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Foundation.fm Is Proving That Radio Isn't Dead

Radio isn’t dead. We caught up with the three lovely ladies behind foundation.fm, the London-based radio station shaking up what we thought we knew about the waves. Becky Richardson, Ami Bennett, and Frankie Wells have come together to combine their knowledge about the industry and create a platform to enhance and support a more inclusive community while utilizing the power of music. Milk stopped by their Peckham Levels studio to get the scoop, accompanied with photos by Naomi Wong.

What’s more—we even threw in a playlist from foundation.fm’s very own, Natty Kasambala, which was roughly based on her first show, “the feels.” Listen below. 

You’re all super involved in the London music scenecan you each give a bit of background into what you do outside of foundation.fm and why you’re so interested in music?

Becky: I run my own Radio Plugging Promotions company called Ghost and managed a couple of bands with UROK Management. I have always known I wanted to work in music, it’s a huge passion of mine—particularly new music and working with new artists.

Ami: As soon as I got my first job in radio, I knew I wanted to work in music, with people who are also passionate about music. A lot of my day to day job involves working with new talent in radio with DJ’s and for TV shows that are often about music.

Frankie: Working in music sort of just happened, it was how me and my friends socialized and through that I ended up making friends who were also working in music, talking about upcoming projects and looping each other in. Outside of foundation I make a sex education podcast called Project Pleasure & am part of the collective Femme Culture.

Radio needed some freshening up; I remember when I was in college radio, we were always thinking of ways to get more listeners especially with streaming services coming to the forefront. What does radio have to offer that streaming services don’t? Of course, there is a sense of community, as opposed to just listening to your own curated playlists—how do you engage your community outside the airwaves?

Becky: For me, Radio gives you a personal touch that streaming doesn’t. For example I am always interested to know what Benji B is playing / supporting because I think he has great taste and I know his playlist is full of that and not based on algorithms.

We have a whole bunch of stuff planned next year to engage our community and are in talks with lots of local gigs, events, festivals that we can support.

Ami: My whole career has been about radio, so while I do agree that streaming services are great for listening to what you want, when you want, radio is really about that interaction, communication, and putting a voice and a personality that is serving as a tastemaker. I love hearing about people’s personal connection to music; where they first heard a song, where they found it or simply why they love it so much. Our community is already stretching way beyond just radio—it’s been amazing to invite artists, poets, directors, and all different kinds of communities to present their own shows and try stuff out on a platform they maybe haven’t used before!

Frankie: I agree with Ami & Becky, it’s the personal connection, the passing on music and sharing stories around it. Also being able to connect and carry on conversations online; giving collectives, artists & poets (as Ami said) a show that has a question or a theme and pairing that with our socials allows us to engage with our listeners and make them a part of platform which is so exciting—it feels like we’re building a community inside and outside of the station.

What is the foundation.fm brand / why did you decide on “foundation.fm” as the name?

Becky: Naming the station was the hardest bit but then as soon as we said it the whole thing clicked, we want to support young females from the ground up and build with them from the foundations ;)

Ami: There was a lot of back and forth, but foundation.fm just felt RIGHT! It sounds and looks good—I think we are all really proud of that bit now!

Frankie: I can’t imagine it being anything but foundation.fm—it makes so much sense to what we’re doing it.

What is the foundation.fm sound?

Becky: We are playing lots of sounds, everything from King Krule to Peggy Gou to Dave. We have made conscious effort to not just play all one genre as I think there is already a few genre led community radio stations but nobody playing the eclectic mix of music that we are.

Ami: I like to think that it’s totally inclusive. Our daytime shows play a mix of things, and they also borrow from our specialist shows, and that’s all happened naturally. The specialists all have their unique mixes of genres, but there’s definitely something for everyone! We really wanted the shows to represent the music tastes of the individual presenter.

Frankie: The sound is really eclectic, it’s really a reflection of our DJs and their sound & what they love to play. It’s actually really nice to see the DJs bring tracks their so passionate about & are excited to play, then one of our other DJs hear it & they have this back and forth through the shows around music. I love it. Artists that are getting a lot of love from us are Elheist, Brockhampton, Blood Orange & Rosalia.

