Now in its 10th year Spark is the University owned community radio station in Sunderland. I’m the Station Manager and academic lead for the station and I also secured the licence from Ofcom.
The University has been a long time supporter of radio. Professor Andrew Crisell, a now retired colleague wrote the iconic Understanding Radio book whilst lecturing in media and radio at the University. In fact, when I joined I took over some of the classes he once taught. The University was also home to Wear FM, one of the forerunners of community radio in the UK. At the time public bodies like Universities could not own radio licences, so it did what it could to support the station in other ways. Although that licence was ultimately sold by the founders, it left behind some impressive studios that we used for teaching and our annual RSL stations until we moved to our purpose built media centre in 2004.
A change in the law made community radio a defined tier in the UK and this opened up the opportunity for us to make an application of Ofcom for a full-time licence. We secured this in 2007 and appointed a new member of staff to lead the launch. Although I remained involved, it wasn’t until a few years later that I took over as manager.
The station is student-led and staff-supported and we aim to empower our team to make their own decisions and take the station forward. Something which has led them to awards at the the New York Radio Festival, the UK Station Radio Awards and UK Community Radio Awards, with prizes for both the station and (more importantly) the people who make the shows., including the Gold for Best Station at the 2022 Student Radio Awards