Most of the people involved in the Waltham Forest Community Radio Group met in 2012 on a course at Waltham Forest College (707 Forest Road, London E17 4JB) which was funded by Age UK Waltham Forest to train a group of older people in radio presenting skills. The course was run by the Community Radio group Streetlife Radio, which had operated a community radio station in Waltham Forest for some years, sometimes live on the Medium Waveband but more recently on the Internet. The idea was that the people trained by Streetlife would present a weekly programme on the station aimed at older people in the Borough.
However, shortly after we finished our course Streetlife Radio went silent. This was due to a number of factors such as a leading member of the Streetlife team moving out of the Borough and a forced shift of premises from the College to a building called Cyberlink on Beaumont Road, Leyton. Some meetings were held but broadcasts never started up again from this location.
This left us with some elementary presenting skills and an enthusiasm for broadcasting but no actual platform from which to do it. Our response was to start meeting independently in each other's houses and producing programmes using very basic home recording equipment (two microphones, a small mixer and a laptop, as well as a Sony mini voice recorder for vox pop and other interviews). At first our listeners were mainly our friends and neighbours and people we knew from clubs, societies and community centres like The Mill. From the outset we distributed our programmes on the Internet and by way of audio CDs which we recorded and duplicated on a home PC. We maintained the link with Age UK Waltham Forest, and a few programmes for the Age UK website were discussed and planned, as well as a possible collaboration with the Media Studies Department of George Monoux College, but as time went by and staff came and went, despite our efforts to keep the links alive, these proposals fizzled out.
Last year, along with some other community groups, we were given free hire of the Garden Room at The Mill and some modest funding for our activities. With this support we organised a number of sessions in which we recorded people's oral history and asked them to talk about some of the issues that concerned them, interspersed with people's choices of music and poetry. These sessions proved popular, and we distributed our programmes once again on the Internet and also by way of audio CDs given away free in The Mill and a number of sheltered accommodation units around the Borough.
In both 2015 and 2016 The Mill once again kindly helped us to apply for a grant from Markhouse Ward Forum (a Waltham Forest Council organisation) and we have received funding to allow us to continue making programmes at The Mill more or less continuously up to the present. We purchased the Internet domain name MILLRADIO.COM and so far have successfully found enough funding to renew our hosting fee with Hostpapa every year. Having our own domain name and hosting contract makes it easy to find us on the Internet and provides plenty of space for all our programmes, activities and publicity. Also it doesn't force us to carry external advertising, which free Internet hosting generally does. We have found Hostpapa's services very good and would recommend them to any small group looking for a reliable hosting partner.
In August 2017, after a total of about four years of recording and uploading programmes under different names, we took the decision to reinvent ourselves once again as Forest Radio, with a new logo, aims and values, and our focus shifted to take in the whole of the Borough of Waltham Forest and surrounding districts. We intend to expand our activities and increase our profile, providing a platform for all the people of the borough to talk about their interests or whatever is on their minds and showcase their innovations and creative abilities, to include music, poetry and stories; as well as going out into the community ourselves more than we might have in the past, interviewing people, investigating local issues or issues outside of the borough that relate to the people, recording local musicians and performers and uploading programmes promptly after an interview or whenever we are ready to do so rather than at fixed monthly intervals.
We are constantly reviewing our methods, procedures and systems to ensure local people have access to the radio programmes and their voices can be heard. As our programmes are no longer uploaded at regular intervals we have introduced a mailing list requiring individuals to sign up to receive up-to-date notifications of new items uploaded to the website at http://forestradio.co.uk/. Our first ever slogan is ‘Community taking root, bearing fruit’. With your help we look forward to a new era of genuine community broadcasting and to serving an expanding audience throughout the borough and beyond.