Resonance 104.4 FM has been lauded as “the best radio station in London”.
This might seem a misnomer given that Resonance FM is an arts based community station whose output scales the range from the weird to the seriously avant garde.
With an audience of around 100,000 and a celebrity fan club including Vic Reeves, Alistair McGowan and Janet Street Porter, a broader appeal is evident.
Resonance FM was the brain child of London Musicians’ Collective organisers Ed Baxter and Phil England and was initially a four week programme of international radio art produced for John Peel’s Meltdown festival in 1998. License and initial funding was finalised in May 2001 and it has been broadcasting from a tiny studio in Denmark Street ever since.
Baxter explains the ethos of the station thus. “Resonance is an access station and its ethos is based on hospitality, saying yes to people. There’s a lot of DIY in Resonance, which is a post punk kind of thing. The younger people involved in the station are extremely open minded and there’s no generation gap in access to knowledge.”
The range of programming is certainly inventive, if not a little eccentric on occasion. Tune in at any given moment, and you might hear Cyber Chutney Arse Ducks with The Poo Lord, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fishing, which is, unsurprisingly, rock bands going fishing. Or how about Baxter’s long awaited live radio rock climbing? “There will be grunts and groans and will he or won’t he do it?”
Inherent to this diversity is experimentation, which is the essence of Resonance and although this type of eclectic programming might appear dense to those not fluent in its language, as Baxter continues, “The programming is broadminded and assumes that the listener is too. If they don’t like what’s on, they can turn it off and come back to us in an hour.”
Indeed, Resonance is not a station to have on in the background, it demands attention, and even if this is not always particularly ‘easy listening’, the chances are that you will hear music that you’ve not heard before. Its bent is towards the electronic spectrum with a tenth of its schedule being devoted to electronica, but you will also hear the new, the old, the weird, the challenging.
The glorious age old fanzine The Organ has a regular slot exploring underground music and discourses on the delights of irregular time signatures. Other eclectic delights include Musa Lusa in which Miguel Santos plays new music from Portugal, African Essence with Anne Wanje and Debbie Golt. Resonance’s diversity must be applauded with the station offering representations of 12 London languages.
Alongside the strange, there are also shows that feel more mainstream whilst filling broadcasting chasms, the Calling All Pensioners being one such example. Presented by Harry Haward it is a topical civil rights show calling the over ’60s to remonstrate injustices and is inspirational broadcasting. Haward screams his fury at ageism and you can’t help but agree with his every word. It should be compulsory listening.
Ever organic, Resonance handpicks its presenters from a pool of London talent. Certainly there’s a broad spectrum of ‘professionalism’ on the station and its sometimes shambolic charm has appeal, as Baxter continues, “on the one hand we have Stewart Lee who is a professional broadcaster and on the other hand you have fifteen year old Seth Pimlot who does a show called Spoon It Moon, he’s not going to sound like Terry Wogan, you don’t want him to”.
As Resonance becomes a part of the London soundscape, it was inevitable that as well as attracting a ‘celebrity’ presence including David Shayler, Stewart Lee and Ken Campbell, they would also make waves within the industry. Resonance was nominated for a Sony Award this year for its spearheading programme The Good Drugs Guide, “it’s a bit of a bauble really, we should have won, I thought it was a bit mean spirited not to let us win,” Baxter says.
Resonance has also just obtained their five year license which inevitably means that they will aspire to greater things, including the humble ambition to buy a new signal mast to increase the quality of the signal ten fold.
However, consistent to its grassroots ethos, Baxter’s personal hopes for his baby are moderate, he says. “I’d love to find a new premises with more space, with an audio arts laboratory. It’s all quite modest really, to stay local as we’re interested in the locale that we’re in, we definitely have a defiant parochialism.”
Parochial or not, Resonance is a pioneer of art and must be encouraged and celebrated. Best radio station in London? Quite probably.