What's the Frequency?

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Review of Resonance, 104.4 FM

On 29 April Resonance 104.4 FM celebrates its third anniversary with a concert at Conway Hall, London. This is London's first radio arts station put together by the London Musicians' Collective. It is made up of 600 volunteers, 25 engineers and 125 programme makers.

Last year, with the exception of Radio 4, Resonance received more press coverage than any other radio station. The Guardian described it as 'the best radio station in London', and the Independent on Sunday said it was 'a glorious experiment that everyone in the country deserves to hear', while Muzik magazine states that it is 'a cure for conformity, still available without prescription. Try it before they ban it.'

Resonance's output is roughly 70 percent music. You can hear everything from traditional folk, Portuguese fado, jazz, industrial noise and classical through to what they describe as 'electronic oddities'. New bands are encouraged to send in demo discs and the programmes are presented by people who are truly passionate about their subject, the youngest being 17, the oldest 70.

Ed Baxter helped to get Resonance started and explained to me the importance of a radio station which breaks through the 'designer lifestyle choice' radio which dominates the airwaves. He believes that there isn't a true reflection of the breadth and talent of the community, and felt it necessary to provide an opportunity for those shut out by the small openings in the mainstream media.

This is evident in the programme schedule. A voice is given to people like Reg Hall, a folk music expert, and Harry Haward who presents a weekly programme entitled Calling all Pensioners, a show which lets pensioners know what they are entitled to along with music and chat. He has recently lampooned his local MP, Joan Ruddock, and Michael Howard on air. The station also devoted six programmes to the Iraq war demonstrations, covered the opposition to the arms trade fair and has recently interviewed Chomsky and Vanunu. Clearspot is on every evening and is a 90-minute show about whatever is happening in the news or is of particular interest that day. It might be climate change one day and the history of the tango the next, making sure that programming stays fresh and innovative.

When I asked people about whether they had heard about the station, most commented on the bird songs which you can hear in the early morning programme, the idea being that you can wake up in Hackney to the sound of the Amazon rain forest. This theme is carried through to Peter Cusack's show which is all about 'audio conservation' where he invites listeners to nominate their favourite London sounds with the idea of preserving, say, the slam door trains, or the onslaught of the mobile phone to show how the sounds of a city are constantly changing.

Tony Benn was among those who wrote letters of support to help the station set up, and at present it has a licence application pending and is looking for sponsors.

Resonance FM has been described as a true discovery channel. I am pretty convinced that almost anyone could find something here that they like, and maybe something they would not normally have listened to.