A new radio station has launched in Hammersmith & Fulham to counter loneliness during the pandemic and be a bridge to people suffering from mental health issues and long-term conditions.
Gaga Radio has been co-produced by Hammersmith-based community interest company We Coproduce and local people who have worked collaboratively with West London NHS Trust. The trust has funded the project's development since 2018.
The We Coproduce team – which includes Fulham resident Jane McGrath – hopes to draw on the skills of H&F residents to help run the station, offer vocational training to vulnerable groups and promote community events as and when they start up again. Gaga Radio will also host national debates about health and wellbeing and music.
The We Coproduce team and Gaga Radio are permanently based at the new Riverside Studios, Hammersmith but are operating from Jane’s home in Fulham Palace Road due to the coronavirus lockdown.
An internet-only station, it launched last Saturday (4 April) on the Gaga Radio website.
Currently, Gaga Radio is offering a mix of music, interviews, phone-ins, discussions, plays, spoken word and comedy shows, with local DJs aiming to break down barriers and fight isolation across west London.
“This is about helping people reach out and connect with each other in these stressful times, and hopefully those bonds and networks will stay in place,” she said.
“Content will be fun, thought-provoking, irreverent, engaging, topical and informative. We particularly want to work with those who may have long-term health conditions, and we will support people to use digital technology so they can contribute from home.”
The digital station Gaga Radio has been planned for some time, but the coronavirus crisis provided the spur to get it up and running with the nation in lockdown.
Jane, who runs community forums in Hammersmith via her We Coproduce consultancy, has been discussing ways of improving wellbeing and resilience, and keeping in touch.
“People don’t want to be patronised or talked to as ‘lonely people’ or ‘ill people’, they want to be recognised as part of the community,” she said.
Jane has set up the station with the help of a £10,000 grant from West London NHS Trust. She will draw on the skills of H&F residents to run the station, and is keen to promote community events as and when they start up again.
“We were just finishing drawing up our business case… then coronavirus came along, and I thought: ‘Let’s just do it!’”
The equipment arrived last week, the licence has been granted, and the station was ready to rock on Saturday.
The name? It was dreamt up in meetings of potential listeners, to defiantly reappropriate the word ‘gaga’ and turn it from an insult into a badge of pride.
It is also partly a salute to Queen’s hit Radio Gaga, and the band’s west London connections.
Jane, formerly based in offices at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, says her mantra is ‘Rock the boat, without getting rocked out of it’.
One goal of Gaga Radio is to encourage people to start each day with a blast of music, to stimulate the grey cells and help everyone think outside the box.
“Would you like to create a one-hour show featuring your favourite uplifting tunes?” Jane asked. “You can create it on Mixcloud and send the link, or a simple MP3 file. From gypsy jazz to vintage acid house, Christian rap to trip hop and English folk. From northern soul to grime – this is where your hidden music collections get to shine!”
You can send contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Problems are not always what they appear,” she said. “This is a space where communities can talk about their health and what matters to them; sharing ideas, projects and learning, destigmatising mental illness and tackling social isolation head-on.”
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