Published on April 7th, 2021 | by All Things Warrington0
From the town, for the town.
Radio Warrington is a not-for-profit community radio station that broadcasts 24 hours a day from the heart of Warrington. Run by a team of passionate volunteers, it is committed to promoting all that is good about the town. Thousands of people listen to the station’s broadcasts on 1332AM (Medium Wave) or online in digital stereo via its website, its dedicated phone Apps or Smart Speakers. It is one of community radios’ success stories carrying out initiatives such as donating radios to care homes to help combat social isolation. But how did it all begin?
The WORM that turned…. into a top notch radio station
Radio Warrington began life in 2007
Remembers Station Manager Steve Lewis: “Myself and two other local DJs started the station by broadcasting live via the internet from the bedroom of a house in Orford. Back then in 2007 we were known as Radio WORM which stood for Warrington’s Online Radio Media and with the help of friends we were soon able to provide a 24 hour service. Later that year Ofcom invited applications for FM licenses but because of our short track record and a lack of frequencies we were unsuccessful.
Undeterred, the station continued to broadcast online, changed its name to Radio Warrington and set up a dedicated studio, first in Warrington Disability Partnership’s base in Great Sankey, then at Cinnamon Brow Farm before moving to its current home in Warrington Market.
In July 2014, after Ofcom announced there was no room on the FM band, Radio Warrington was approved for an AM broadcast licence using the 1332AM frequency. Although great news, this brought with it some challenges.
Explained Steve: “AM broadcasting on medium wave is complicated and it required the construction of a large aerial and transmitter station. We needed planning approval from the council, specialist certification and detailed plans. We were finally granted permission to build on land owned by United Utilities in Great Sankey. Indeed we have been very fortunate over the years to have had the support of some very community-minded individuals, groups and businesses such as United Utilities and Warrington Market without whom we simply wouldn’t be here. The Warrington Guardian and Warrington Worldwide have also been very supportive.”
The ‘techy’ stuff
AM transmitters are hard to come by and have to be designed around their operating frequency which in Radio Warrington’s case is 1332AM.
Said Steve: “The station’s first transmitter was a 300W model from Greece but it became very humid in warm weather and began to rust. We then moved to a more robust 175W valve transmitter which was handmade by an ex-BBC engineer. Unfortunately moisture caused a number of issues which we part solved by moving it into a vented and fan-cooled IP rated cabinet. Today we are running a 250W transmitter.”
Added Steve: “The station’s antenna is a Marconi T suspended from two 18 metre masts. It has an antenna tuning unit at the base with around fifty 18 metre copper ground planes. The entire installation was designed and installed by Paul Middlehurst, a local radio enthusiast who still helps out if we have problems.”
Warrington based, Warrington faced
All of Radio Warrington’s programming output comes from its studios in Warrington Market. This and the fact its presenters are either Warrington based or have Warrington connections, helps it deliver on its promise of being a station that is “from the town, for the town”.
Among other things the station:-
- Broadcasts reliable traffic information to help keep Warrington moving.
- Invites local people into its studios to talk about their projects.
- Provides live commentary on most Warrington Wolves games.
- Presents discussion programmes on local news, local events and local issues.
- Promotes the town’s arts, culture, history and heritage scene.
- Showcases local music.
- Organises an annual poetry competition and gives writers the opportunity to perform their work on air.
- Gives voluntary broadcast opportunities to local people regardless of age, experience and abilities.
Added Steve: “Unlike commercial stations that typically target their output at a fixed demographic to maximise advertising revenues, Radio Warrington has no such restrictions.
“Without these constraints the station is able to select its songs from a much larger music library. We also run lots of specialist shows featuring music that has been popular in Warrington over the decades and we integrate a lot of these specialist genres into our daytime playlists to keep things interesting. Plus, of course, we always encourage requests from our listeners.”
A lifeline for many
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and the world was forced to move online, Radio Warrington found itself in a unique position.
Explained Steve: “As well as broadcasting on digital platforms, Radio Warrington can reach parts of Warrington that other mediums cannot. Not everyone is digitally connected and we know many of our older listeners tune in via their radios on 1332AM. With this in mind, when COVID hit we teamed up with the council to broadcast their local COVID updates live to all of our listeners to help ensure everyone in the town – even those without the internet – were kept informed.”
Throughout the pandemic the station was able to maintain its 24/7 service by facilitating home broadcasting and in July 2020 it was even able to continue broadcasting around the clock whilst relocating to its new studios in Warrington Market’s new Time Square building.
One of the powers of community radio stations like Radio Warrington is that its local content can help combat social isolation, something the station is well aware of.
“As well as playing a great mix of music, there is a local touch to virtually everything we do,” said Steve. “Local news, views, reviews and interviews and programmes about the town’s history form a large part of our output. This helps us keep people up to date with what’s going on in the town and engaged. People who can’t leave their houses for whatever reason say this is a lifeline to them and helps them feel part of the community and less isolated.”
It is clear that being a station that’s from the town, for the whole of the town is something everyone at Radio Warrington is proud of.
To listen to Radio Warrington or to find out more visit www.radiowarrington.co.uk