Business sends radio station to prison - for its own good!
This is a beautifully British story about a business, a community and a radio station which simply became too big for the town it set out to serve (Northleach - population, at last count, 1,854).
What started in lockdown to simply entertain the locals, and make them feel like residents again rather than inmates, simply became too popular.
Its reward, ironically, has been to be put in prison. Yes, literally.
But founders, father and son Keith and Richard Blundell, are more than happy about the situation. Not least as the food is excellent!
Admiring Radio Northleach's ambition, and wanting to support the project’s bid to make the leap to the big time (covering the entire vastness of the wider Cotswolds), food company Relish Group offered studio room in its Old Prison Café.
“Relish have been instrumental in this great move, the staff have been fabulous and fully supportive of this venture and for us it’s a bonus as we have delicious food and hot drinks available both during and after shows,” said Keith.
It is all a far cry from the Radio Northleach which hit the airwaves with no such lofty ambitions on Friday, March 27, garnering a log-in of just nine listeners.
But talent will out, and its audience grew, breaking clean out of the precincts of Northleach to escape across the North and South Cotswolds, bolstering audience figures to three figures. And the station has now rebranded, in recognition, to become Cotswolds Radio.
Pictured: Keith Blundell and Charlie from Relish at The Old Prison Northleach
Listeners have turned in from as far away as Scotland and Yorkshire and incredibly, and perhaps a sign of how lockdown affected people, from Denmark and even Australia.
Keith is keeping his feet firmly on the floor, putting the rapid rise down to the “family and community” formula now part of the station's DNA. Although one wonders if its imaginative choice of regulars or any-age goes approach to its presenters is its real secret.
“We started off with a very simple formula of live broadcasting - a breakfast show, weekly quiz, a sports hour and community information," said Keith, looking back at how it all began.
“During the lockdown Cllr Paul Hodgkinson would be a regular on the airwaves to inform people about the latest political and government developments linked to the Coronavirus.
“Since its inception we have grown as a team and have a six-year-old presenter, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, which is helping us engage with a younger audience.
“One of our presenters does it from Australia and sends the broadcast over live via a livestream.”
In another radical move, to celebrate the rebrand and moving to the Old Prison, Cotswolds Radio is opening its studio door during the afternoon of September 12 to enable visitors and customers to the venue and café the chance to see the presenters in action.
Northleach Primary School has already expressed an interest inits pupils visiting to see glimpse the world of broadcasting in action, and the station has said it will gladly oblige – as soon as social distancingrestrictions allow.
“This is largely thanks to Annabelle Belcher who worked with the school as well as Dr Paul Johnson who has also offered up so many of his time to get this project off the ground,” said Keith.
For its part, Relish and the Prison Café are thrilled to be involved.
“The studio doors are open to all so we hope to see a few down here,” said Prison Café acting manager Tim Ashton.
“It will be great to see Keith, Richard and the team at work in the studio and it’s another great reason to visit The Old Prison, with the opportunity to also enjoy lunch or afternoon tea with family and friends,” said Mr Ashton, adding that all necessary covid precautions will be in place and numbers will be managed to adhere to the rules.
If you can't beat them, join them - click here to tune in to Cotswolds Radio.