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Fem FM archive recalls when Bristol women made broadcasting history

News diary date: 3 pm–5pm, Saturday, March 8, - 2014 (International Women’s Day)

Official opening of a Bristol Record Office digital archive telling the story of the UK’s first all-female radio station and a reunion for the 200 Bristol women  who made it happen.
 
There will also be a discussion about the status of women in broadcasting today led by a panel of Fem FM alumni at the M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN - Free admission
 
The Bristol women who made broadcasting history two decades ago by setting up the UK’s first all-female radio – Fem FM –  are to get a permanent record of their achievement – and impact – with the opening on March 8 (International Women’s Day) of a digital archive dedicated to their project.

The original programme tapes have been digitised by Bristol Record Office (www.bristol.gov.uk/recordoffice) and available alongside these recordings are original photographs, publicity materials and background documents saved by some of the 200 women who put Fem FM on air from 8-15 March 1992 and so set an example picked up by many others in Britain and beyond.

To mark the archive’s opening, a Fem FM reunion will take place at M Shed, Wapping Wharf, featuring a discussion on the status of women in broadcasting today, led by senior industry figures whose careers were advanced by their Fem FM experiences.  The panel will be chaired by media academic Caroline Mitchell, who - with Trish Caverly - came up with the idea of the station and then co-led the funding, training and broadcasting teams who made it happen.

Caroline explains: “Back then, we were driven by a belief that women were not getting a fair share of radio air-time and that this should, and could, change if only more women were given the right technical know-how and experience.  One obvious outcome of the project is that several Fem FM graduates have gone on to make their mark as media or music professionals but what is perhaps less well known is the impact this relatively short-lived Bristol-based initiative had on the wider world – inspiring many other community radio projects, in Britain and internationally.”

Among the guests at the celebration will be Fem FM volunteers Sue Clarke, a Sony Gold Award winning radio producer, Ali Grant, the current chair of the BCfm community radio station, Diane Kenwood, now the editor of national magazine for women; BBC arts and documentaries producer Erin Riley; DJ Ritu, heard regularly on stations such as BBC London, BBC World Service and Kiss 100 and Jacqui Wilson, manager of the internet radio station, Passion Radio Bristol.

Fem-FM co-founder Trish Caverly, now an audio producer, said the Fem FM story is a relevant today as it was 20 years ago – as is evidenced by the media fuss being made about BBC Radio 1’s plan to use only female DJs on the night of International Women’s Day 2014.

She said:  “Although several of us have stayed in media related work, it is still a fact that women are heard less on radio and television – as presenters, DJs, panellists or as topical speakers.
 
"So we hope that our celebration and the archive will not only remind people of what Fem FM meant two decades ago but also send a message that more still needs to be done to enable women’s voices and views to be shared.”

To increase radio opportunities for local women, and celebrate the launch of the Bristol Record Office archive, Fem FM is about to launch a new project with the Bristol-based community radio station Ujima, whereby a group of young women will get a grounding in radio programme production.

Caroline Mitchell added: “The Fem FM story is definitely one worth exploring. Even a re-read of the meeting notes sheds light on what women’s lives and broadcasting were like in the 90s and who was following the project then. For instance, we got messages of congratulations from Boy George, Linda Snell of The Archers and Peter Gabriel, among other celebrities.
 
"It will also be an invaluable resource for media historians, a way to find out what it took to set up the UK’s first all-female station and the example Fem FM set for other community broadcasters.”

Councillor Gus Hoyt, Assistant Mayor with responsibility for equalities, said: “I’m delighted that the pioneering work of Bristol women who set up the first all-female radio station in the UK is being recognised with the creation of this archive. And the launch, on International Women’s Day, is a reminder that more still needs to be done to ensure that women’s voices are heard equally.”

A quest is underway to locate the original Fem FM team so that they can be invited to the launch party and debate. So far, around 50 of the participants have been found but Trish and Caroline say: “If you, or anyone you know, was involved we’d love to hear from you – either via the Fem FM Archive page on Facebook or via an email message to Femfmevents@gmail.com.”

From March 8, personal callers will be able to view the Fem FM archive at Bristol Record Office, in the B Bond Warehouse, Smeaton Road, Bristol, BS1 6XN, during its usual opening hours (9.30am to 4.30am, every Tuesday to Friday, plus extra hours on the first two  Thursdays and Saturdays of each month).

The Fem FM Revisited event and its allied training programme for young women are being made possible thanks to funding and support from Bristol City Council, Bristol Record Office, DJ Angie Dee, Lab FM community radio at the University of Bedfordshire, M Shed, The Quartet Community Foundation, Siren FM, Lincoln, Spark FM, Sunderland, the Transnational Radio Encounters research project, Ujima Radio, Bristol,  the Universities of Bournemouth (Centre for Media History), Lincoln (Departments of Media and Journalism) and Sunderland,  and VoiceGift.


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