Tell us about your spot in Peckham Levels? Where are all these amazing tunes coming from?

Becky: Peckham Levels is amazing, it’s a real hub of creative collectives and amazing small businesses. Our tunes are coming from the DJ’s but also the industry, we know what’s hot and we are playing it.

Ami: Our studio is so great—it’s in a converted multi-story car park that houses loads of studios and other great creative projects. I’m really proud of our studio and office space, we all worked hard on it! A lot of local artists have been getting in touch via our socials, too, which is really great.

Frankie: Peckham Levels is just a great hub of creativity. Our DJs get to come here play, network and have a space to experiment—there’s so much to do here if you need a space to work, catch up or have a drink ;) The tunes are exchange between our DJs, us and the industry.

What advice do you have for people who want to get into disc-jockeying?

Becky: Go for it! Practice as much as you can, it’s an amazing skill to have. You are also never too old to start, I turn 30 next year and I am just starting to learn.

Ami: Just do it—it’s really fun! There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing people having an amazing time to tunes that you’ve chosen.

Frankie: There’s nothing to lose, go for it. It takes practice, you have to find your voice & sound also technique and that takes time but don’t get disheartened and keep going.

What does it take to have a radio show? Can you walk us through the prep of creating one of your shows?

Becky: Frankie is the best person for this question as she is head of production.

Frankie: It really depends on what kind of show you want to do but I’d say the key thing is having interest and passion—no matter the show I love the idea of taking a listener on a journey & an exploration of sound. So if you wanted to do a talk show—what subject do you want to explore and what questions do you want answered, why are you so interested in this subject. Similar with music, how did you find this track why are you so passionate about people hearing it. I just love hearing passion in people’s voices and when they engage with me about it, including me in this sound and scene. From this we start breaking down the show in to sections and where we can highlight your strengths, if you’re a strong selector, talker, DJ—and how we can build the rest of the show around that. Then I just focus on making it fun. Which it easy at foundation!

What has been your favorite show so far (if you have one)?

Becky: Hmmm really tough, I love Kelechi’s show… every week she is amazing and comes out with the best one liners such as ‘Is my man a penguin’? [Laughs]

Ami: Honestly, I couldn’t choose one! I think for me, it’s just been so incredible to see these shows come to life, when a couple of months ago, they were just ideas on a Google doc, and all of the amazing presenters we have were just putting their trust into us for a radio station that didn’t even exist yet.

Frankie: Such a tough question because i’ve been loving them all. One highlight is Zooey’s Queer Island Discs, I just love the stories behind each track & the meaning to the guest, it really opens your eyes to the relation music has to finding your space & community. On top of that, I’m loving the energy and vibes that all of the 1hr mixes are brining! Plus Abbie McCarthy’s show, KG’s, Helena Stars, Rachael Anson’s—I actually could go on!  

Tell us about your Brunch Special and Happy Hour show—you’ve reconfigured the rules of radio to make it more accessible? Have you found that you’ve been able to reach more people?

Becky: Definitely—the feedback to these daily shows has been amazing and I think a lot of people are now wishing they had done this as it makes so much sense! We are also finding the same people are coming back and tuning in daily which is absolutely amazing.

Ami: Everything about foundation.fm is a little bit different, so we felt like our shows should be the same. When we were thinking about our target audience, we felt the timings and the names of the show would resonate with them better. It seems to be working.

Besides music, what can we expect to hear?

Becky: The Catch Up with … is our talk show format full of art, fashion, sports, tech etc. So hopefully something for everyone!

What do you have in mind for the future of foundation.fm?

Becky: The future is already looking so exciting for us, expect something big for IWD next year and perhaps some festival action… watch this space!

Images courtesy of Naomi Wong

Playlist courtesy of DJ Natty Kasambala

Stay tuned to Milk for more from across the pond.

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