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The Underground Radio Scene in Nottingham

22 March 19 words: Eileen Pegg

Radio has undergone something of a revolution recently, with the internet explosion facilitating a new wave of niche, localised, underground stations that capture the unique sound of their areas. Proving that Nottingham is no exception, our tastemakers have launched their own platforms too, marking the city’s contribution towards this growing movement...

Photo by Gavin Whitner

“Whatever the future holds, we need to remember that people have two ears, and they’ll always want to stick something between them.” That ‘something’ refers to radio, a medium regularly identified as being in its death throes, but one that continues to prove an essential part of people’s daily lives. The man behind the statement is David Lloyd, a Nottingham born expert in the field with over forty years of experience in the broadcast business firmly wedged under his belt.

His recently released book, Radio Moments, is filled with more of these nuggets, “Forty years ago, if you were lucky, your city had a single, commercial radio station.” How times have changed, as 2018 saw two new independent broadcasting platforms, MIMM and City Beat Radio, burst onto the scene in Nottingham.

Whether played in the car, in the office or on an actual radio device - usually found in your parent’s kitchen or dad’s garage - radio is ever-present, with a large stream of channels just a flick of a switch away. It’s not surprising then that, according to a 2018 audience research study, 88% of the UK population tune into radio each week. However, 63% tune into digital radio – DAB, online, DTV or an app – on a weekly basis too. Naturally, we’re not too sure on the listening figures for the pirates…

Where Leeds has KMAH, Bristol has Noods and London has Balami, NTS, Rinse and many more, it’s exciting to see that creative in Nottingham have launched their own platforms too, marking the city’s contribution towards a growing movement that gives every UK postcode and beyond far more than one station to choose from.

First up is MIMM Radio, launched last September, from the collective that was founded by Nathaniel Coltrane Wilson in 2011. “MIMM (which stands for Music Is My Motive) has always been about culture, art and other creative outlets, particularly music, but in recent years the focus shifted towards the clothing element. With the radio we wanted to get back to our roots, creating a broadcasting platform that was visually enticing too,” says Oli, who works for the station. Streaming straight out of MIMM’s shop front in Hockley, anyone walking past Broad Street on a particular evening may see some local selectors playing, framed by the colourful world flag mural that adorns the store. If not, each set is also streamed live on the channel’s Facebook page

“We have a number of local crew members on the show. It’s an extension of using the MIMM platform to promote different brands in the area. People like Running Circle, Soul Buggin’, Afrodisiac, Truth and Lies and 2Step have featured in the past, and it’s great to have a platform to showcase these creatives.” With strong ties to the world of music, hosting events and even releasing records in the past, it’s natural that MIMM Radio airs shows from DJs, producers and artists the city. But Oli goes on to explain that the goal is to take it broader and branch out from purely dance music. They want to curate shows that explore all of the interesting people in Nottingham, with plans for talk-based scheduling, inviting guests to tell the story of local scenes like graffiti, coffee and beer, for example.

We need to remember that people have two ears, and they’ll always want to stick something between them

City Beat Radio launched in November 2018, headed up by Nick Strang of record store/record cutting studio/collector’s institution, Plates. With underground community at its heart, it’s another shining example of utilising the airwaves to cater to the needs of an audience that, in terms of number, might not be as big compared to commercial stations, but has passion in abundance. “I have a lot of love for stations like KMAH, NTS, Red Light etc as they have such good music and interesting DJs. Red Light in particular came out of a really interesting social objective of regenerating an area that needed it in Amsterdam which no doubt got people's attention,” Stang said, “Once the Plates shop closed last year I was looking for something else to keep things moving on the music side of things and radio was something I noticed was lacking in the city. I also was meeting so many interesting creatives here and it made sense to have somewhere that could help represent that on a regular basis.”

Calling the curious alleyway of Cobden Chambers its home, City Beat broadcasts every weekend. Its schedule is a combination of local DJs - including Late Night Wax, Soul Sister Brown Sugar, Tradition Hifi, Afrodisiac and Stang himself - as well as discussions (our own Bridie Squires has been known to say a word or two) and live musical performances. “Radio reminds local people that their city has something to be celebrated and that there is some kind of unity between both the artists/collectives as well as the listeners. It also has the potential to reach a global audience. For City Beat in particular, I want anyone who has creative interests to feel like they have another outlet and opportunity to share it with the local people. I find a lot of very talented people here still struggling to reach as bigger audience as they'd have liked so it's really just an attempt to help that in any way we can.“

It would be silly to say this this is a completely new phenomenon for Nottingham, with a rich pirate and digital radio history, a thriving student radio scene, as well as other FM stations like Trent FM in our archives. However, these two platforms, each still in their early stages, mark an exciting moment for local music and culture, as well as an opportunity to harness the city’s true sounds, and we look forward to watching, and hearing, them develop.

Mimm Radio website

City Beat Radio website

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