Local radio station Harborough FM celebrates its 10th birthday today (Friday) with a live ‘outside broadcast’ from The Square in Market Harborough.
The station started full-time in February 2007, after a series of stop-start contracts that stretched back until 1995.
Station joint director / programme controller Chris Jones (55), a former TV engineer, said: “It’s a real achievement, and we have to thank all our supporters.
“Why do people listen to us? Because we’re local - that’s what people say in our surveys.”
Fellow director and station manager Barry Badger (64), a former garage owner better known by his broadcasting nickname ‘Moley’, said: “There’s not really any other radio station that covers this area properly.
“And because people know we’re a real local station, it builds up that trust between the station and the listeners” adds HFM reporter Nick Shaw.
The station broadcasts to a potential audience of 68,500 people - in Market Harborough, Desborough, Rothwell, Kibworth, Fleckney and surrounding villages - from modest premises on Fernie Road, near the railway station.
It has just two full time employees - Nick and Chris - plus four part-time freelance daytime presenters. All other staff members are volunteers.
As with all businesses though, money is an annual problem. Chris cheerfully admits: “We’re always trying to raise funds!”
The station is not-for-profit, but needs around £100,000 a year to keep going. Only half of that can legally be advertising revenue - the rest is made up of grants, payment for outside events and donations.
But despite this unglamorous side of being ‘on the radio’, Chris says HFM fulfills an ambition for people like him.
“I’ve always been interested in radio” he said. “My heroes were Tony Blackburn and people like that.”
In fact Chris was perhaps too keen. He helped set up an illegal pirate radio station as a student, with a group of friends at Charles Keene College in Leicester. When the authorities closed down this ‘bedroom radio station’, Chris was actually banned from radio for five years.
Fellow director ‘Moley’ is also fulfilling a longstanding ambition to be a radio DJ.
“When I initially left school I wanted to get into radio” he said. “I went into the car industry instead, but always loved doing things like the PA for local events.”
At the station’s Fernie Road HQ, there are two studios - the one from which most of the DJs broadcast, and a smaller studio which is Nick’s base.
There’s also a tiny reception area and a tiny office.
But virtually all the station’s content, from 7am to midnight, is generated locally.
As Chris said: “If you hear our DJ say ‘it’s snowing’, you know we mean it’s snowing in Market Harborough”.
Musical content is based loosely on Radio Two, says Chris. There’s a formula for the music the station plays, and tracks are randomly generated by a computer according to the formula - although the DJ can intervene if a particular song doesn’t sit right - and the formula goes out of the window for late night specialist programmes.
As for presenting, the key is to “have fun and to imagine you’re talking to one person” said ‘Moley’.
Now a third of people in the catchment area listen ‘regularly’ to HFM - defined as at least 15 minutes a week.
But the big reason given to the HFM survey is not the news, the music or the presenters, but - for 85 per cent of listeners - the ‘localness’.
For all the increasing complexity of the modern world, it seems we still like a nice chat with our neighbours.