I have just returned from an incredible few days in Finland. A group of students and college radio leaders from around the world flew to Lathi, Finland to attend the Alternatives2016 student radio conference. It was billed as the 1st International Student Radio Conference, and as such had people attending from many different countries around the world including, Italy, Germany, USA, Greece, Scotland, Ghana, Sweden and, of course, Finland.
For many of those attending it was an opportunity for people to meet in person for the very first time. Having only communicated via Facebook and email for some time, this was an important moment to meet in the flesh and to spend time with one another.
For the first day, the venue for the conference was very apt indeed. Taking place at the Radio and TV Museum of Lahti at the Radiomäki hill, by the huge radio masts that overlooked the town, the lecture theater inside was where most of the action took place.
The museum was technically ‘closed’ due to extensive renovations and is not scheduled to re-open until February 2017, but we were allowed to use the venue for the conference. Being surrounded by old broadcasting equipment lent a certain cool vibe to the event, and I gave numerous radio interviews (and one TV News interview) in front of the preserved equipment panels and control booths.
After the introductory remarks from Tiia Tiainen, from the Radio and TV Museum and Ari Hautaniemi, our host and organizer from Limu Radio, I was up first to deliver my presentation. I talked a little about my own history of working in college radio, and then it was mostly about the idea of College Radio Day, and how World College Radio Day came out of that idea and spread to 43 participating countries around the world. I think it went well.
Speakers after me included Patrick Quinn, from Glasgow Caledonian University; Eva Gustavsson & Ms. Madeleine Ruuth, from Studentradion in Sweden; Gilbert Granholm, University of Tampere, Radio Moreeni in Finland; Tiziana Cavallo, University of Verona in Italy; and Dr. Abubakari Sidick Ahmed, from the University of Ghana. All speakers were fascinating in presenting how different college radio is in each country and presenting how the stations face challenges and struggles in each country. It was a reminder that, although we are individually part of very different cultures and countries, many of the challenges we face are very actually very similar. Issues such as lack of funding, lack of enthusiasm from the university at large, and difficulty in measuring the listening audience, rang true for many of those in the audience.
At the end of the first day, Mr. Joni Heinonen, one of the founding members of Lahti’s first local independent radio stations, Rytmiradio, and a longtime radio personality, delivered a closing speech that resonated with many present who had a love for rock and roll music and the glory days of the 1960s and 70s. Heinonen talked about college radio from the point of view of a traditional radio DJ who’s seen the evolution from LP’s to digital music playlists, and from the perspective of a man who had personally played with artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and the Beach Boys. I think many in the audience enjoyed his war stories of his time in the radio trenches!
The first day was a great success – also with a nice ‘geocaching’ group exercise in the early afternoon to break up the presentations and get us wandering outside with our GPS tablets trying to find the winning cache hidden in the grounds of the museum! It was also another opportunity for us to get to know each other in a fun, informal way.
Finally, dinner was provided for all those attending (about 90 or so people were registered for the conference). The venue was quite unexpected. The KERMA VIP lounge is an events venue that is quite unique: the venue has been built in an old factory building that was used to make dairy products such as yoghurt and pudding! As we entered the factory we were led downstairs into the underground factory with its gleaming steel pipes overhead and a huge dinner buffet awaiting us. Making the venue even better was an all-vinyl DJ set playing laid-back jazz as we ate, drank and networked with each other. It was a great way to end an already very full day!
At the conclusion of day one, there was already a sense that many of us had connected well to each other. These connections would only further deepen on day two – when we would get down to the nitty gritty of the workshops selected for the conference attendees. More on the second day in my next report!
– Rob Quicke