Tune in to Radio Free Smedley Street

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s something a little irresistible about tuning in to a pop-up radio station to listen in, clandestine fashion, to music ignored by the mainstream stations.

It may be nostalgia, as my teenage years were spent glued to a transistor radio trying to find a signal for Luxembourg or Caroline.

Or it may be the romance of listening to a show that is a little rough around the edges, unsullied by commercial commitments or celebrity egos.

Whatever the reason, Radio Free Smedley Street is riveting and what really adds to the irreverence is the realisation that the sessions are being enjoyed by a pretty exclusive club – it is definitely very much an underground movement.

But be warned, once word really gets out that Derbyshire has a genuinely hip radio station with a mission statement to promote local bands and give new music a break then I suspect the audience will snowball and everyone will be logging on to listen in.

The station is the brainchild of three friends who live in and around Smedley Street in Matlock – Rob James and Alice and Martin Lockett.

What they had in common was that they were all regulars at Designate @ The Gate and they had a love of good music.

They teamed up to run a weekly record club at the arts venue and then one day last year decided to record one of the sessions live and stream it online.

Feedback was so positive that they did another and another, and before they knew it they had become a fully licensed community radio station.

They have been on the airwaves every Wednesday evening from 8-11pm since August. The show is about an hour and a half long but it is repeated three times during the evening, so if you miss the first one you can catch it later.

“It was surprisingly easy and we were all a bit amazed at first and couldn’t believe we had actually done it,” said Alice, who is also the woman behind the Escape Comedy Club in the town and a dab hand at promotions, admin and the intricacies of social media.

Rob, a journalist who used to work for the Matlock Mercury, puts his expertise to work by carrying out many of the interviews for the shows and is keen to emphasis that the whole venture is geared towards local people and to what they might relate.

“In the beginning we just wanted to help raise the profile of Smedley Street and this community. We wanted other people in Matlock to know the great things that were going on in this part of the town and our ethos was to be an ultra local pop-up radio station.

“That ethos hasn’t changed and it still is all about promoting local artists who might normally struggle to get airplay on the radio but now we are wanting to include performers from a wider area across the county.

“We want even more variety and want to include poetry, storytelling, comedy, blogs, discussions,” added Martin, a Derbyshire teacher, who is also a recording engineer and so the official techie on the team.

They have day jobs and families, so finding the time to run the voluntary station has been the biggest challenge.

“We have got much more efficient since we started. What used to take us two and a half hours now only takes us 45 minutes,” said Rob proudly.

They have also been joined by a ‘man of mystery’ known only as Casimir Engine who is already proving to be a big hit with listeners.

In the last couple of weeks they have revamped the whole format to make it more of a magazine show and called it Ground Station Zero (there’s a fascinating story behind the name you can check out on the station’s facebook page).

To listen in on a Wednesday evening go to http://www.radiofreesmedleystreet.co.uk and make sure you like them on facebook so that you can be kept up to date with what’s coming up and submit your own ideas for the show.

If you scan the QR code you can hear one of the old shows that are available on mixcloud.