Bolt FM: Music breaking down the territorial boundaries

Bolt FMBolt FM is Scotland’s longest running youth led radio station. It is based in one of the most deprived areas of Europe, Provanmill in the east end of Glasgow. Here the male life expectancy is more like Kenya and Iran at 59. Traditionally, men don’t live as long due to two main causes - violence and alcohol - and from an early age boys learn about both of them.

When Bolt FM first started in 2001 it was an artists’ residency taking place over 10 days to celebrate two new parks being built in the newly united (with Royston) parish. St. Paul’s Church had a small room that was home to the water tank and the studio was set up in there with a couple of CD players, a mixing desk and a few microphones. The idea was that two feuding communities could work on the same project but not have to be in the same room together. The music was all chosen by the young people and requests were taken by phone, connecting the community with the DJ’s.

Over the next few years more and more young people became involved. We realised that the opportunity for young people to have a voice and express their music styles was very unique for those from an urban priority parish. Young people were bussed to the studio and in 2005 we were able to get funding for a state of the art digital studio, similar to commercial stations. This studio enabled the local colleges to send students to learn more about radio production, providing the station with much needed funding.

By 2007, young people from both communities were on the management committee and our annual FM broadcasts were being augmented with internet broadcasts. Instead of broadcasting for 16 hrs a day with the huge staff resource required, we were able to broadcast for a few hours a night, when the young people wanted to listen most. Unfortunately during this year, one of our local young people was murdered. Bolt FM helped to support many of the young people as they dealt with this terrible ordeal.

In 2011 we created a permanent purpose-built studio to celebrate our 10th anniversary. Young people were at the heart of creating this, learning carpentry, plastering and decorating skills. Our anniversary broadcast was a great event with over 200 young people broadcasting to the community and beyond. All styles of music were broadcast, from the usual dance through to a live rap set from a Kazakhstani young person who was living in the community.

The decision was made to no longer seek funding for an FM Restricted Service Licence. At over £175 a day in licence fees alone it was becoming more difficult to explain to funders why this was needed when for the same amount we could broadcast on the internet for a year. Now, many of our young people access the internet from their smartphones, with unlimited data available for a much smaller fee, and we have even seen young people share an internet connection through hot spotting in order to participate.

This year, we have been taking our music beyond our parish to work in partnership with other local communities. We were fortunate to receive funding to take Bolt FM to Cranhill, Haghill, Ruchazie, and Riddrie using a mobile studio. Every night of the week, Bolt FM is training new young people in the art of broadcasting in the communities they are in. Interviews are being carried out, new music is being promoted and young people are being given a voice. Through the Dynamic Youth Award, young people who would struggle to gain any academic qualifications are achieving SQA accreditation for the learning they are doing. We are now working with two different schools in providing qualifications.

What’s next? Glasgow is due to have a massive year in 2014 with both the Commonwealth games and the Referendum on Independence. This will provide many interesting shows and we are looking forward to the many possibilities that this gives us and the chance for our young people to have a different voice in the global mix. Our young people and their mics will be involved in many different ways, giving the views of young people in the North East of Glasgow.

Neil Young is Youth Team Leader at St. Paul’s, Glasgow. To find out more about Bolt FM or to listen go to their webpage.