Above: Donal O’Driscoll & Barry O’Mahony
On January 20, Atlantic Radio Ireland, a new online community radio channel, aired its first live broadcast. As part of the proceeding, a public gig was hosted in O’Donovan’s Hotel, Clonakilty giving people a chance to witness the event up close or to tune in from at home.
The event stood as a good measure of what’s to come, introducing many of the stations’ new presenters and a plethora of musical guests, all lightheartedly conducted by Barry O’Mahony, the stations newly appointed manager, who on the night quipped about receiving good luck emails from listeners in Boston, Dubai and even as far away as Dunmanway!
The West Cork station fills a gap left by the recently-departed and much-loved Clonline Radio, with many of the original members returning to the helm and featuring a dynamic and growing bill of presenters and contributors from all over west Cork.
So I caught up with Barry to find out the story so far and the important role he hopes the station will play within the community.
Barry’s first involvement with online radio happened when his cousin Greg Mulcahy signed him up to do a program without his knowledge. As part of a project led by Baltimore social experimentalist Sheila Broderick, during her residency in the Clon Community Art centre, where she set up a temporary community radio station, Sheila pulled in as many people as she could from around the community to realise the project coined Clonline Radio,
“Clonline Radio was formed out of the Arts Centre, a very simple set up, just a couple of microphones, a little mixing desk and a laptop, and to be honest that’s all we still really use.”
Barry and Greg put together an ad-hoc morning breakfast chat show and others contributed broad ranging shows too; the weekend ended being a big success, bringing in many varied people together to create something together. So they decided to continue the project for the time being, as Barry mentions below.
“We decided that we’d run the station just every Saturday and the rest of the week, when there was nothing else on. For the first week that went fine, a couple people listened in and it was getting good feedback and everyone was kind of up for doing a second Saturday but this time we forgot to switch off the server so it kept looping all week long; but as a result way more people tuned in. So we thought, okay there’s something going on here. People were listening and then people started making requests for podcasts, so we started uploading those to the website too and then the project just kind of started getting bigger and bigger, more people were contributing and it was very exciting.”
Having clearly enjoyed the experience, Barry dove headfirst into online radio, making several more shows, joining the management team and even designing the website. But despite this, all good things must come to an end, as Barry explains.
“It was all very experimental and there was never any kind of structure or anybody in charge. The only official thing was the location – Dan Guiney, our production manager had the studio and the gear so his studio became the base. But other then that nobody really knew who was in charge of what.
The station never really ran itself; it had just been people like Dan donating his gear, and myself and Mick Holly paying the web fees. It got to the point where it had kind of come to a natural conclusion, so we decided to close the book on the project, to analyse everything and see was it worth trying again and to see if there was thing we could do better. So we did that August last year, which was when Atlantic Radio Ireland was born.”
“When people traditionally think of community radio, they think of local affairs, that is community radio, as we’d all expect it to be – someone doing the weekly report from Drimoleague, promoting the Tidy Towns litter collection and the under 12s soccer match, –we do definitely want to cover that base but there is also community in a different sense…Community in my eyes is people with a common interest coming together.
Let’s say you love free jazz music, or you’re an adult who loves building things with Lego, if you live in a major city there’s probably a bar or a club or a shop near you that you can get a taxi or a subway to where you will meet up with all the other people who are into that stuff. In West Cork because it’s not a very densely populated area there are pockets of interest around the place that don’t have a single focal point, especially if something is a little bit leftfield. But more often then not you don’t have to travel to New York to find someone else interested in your niche.
If you live in Castletownbere, there’s probably not much of a free jazz scene but maybe there’s someone in Caheragh who’s also big into jazz and you know what there’s probably someone in Kilbrittain too, you just don’t have the opportunity to meet each other, but if just one of those people sent us an email saying I’m really into free jazz and is there any chance of us getting a show about it, then as long as you’re willing to help out with it we can make that show. Then the guy in Caheragh goes ‘oh great there’s actually a show that relates the thing I’m interested in’ and he starts tuning in, the woman from Kilbrittain discovers it and tells her friends. If those people began emailing in and texting, sure all of a sudden you’ve formed a community – a community that wouldn’t have existed for geographical reasons. Because of the Internet, our station has the potential to reach the entire world and we can create communities.”
Atlantic Radio Ireland is a not-for-profit, community-based radio and they’re always on the prowl for new volunteers to join their growing team. You can find out more via their website www.atlanticradio.ie.