When I’m driving around this area, I often listen to Uckfield FM, our local radio station.

I’ve also seen them at festivals and other events.

I wondered how you can set up and run a radio station, so a couple of days ago when I was being interviewed on the radio by Lynn Briggs, talking about Travel Writing and B-C-ing-U! I arranged to interview Gary King, the Director of Programming and Music after my interview!

ME  Who started Uckfield FM and why?

GARY  Myself, Mike Skinner and two others.

We were all involved in Haywards Heath Hospital Radio, and we ran the Hospital Radio for the Uckfield Festival in 2002, where we came up with the idea.

So we contacted Kevin at the cinema and asked if we could borrow his popcorn room.

Later on we put a studio in it.

We spent a year of planning and joining things like the Chamber of Commerce, and then we were granted a licence to broadcast four weeks a year to cover the Uckfield Festival.

In 2007 we moved here, to our permanent premises at Bird-in-Eye.

ME  It’s lovely and peaceful here, in the middle of nowhere, isn’t it?

GARY  Yes it’s perfect.

In 2009 we were granted a full-time licence, and started in July 2010. And from the 1st July 2012, we went on air full time, 24 hours a day. We’re not live all night; we use recordings.

ME  How does it pay for itself?

We get 50% of our funding from ads, and the rest from grants, quiz nights, etc.

ME  What is an FM and how do you get one?

GARY  FM stands for – hang on- (he looked it up!) Frequency Modulation.

We applied to Ofcom for a Community Radio licence. They determine the frequency and it depends on other nearby frequencies. Uckfield FM is 105.

ME  How far away can you be heard?

GARY  A 6-7 mile radius of Uckfield. But we’re worldwide online, and on mobiles, apps and other devices.

ME  So I can go on holiday, to Majorca for instance, and listen to Uckfield FM on the beach?

GARY  Yes, and we know that people do, because they tell us!

ME  How many DJs and permanent staff do you have?

GARY Just me full time. We have a membership of 65 and 45 of them are presenters.

ME  How do you know how many listeners you have & what’s the average?

GARY   We’ve had street surveys produced in recent years by the students at the college who have provided us with a snapshot to our listeners.

The surveys have shown (after talking to up to 300 people) that a third of them have listened to us in the last week. The main age group of listeners is 35-65.

We don’t have details of other demographics with pretty much an even split of male and female.

ME  How would you describe Uckfield FM?

GARY  We’re a Not For Profit organisation.

Uckfield FM is a Community radio station that discusses what’s going on in the area.

We play varied music from the last 60 years, including specialist music like jazz and country.

We cover news stories, events, festivals, etc.

ME  How much equipment do you have?

At events, there is often already PA equipment there, hired for the day.

We can also broadcast live via the internet, and we have an extra aerial.

ME  Do you have any plans for the future?

GARY  We’re currently looking at increasing our coverage. The Regulator is looking at allowing local radio stations increased power to improve their signal.

We’ll possibly have DAB digital radio.

Every quarter everyone re-applies for a DJ slot.

Most people do one show a week in their spare time.

 

Gary had another appointment waiting to talk to him, so I thanked him and left him to his non-stop busy schedule.

It had been a very enlightening couple of hours!