part of Luton FM – as it was known then – was a brilliant experience and reinforced my passion for radio. It taught me lots of different skills and helped me fulfil a dream to be a radio presenter that I’d had since I was a kid. I was in the first group to run a 28-day restricted service at the University and remember presenting a Top 40 chart show. My friends, Matt Hodgson and Dave Bryant, presented a comedy sketch show called ‘Us for Three Hours’ which included contributions from the Yankee Sports Reporters whose pronunciation of sports and football players was always wrong.

It also gave us an opportunity to run the programmes we were making as part of our degree on a real radio station which was very exciting. It is no coincidence that many of the people who took part in Luton FM and Radio LaB have gone on to successful radio and TV careers.”

“I was employed by the University in 1995 to teach Radio. I arrived on September 1st at 9am and at 11am there was a new staff coffee morning. Two students from the University’s SU approached me over coffee and asked if I would run a radio station!

At that time, community radio licences (like Radio LaB's) didn't exist but we could run a Restricted Service Licence. So my students and I organised a two week station, which opened in January 1997. This was the first Luton FM. We were sponsored by Vauxhall motors and other major local employers and given the full backing of the University Vice Chancellor, staff and students.

One of my colleagues, who lived up on Farley Hill, even had the transmitter at her house and the aerial on her roof. Everything worked well until one morning, the station suddenly went off air and we quickly discovered that my colleague's mum had unplugged the transmitter to vacuum the stairs!

We continued to run short licences of 28 days annually, usually each May. Although any student in the University could take part, it was the ones actually studying Radio who wanted to be more hands-on in the station management. They requested that a student team take over the actual running of the station as their degree's final project. This made good sense and something that continues today. 

Eventually the radio licensing law changed and we were able to successfully apply for a full time Community Radio Licence. We went on air in 2010, with the 'call sign' Radio LaB.

On a chilly March day, the student managers and I were up at the transmitter mast site, which was and still is on the top of Farley Hill but now on a commercial mast. We gathered around the car radio; our engineer, Lawrence Galkoff, started up the transmitter and we saw RADIOLAB come up on the radio station ID screen! We phoned back to the studio and asked them to open the mic and give a station identity, say hello and play some music. We heard them on the car radio! It was an amazing moment!

I am very proud that Radio LaB 97.1FM is still very much a part of the University of Bedfordshire and has helped to encourage so many of our graduates into careers in radio and other media.”

“It was a great experience, it fuelled my interest in radio. A lot of the stuff I did with Luton FM would have been the first time doing things that I do now do day in, day out. It was my first time in a live studio, my first time on air, my first time creating production and promos, writing scripts for radio and directing voiceovers.

It played an important role in developing skills that I use in my career and it’s where I met a lot of friends – I’ve got friends that I met through Luton FM that were at my wedding and who I still socialise with. Some of my best friends are people that I met through doing the radio course.

It gives you first-hand experience and gives you an idea of what it’s like in the industry. A lot of the rules that you follow while on air at Radio LaB are the same as professional broadcasting so it helps you think of radio in the sense of not being a listener, but in terms of how they’re making it.

It’s like if you were learning to drive, the more time you spend in the car the better – if you have access to those facilities, the more realistic situation you can give students.

They definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in areas that I never would have done, and I think if I hadn’t been on a live mic at Luton FM, then when I started working I would have been way out of my depth.”

“I will always remember my time at Beds and Radio LaB very fondly. The skills I have learnt have been invaluable and have allowed me to pursue a career in broadcasting. The freedom we had to create our own programmes and experiment with techniques on air gave me some of my best memories at University.”

“As a host at Radio LaB for nearly five years, there was no better place to be week in, week out than being sat in the studio creating magic. Every time you walked in, you sensed that you were a part of something special.

Hosting Walsh Weekly was truly a rollercoaster. The names I got to interview was just madness looking back - from Andrew Pierce, associate editor of the Daily Mail, to Omid Djalili, Iain Sterling, Tony Hadley, Iain Lee - the list goes on and on and on and on. Although I've stepped away for my own reasons, I've sworn to never say never to come back, especially after the impact of the pandemic in the last two years.

It's been an honour to be a small part of the last 25 years - here's to the next 25 years.”

“Luton FM my first experience of being in a proper radio studio and I remember coming out thinking ‘wow, I’d quite like to do that, that was really good fun!’

As part of my course, we had to do a radio module with Janey Gordon and I loved it so much that I actually changed to do radio as my major and that was back in the days when nothing was digitalised, I don’t think! We had to go out with big, old equipment to get our interview clips and then cutting and splicing them together.

It was so much fun, I loved being in that environment and having the control that you did with the actual physical cutting of the tapes. I remember when it was first just an idea and a few people said they’d like to be involved and it was very exciting.

My first job out of university was a radio job, so having that experience at a student level was just so important.”

“My favourite memories from hosting our drive time show The Friday Fling on Radio LaB were either the Christmas Special where we read scenes from the nativity and tried to fit appropriate songs around them or when we used to get guests in after a Thursday night out to look for love on air – things I’ve definitely never done on the radio since, which is what makes student radio so incredible and weird.

Hosting our show on Radio LaB certainly helped me learn how to run a radio desk, and to talk to time Inc. talking right up to the vocals on a songs intro, which are all key skills I use daily now.

My key advice would be to get a demo together, so clip off or record some links (even at home with a mic on your MacBook / laptop) and then cater those links to a station you'd want to work for - for example listen to a radio station that you could see yourself at, and listen to how they deliver links / shows - is it fast paced? Is there a bed under the presenter's voice? If so, stylise your demo similarly. And always put your best links at the start.

Oh, and email EVERYONE and follow them on socials to ask for advice and the famous ‘coffee’ - someone will say yes eventually! Go for it.”


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