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Britain’s only black radio station celebrates 31 years with Blue Plaque

Britain’s first and only black, licensed radio station celebrated its 31st anniversary yesterday with a Blue Plaque.

A Blue Plaque commemorating Choice FM was erected at 16-18 Trinity Gardens, Brixton, where it was launched, to celebrate the anniversary.

Choice FM was created by a group of black entrepreneurs and DJs and first aired on March 31st, 1990, on 96.9FM.

Its 30th anniversary celebration was interrupted by Covid-19 last year, but regulations allowed celebrations this year.

Emelia Kenlock helped run the plaque campaign and is the daughter of co-founder and photographer Neil Kenlock.

She said: “It was surreal. Growing up I was around the entire process. My work experience at school was Choice FM, during uni holidays I worked in the advertising department.

“The first thing that comes to mind is just how my dad had this idea and that it has impacted Black British, and British, history and it will be there forever. 

“My dad looked at the plaque, and said: ‘wow, I’m a man from a small village in Jamaica, I grew up chopping yam and bananas and I can’t believe I’ve done this, and had this impact all these years later’.”

The ceremony was attended by former Choice FM sales manager Wayne Turney, former Choice FM director Dr Yvonne Thompson, Lambeth Mayor Phillip Normal, former Choice FM DJ Daddy Ernie and Neil Kenlock, co-founder of Choice FM and photographer.

CHOICE: Turney, Thompson, Normal, Ernie and Kenlock,at the ceremony Credit: Lewis Patrick

The station was a trailblazer for many genres of music which now dominate British charts and music, including RnB and reggae. 

Choice FM also aired in Birmingham and operated for 23 years, championing and supporting the black community and businesses.

As well as fundraising for the plaque, organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, the Choice FM Blue Plaque Group’s efforts raised £4,500 for The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust, a charity the station has worked closely with.

Cllr Sonia Winifred, cabinet member for equalities and eulture, said: “Choice FM will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Lambeth community particularly in Brixton where it was launched. 

“It gave us all a sense of pride and belonging. 

“There has been no other to replace it and we owe a great deal to its co-founders Patrick Berry and Neil Kenlock. 

“Choice FM will forever live in the hearts of the people of Lambeth.”

In 2004 it was bought by the Capital Radio broadcasting group and on the 7th October 2013 it was rebranded as Capital Xtra.

The legacy of the radio station lives on and is now commemorated on the building it was launched from.

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