After three years in the same studio, south west London community radio station Riverside Radio has recently moved to a new modern and high-tech studio a stone’s throw away from their old site in Battersea.
From sports, arts, news and music, Riverside has a huge variety of shows which is estimated to now attract 30,000 listeners a week.
SWL met with Riverside’s director and host of BBC London’s Early Breakfast show, Jason Rosam, to find out more.
We’re in this lovely brand new Riverside Radio studio. Can you tell me about this move and how it came about?
We have to thank Wandsworth Council because they’ve been amazing in giving us this space, which was going to be a drug rehabilitation centre for Wandsworth here on the estate.
But the residents of the Doddington and Rollo estate didn’t really want that. They wanted to turn this space into something that the community could use.
It was empty for a couple of years, and I just knocked on the door at Wandsworth Council and said: “Hello, we’re your local community radio station. We’re doing some fantastic things, we’re growing massively, we’ve got 200 volunteers, and we need more space.”
And luckily, they gave it to us. So we’ve got two new recording studios, a whole tech store, a brand new newsroom and office, and a kitchen. We’re thrilled.
Even though you’ve moved from just across the road, how huge an undertaking was it?
Oh, it has been a massive move. The distance was fine as it’s just across the road, but the amount of work involved in moving a radio station from one location to another, no matter where it is, has been absolutely gigantic.
The technical side of the move has been the biggest part and it’s been challenging, however, we stayed on air throughout the whole relocation.
Were you able to stay on air during all three lockdowns as well?
Just about! Most of our shows were pre-recorded from home. The only thing that we didn’t have was our news readers, which is very sad.
For a year, we didn’t have local news but we did have our local news program, Riverside Reports, every Friday which was pre-recorded by reporters and presenters at home, but we didn’t have that hourly local news bulletin that we need, because that’s the strength of a community radio station.
You have an incredible 200 volunteers now. Are you looking for more?
Always! Because all those volunteers go off and do amazing things in the media.
They’ve got jobs at Radio 1, Sky News, Sky Sports, Times Radio and other places. So that’s great for us as we really want to see our volunteers go on and do well in the media.
That’s the whole point of Riverside – to get them going. Because of that, we always need new people. There’s always a slot to be filled somewhere for a presenter, or another story to be covered by a journalist.
You’ve been involved with Riverside from the start. Tell us how you launched it?
In 2013 I was seeing lots of local online radio stations popping up all over London. And I thought, right, I’m going to do one for Wandsworth.
There was a meeting at Battersea Arts Centre in the same year and 60 people turned up wanting to be involved. Loads of people had great ideas, and from then it took a year and a half.
We started with nothing. We had to get funding, the location for the studio, programme ideas, and all the technical capability going.
We launched in January 2015 as Wandsworth Radio in Battersea Park Road. Since then we’ve grown massively to the point in 2019, we swapped the name to Riverside Radio, because we’re now on DAB across south west London so it’s heard in a wider area.
I came up with the name but knew Merton is not on the Thames. However, they do have the river Wandle, which runs through Wandsworth and Merton.
So it’s the Thames and the Wandle that connect the four boroughs of south west London. So Riverside is my baby and I’m so proud of what the station is now and how we celebrate south west London.
Are you from south west London originally?
Yes, I was born in Kingston and when I was four we moved to Poole in Dorset and I was brought up there.
I did community radio when I was 14 then came back to London at 16 to go to Arts Head theatre school in Chiswick for three years, prancing around singing and dancing on stage. Then slowly made my way back to south west London.
Tell us about your BBC London radio show?
I was working at the BBC when we launched and this is my 15th year working there.
I do the BBC Radio London early Breakfast Show every day, Monday through Friday 5-7am. My alarm goes off at 3:15am and I’m in the studio at 4am.
My show goes out across the country on all of the local radio stations between 5am and 6am, which I love because I love listening to everyone’s accents when they fade in, and then between six and seven, it’s just for BBC Radio London.
I’ve had a ball as a reporter out and about and a lot of my time was spent with Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London, so he’s the only Prime Minister I’ve ever known personally.
I was at the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Royal wedding, and all the big national events because I work for a London radio station. They all happen here in the capital.
And what’s the future of Riverside Radio?
Oh my goodness, there’s so much happening. Because we’ve got so much more space, we’re actually building a TV studio where we’re going to do a lot more visual content.
So we want to do little local news stories that we can put on our YouTube channel. We want to make a proper TV studio and do interviews with local bands and artists and anyone local to the area.
Then we’re also doing Charity Shop TV in conjunction with Wandsworth Oasis, who gave us the original building. It’s not just Wandsworth Oasis goods that we’re selling, we’re going to do it for any charity that wants it. Then we’ll just keep going and keep building and see where we get to.
It’s brilliant to be able to provide opportunities for people to build their skills, because there are not many live broadcast opportunities for young journalists to come in and do the work.
As a community radio, this is the place to make mistakes and try things out to see what works and what doesn’t – that’s what it’s about and it’s wonderful to see so many of our volunteers go on and succeed.
Recently, I was doing my early Breakfast Show and upstairs was one of our former volunteers Robin Richford, doing the early Breakfast Show for Radio 1.
We’ve got people all over the place so that’s fantastic to see and it’s great for us.
To find out more about Riverside Radio and become a volunteer click here.
Feature image credit Riverside Radio