The Public Engagement Unit at the University of Bath, along with creative cultural producers Agile Rabbit and South-West-based community radio practitioners Stellaria Media, developed the FUTURES on Air concept and secured funding from the FUTURES2020: European Researchers’ Night.
The project involved asking community groups from five community radio stations, Bath Radio (Bath), Phonic FM (Exeter), Soundart Radio (Devon) and Radio St Austell Bay (Cornwall), to identify topics they regard as important and relevant to them and their wider communities. Using participatory community media activities Stellaria Media facilitated collaborative engagement between the groups and researchers from the University of Exeter, University of Bath and University of Plymouth who work in areas related to topics identified by community groups.
Seven one-hour programmes were produced as a result of this work and using in-conversation forms varied in content from climate change, feminism, housing inequalities, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and South Asian music.
FUTURES on Air ran between August and December 2020 and programmes made were broadcast as part of European Researchers' Night on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 November 2020.
Engagement type - Working Together
Public group - Community radio programme-makers
Engagement method - Community radio
Themes - Co-production
Alice Armstrong – Stellaria Media
Dr Kate Baker, Director, Agile Rabbit and post-doctoral research fellow, University of Exeter
Dean Veall, Public Engagement Unit, University of Bath
Dr Rob Watson - Decentred Media
Facts and figures
3,000 people listened to the seven one-hour programmes that were broadcast on the five participating community radio stations on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 November 2020.
The total cost of the development and delivery of FUTURES on Air was £8,420. This cost included schedule and broadcast fees for participating radio stations, equipment and fees for Stellaria Media.
Purpose of the engagement
FUTURES on Air aimed to:
to understand the features of community radio and explore its role in public engagement with research
build researchers’ capacity for engaging public groups with their research
create opportunities for members of community groups to engage with researchers on issues and topics relevant to them
FUTURES2020 was a two-day event in November 2020 to engage people across the South West with research and was a public engagement collaboration between the University of Bath, Bath Spa University, University of Bristol, University of Exeter and University of Plymouth as part of the FUTURES: European Researchers’ Night festival of discovery funded by the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.
There were three phases to the development and delivery of FUTURES on Air between August and December 2020.
Developing networks (August to September)
- Stellaria Media, reached out to interested community programme-makers and station managers who were part of the South West community radio network. In order to participate stations had to be able to accommodate the requirement to broadcast content on the two days of European Researchers’ Night.
- Once committed each participating radio station received a schedule fee to broadcast content developed by other radio stations and a production fee to cover the costs associated with use of facilities and support the involvement of the volunteer community programme-makers.
- Stellaria Media worked with programme-makers to identify topics they were interested in exploring.
- The team commissioned Leicester-based researcher-practitioner Decentred Media to help evaluate the project.
Creating content (September to November)
The Public Engagement Unit and Agile Rabbit matched researchers from the participating FUTURES2020 universities with the topics identified by programme makers by reaching out across their established researcher networks and contacts.
Once ‘recruited’ the team set about establishing relationships between researchers and programme makers. This involved informal discussions and facilitating conversations by the team between researchers and community programme makers to build mutual trust and understanding of both community radio and the academic process.
Stellaria Media supported the programme making teams through trouble-shooting conversations and idea generation as they developed the concept for their audio content and went about recording material.
Editing, broadcasting and evaluating (November to December)
Stellaria Media were on call for those confident programme makers with any editing issues they encountered and also took a more active role with those programme makers with less experience, working with them to realise their concept for the content.
The shows were broadcast during European Researchers’ Night on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 November 2020.
Decentred Media carried out a series of qualitative interviews with participants at the end of the project and along with their observations over the course of the project, delivered an evaluation report.
FUTURES on Air was evaluated by Decentred Media and highlighted some key features of the project.
The value of the community radio content programming style - not using a pre-determined model of creating programme content allowed a programme to emerge through conversations based on the participants' interests and concerns. The collaborative approach to programme making emphasised valuing the process and the product.
The important role of community radio practitioners - led by community radio practitioners, Stellaria Media, was vital to the success of the project. They were able to navigate the potential misinterpretation of the research process and practice of community radio. By leading the facilitation, Stellaria Media were also able to quickly establish a shared sense of purpose between programme-makers and researchers, which helped develop an awareness of each other’s working practices, enabling collaboration.
The role of community radio in public engagement with research
FUTURES on Air has demonstrated an example of an equitable approach to practice in public engagement with research. Community programme-makers accessed knowledge generated through research that helped them make sense of issues in a space they owned and where they had agency. For researchers, participation offered a meaningful opportunity to gain insights into the experiences of people who are or could be affected by their research.