The History of Future Radio

In May 2004, the NR5 Project (which would later be known as Future Projects), a charity dedicated to supporting the Norwich community, aired its first radio programme on 105.1FM under the name of Future Radio. Designed as a media/training arm of the charity, Future Radio has always been volunteer-run, community-centered, and dedicated to giving members of the community a hand up through media training. Originally, Future Radio only operated on 28-day Fixed Service Licenses, meaning that it was only up for a month at a time. After six of these FSLs and three years, Future Radio finally received an expanded license and became a full-scale, permanent fixture on the radio stations in and around Norwich, UK.

When Future Radio moved to FM station 96.9 in 2007, it also developed a wide range of infrastructure to support its increased status. New studios were built on Motum Road, and improved transmitters ensured that the station could be heard all over Norwich, though coverage is still best in the city center. For a bit of trivia, the first song played on Future Radio was "Once in a Lifetime" by the Talking Heads.

Programming on Future Radio is and has always been incredibly diverse, due to a desire to include all members of the similarly diverse Norwich community. They play all types of music, as well as provide news, commentary, interviews, drama, and local performances.

As the first community-centered radio station to be awarded an expanded license in the UK, Future Radio is the first in its class. Podcasts from the website ensure that listeners can tune in wherever they are, which is frequently done over the UK. Many believe that there is a depth and sincerity to community radio that isn't found on other stations, and as the first (and as many say, the best) in the country, Future Radio is the community radio station that immediately comes to mind.

Since its inception in 2004, over five hundred volunteers have worked on Future Radio. The idea is not to put together a completely unassailable set of programming that never changes through the years. Future Radio's inspiration comes from its supply of volunteers offering the station whatever time, energy, skills, talents, and dreams they might have. Volunteers have a say in what sorts of programmes Future Radio provides. At any given time, up to 160 volunteers can be working for Future Radio, chipping in a few hours here, a personal program there, some help with accounting, some assistance with the website. It is truly an amalgam of everybody's skills involved, and somehow, it survives.

Future Radio has received a number of honors, acclaims and awards for its programming and style of delivery. Notably, they include finalist positions in the Creative East Awards 2009 (for the prison show 'Over the Wall'), and the Radio Academy's 2009 Nations & Regions Awards (for the region of East Anglia). Former volunteers such as Greg James are now nationally recognized radio DJs, and many others now work in the fields of radio, even though they may not be as well-known.

Future Radio is a fascinating phenomenon, and offers a look at a different way to run a radio station. Rather than syndicated shows with only the top music hits because they want to be accepted by mainstream audiences everywhere, Future Radio takes on the gritty, complex and ultimately, rewarding task of making a station that's deeply relevant to one diverse community. Whether or not they succeed is anybody's judgment, but the fact that this is what they're attempting is something interesting and out of the ordinary.