It seemed like a hair-brained idea: taking a 45-year-old Classic Campervan called Betsy and turning it into a mobile radio, one that would tour Kirklees teaching students to DJ and host radio shows. But it was one our Learning & Participation officer Alexandra Richardson had for a long time; combining her love for both broadcasting and travelling with a tragically unused van seemed like a great idea. After fixing some mechanical issues, installing some new furniture, sourcing the equipment and painting ad nauseaum, she was finally ready to go.
hcmf// Campervan Radio launched in October 2018 in partnership with Our Biennale – a new festival by Evoke celebrating Arts and Culture with young people in Kirklees. The hcmf// campervan began its journey by visiting three libraries in Kirklees: the Greenwood Centre in Ravensthorpe, Skelmanthorpe Library, and Huddersfield Central Library, where we delivered day workshops for the nationwide libraries initiative Fun Palaces. Young people were encouraged to drop into the Campervan Radio, making short podcasts and learning how to mix songs on the DJ decks.
‘To be honest, the best thing I liked was the team
work, and working with my best friend.’
The van became a think tank for both brilliant and ridiculous ideas. Young people at Skelmanthorpe Library wanted to create a podcast about potatoes called ‘Spud Cast’, leading to a hilarious hour of young people making noise, laughing on the mics and having a go on the decks. At the Greenwood Centre, there was a request to sing, and the van became an ad-hoc mobile Karaoke for a couple of hours. It was amazing to see whole families, parents and children, as well as friends queuing outside the van to get inside and have ago! Beginning with this mini-tour of local libraries was a good opportunity to try out the Campervan Radio for the first time, testing the equipment and set-up. It was really fun to see what was possible and realise how versatile it could be.
Following these activities, the Campervan Radio set up a weekly residency within Upper Batley High School (Batley Boys) during October and November 2018. Braving the treacherous hills that separate Huddersfield and Batley, we set about delivering workshops alongside Leeds-based DJ Fred Mikardo-Greaves. Together we organised a programme that gave the young people the opportunity to explore the different roles within a radio station, such as DJ, radio presenter and producer. Each week the leaders explored these different roles and helped the students develop their creative and technical skills as a team. The students developed skills in researching their favourite subjects, how to write a script, work together as hosts and also make their own jingles, finally piecing it all together to made their own radio podcast on a topic they were passionate about.
‘I think it was very good that you got to learn on the decks. When I first saw it,
I thought it was confusing, I didn’t think I could ever master it.
But as I learned it, it was pretty easy to mess about with it.’
Seeing the young peoples’ group dynamic and positive energy in the sessions really was amazing. They were full of ideas and had an evident passion for music. Memorable moments are DJ Unknown and DJ 2Fresh improvising a discussion of their favourite films and music with natural flair and charisma on the microphone. Their ability to engage with their listeners, and how this opportunity inspired them, was really something. DJ 2Fresh stated that he enjoyed talking on the mic: ‘I like being the person who talks and connects with other people’s emotions. Sometimes I listen to broadcasts and people are laughing and making people feel comfortable…. I tried to do that.’
The young people really gained a sense of ownership and belonging through the podcasts they created and there was a feeling of improved self-confidence throughout the groups. As workshop leader Fred noted, ‘their final recordings are testament to the fact that so many of them used Campervan Radio as a space in which they could develop new ways to express themselves’. Through the power of the microphone – the power of the amplified voice – the young people found the freedom and confidence they never knew they had.
Big thanks to Our Biennale supported by the Arts Council, Fred Mikardo-Greaves for his DJ & teaching skills, Kev Knight at Halfpenny Classics, Dan Valentine for his equipment consultation and installation, Matt Young Design for the furniture design and most importantly the young people and music teacher Mr Rodwell at Upper Batley High School for having us and making the magic happen ?