Whaley Bridge residents' Lockdown Radio station finds global audience after brush with the law

A new community radio station set up to serve Whaley Bridge during lockdown has become a small internet sensation with listeners around the world.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 4:55 pm

Buxton Road resident Chris Cass, 49, works as a builder and had zero broadcasting experience of when he decided to set up Whaley FM Lockdown Radio in the early weeks of the pandemic – but over the past year has built an audience of discerning music fans, and a roster of amateur DJs.

He said: “If you listen to commercial radio now, all the playlists are pre-picked by big companies. I wanted to hear the people’s music.

“It’s something I’ve always thought about, but ultimately it was just a stupid idea I had in the pub one day. I ordered a transmitter from China, taught myself about frequencies and started having fun.”

Music fans looking for local connections and relief from lockdown have been tuning into a new internet radio station. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

The station quickly gained a small cult following, but also caught the ears of a listener Chris had not anticipated.

He said: “It started out just as a secret club for those in the know. I kept the broadcast very low key so it didn’t interfere with other stations’ frequencies.

“Then I had a lovely bloke from Ofcom show up at my door. He could’ve taken me to court but we got it all straightened out.”

Undeterred, Chris decided to switch to broadcasting online and recruited listeners Kerry Hall and Tracey Coverley to help manage operations.

Lockdown Radio founder Chris Cass.

Cloughfield Close resident Kerry, 50, who works in public health, now presents a regular show with her husband, also called Chris, sharing their love of blues-tinged tunes.

She said: “I’m a grandmother, I’ve never done anything like this. It just sounded like a perfect project to bring the community together and keep people entertained.

“I’ve been working from home for a year and this has been a great release, it’s given me something to focus on.”

There around 15 shows on the station in all, with presenters of all ages and musical tastes playing around the clock. A Facebook page and group set up for listeners to respond and make requests have grown to more than 900 members.

Kerry Hall cohosts a regular show with her husband.

Kerry said: “We’ve got people listening as far away as Greece, Canada and New Zealand. Most of them have some link to the town and it’s a way to feel connected.”

Everyone involved contributes a small amount to cover the running costs, and Chris runs regular online training sessions as the technology evolves and new DJs come on board.

The group experimented with streaming live bands last summer and hope to bring that back this year, and Chris is considering acquiring a full digital broadcast licence.

Chris said: “It started with a few like-minded people and then just grew via word of mouth. I tried being a presenter but now I’m just the caretaker, sweeping up behind the scenes.

Tracey Coverley is the station's soul specialist.

“It’s all for the love of the music, we don’t report news and we don’t have adverts. There are only have two rules – no Covid talk, and no swearing.”

To tune in, go to https://bit.ly/3sxrGOH.

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