Arran Sound to launch the island’s first community online radio station
For the last 30 years Arran Sound has been providing an audio service for sight impaired residents who were unable to otherwise access the news in the local paper The Banner. As Mhairi Smeir, from Arran Sound, tells us in the following, the need for this has increased over the years, and recently they recognised that the gap in access to local news could be filled by an online community radio station, a service for the whole of the island. After much work to see this happen, today is the launch of the arransound.com radio station.
Arran Sound – The Isle of Arran’s talking news
Arran Sound, originally ‘The Talking Banner’ began when Mrs Celia Sillars took on the task of reading and recording the local Arran newspaper ‘The Banner’ for sight impaired friend Jack Cooper in 1989. The newspaper ran an article, with photographs, and very quickly, subscribers increased and therefore too the need for volunteer readers.
Celia soon set up a rota, usually two readers and one ‘techie’ operating the recording equipment, a somewhat ponderous operation, at that time very much considered to be a ‘mans’ job, and wow did the gentlemen guard their recording rights. It was some time before any of the ladies were allowed to rise to the illustrious heights of recorder.
Volunteers came together in the tiny back room of ACVS every Friday when the Islands weekly newspaper, The Arran Banner was printed in Brodick, collected hot of the press and rushed to Lamlash. Reading was carried out amid much banter and often hilarious laughter, as those early Banner’s were frequently very funny, enhanced by somewhat dubious grammar, making reading out loud fraught with pitfalls necessitating many stops, rewinds and much grumbling from gentlemen recorders. The readers would often know a post script to an article and this would be included in the recording, along with the laughter and relevant discussion. The letters page always prompted comment, with the sports page terrifying every volunteer as they tried to keep a straight face while reporting the complexities of football, rugby, or ladies hockey ‘high’ balls. Our listeners loved it!
Once completed the recording was copied onto tapes, laboriously, by a large clunky machine, popped into yellow postage free envelopes and off into the evening post for delivery on Saturday morning to anyone who had difficulty reading the paper due to sight impairment or other issues. The service was free to anyone on the Island who needed it and over the years often also sent to the mainland. At this time the paper edition was distributed late Friday afternoon although the official publication day was Saturday.
This resulted in our core listeners having access to the local news almost simultaneously with the wider community, which meant that no matter how isolated by distance or disability our listeners were, they were included in the immediate island Saturday debate which The Banner always stimulated.
Volunteers came and went, thirty years is a long time, the listeners ebbed and flowed, The Banner changed ownership and the name of the group changed also, eventually becoming Arran Sound, as it is now. Modernisation followed and we now record on a laptop and send out memory sticks for use on box readers provided to our listeners.
However the service remains the same. There are presently fourteen volunteer readers and recorders who still provide the talking newspaper to sight impaired, dyslexic, literacy challenged and indeed anyone who finds it difficult to read our local press. We now also record our local online monthly newspaper The Voice for Arran.
Now, after thirty years providing a recorded service, it is time to evaluate our systems and consider their relevance and suitability in 2020 and beyond. We believe it is imperative that Arran Sound now finds a way to become more immediate and responsive to our listeners’ needs, to overcome the isolation which disadvantages our core audience. It is clear that in today’s world, access to immediate local news is accepted as a right, yet our core listeners are denied that access, however enjoyable they find their weekly and monthly recordings, they are always ‘catching up’ on local news.
It is time to provide an over island service that would encompass and promote inclusivity for our Arran Sound listeners and engage future volunteers, or this service will be lost to the island and its people. Pondering the question of just how to move forward, we became more focused as we moved into lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What we needed then, and still need now, is a simple way to reach everyone on the island, not just our Arran Sound listeners.
The very obvious solution would be by internet radio, and so this is what we have decided to move toward. With the birth of Arran Sound we intend our listeners to be the first to benefit from our new island radio station. With some modern wizardry, over the coming months we hope to provide a new and exciting, one touch, service which will bring the local news and views to everyone in our island community, overcoming visual and ability barriers, social isolation and physical distance.
With initial funding from the Supporting Communities Fund Grant Scheme, kindly identified for us by ACVS, and the very generous support from Alan Cameron of Soundtrap (magical software), and fantastic collaboration from Mrs Foster and Mr Dickie from the High School, we are now launching Arran Sound community internet radio. The station will be managed by volunteers from Arran Sound, in collaboration with community volunteers from different organisations and High School students and teachers. All the content will be available 24 hours a day however ultimately our aim is to ‘go live’ as soon as possible and bring an immediacy to news and views from Arran, on a daily basis.
Arran Sound will we hope, have a comprehensive audio playlist. For example there will be Whiting Bay’s wonderful ‘memories’ interviews with reminiscences from loved local characters. The Music School’s concerts, individual performances and McLellan Festival presentations. The Summer School’s evening performances, story books for young and old, and out and about interviews. With kind permission from The Arran Banner and The Voice for Arran, both will be available in audio for our listeners along with so much more. We are very grateful to so many contributors who have offered their recordings and, podcasts, concerts, links and access to websites and archives.
Working with and through the schools, Arran Sound will offer Arran’s young people the opportunity for training in everything pertaining to local radio, technical, administration, planning and researching subjects, recording both their own music and interviews, by getting out and about recording the people of Arran and her visitors. Making direct contact with their wider community, gaining confidence while being of service to those less able or disadvantaged fellow islanders.
Every organisation and group can contribute their news, events or reports. The Arran Medical Group, Health and Social Care, NAC and ACVS will have immediate access to all islanders and Arran people to each other.
With the launch of Arran Sound, there are two competitions for our young people. As this is to be a Community radio, we are starting with two competitions.
The first for S1-S3 students to design a logo for the station, this has a great prize attached. See here for more details. (PDF)
The second way to be involved is for young people from S4 upwards to produce some wonderful photographs which will be used as the home page image and rotate on a monthly basis. See here for more details. (PDF)
Entry information is also available on arransound.com
As this is YOUR radio station, we are waiting for your input, we need your support and active engagement to truly be an island station.
Everyone can contribute, if you have recordings that you think Arran folk would love to hear, please send it along or get in touch via arransound.com or telephone 01770302158
Anyone who would like to volunteer, especially if you have technical knowledge and can spare an hour or two, would be warmly welcomed.
Please make contact through the site arransound.com or by email email@example.com or by telephone 01770302158.
We are looking forward to hearing from you all!