Can radio change people's lives? Can radio bring people from different backgrounds together? Can radio blur differences between young people? Can radio make a difference? Of course it can!
Radio YNP is a youth-led Online Radio Station developed for SEUPB's Youth Network for Peace Programme. It aims to connect and engage young people from both sides of the Irish border and to promote awareness of the issues facing young people and their local areas. Featuring live music sessions, political debates and blockbuster reviews, Radio YNP is a fantastic and exciting project with all shows produced by young people.
The radio was set up in May 2018 and it turned out to be a great idea. It not only gives young people from different backgrounds the opportunity to discuss problems and challenges affecting them and their regions, but most of all, to bring them together, and to build a common space where they can share their experience and support each other.
The radio is coordinating by Seán McDonnell. When Seán came for the interview in early January 2018 he did not have a driving license nor business degree needed for this position. However, he had something much more important: PASSION. He was so determined that he drew up designs as to how the station should look like and work. What is more, he went for the provisional driving license to increase his chances. The recruitment panel was so impressed that Seán got the job. Today the studio looks exactly the same as Sean drew it, the radio is managed by around 10 young people every week and it has 8,000 active listeners. What is more, young people have the opportunity to interview politicians and celebrities. So far, the radio was visited by a politician Mike Nesbitt, an Irish actor Kieran Hynes, a radio host on Cool FM Pete Snodden, and NI Commissioner for Children and Young People Koulla Yiasouma.
Thanks to EU funding the radio station has constantly been developing. The brand- new app was recently launched and can be downloaded in Google play store or I-Tunes.
To find out more about this project and radio, read my interview with Seán.
NP: What makes radio different from the other forms of media?
SM: Radio is one of the most traditional forms of media and despite many innovations in media technology, it has continued to evolve and stay relevant to the modern age. With the growth of audio streaming and constant access to the internet, we have seen the average radio consumer switching to more podcast and online talk show content. This has also witnessed radio alongside music and audiobooks becoming the go-to forms of media for commuters as they only need their earphones and their ears to listen. There are less physical objects to carry as opposed to when they might read a book/newspaper or when they watch videos on their phones. These commuters can zone out and relax while listening to the audio providing them with more comfortable travelling experience. Our recently launched Radio YNP app helps listeners to have ease of access and to interact easier with the team. Radio inspires through a blend of music, discussion, audience engagement and innovative broadcasters. Radio, in particular, is a medium associated with youth culture and growing up.
NP: What are the biggest challenges you have to face while running this radio station?
SM: So far the most challenging aspect of coordinating the Radio YNP project has been keeping young broadcasters in a consistent schedule of producing content. Young people have a lot of time committed to education, other projects and their personal life and each of these things can be unpredictable. For a radio station and its listeners, this can prove difficult as they expect to hear familiar voices talking on air at the same times each week and sometimes this is understandably a difficult commitment for our young broadcasters to make. We have tackled this by employing a constant recruitment strategy, aiming to continuously bring in new members of the radio team to fill the void of content in the schedules left by members of the team that can't produce it at that time. We also found it difficult to directly target our demographics with particular shows in the beginning. We tackled this by making more youth-friendly graphics for our promotional posters and by increasing the pace of our shows.
NP: Why do you think the radio station for Youth Network For Peace programme is unique and needed?
SM: I think the idea to establish a radio station for the Youth Network For Peace programme was an inspired one and has proved to be a worthwhile project. Radio YNP has connected all aspects of the programme since its launch. It has worked tirelessly to promote and report on the projects that have been carried out by each of our partners in each of the workstream areas. For example, interviews were carried out at our partner's events (Balmoral show with the Young Farmer's Clubs of Ulster); we had various external broadcasts such as the YNP convention in Dundalk and with the civic forum meetings. This has given our programme a platform to share the incredible work we are doing across the country with our listeners. The most important thing about this project, however, is the empowerment it grants our young broadcasters to let their voices be heard, to make the programmes they want to make and to talk with the politicians/policymakers that they believe can make the difference. Radio YNP has also connected internationally such as with the University of Maryland, Democratic Progress Institute, World in Conversation (Pennsylvania State University) and the Basque Youth Council.
NP: Could you tell me two successful stories of young people from different backgrounds who participated in the Youth Action programme?
SM: A few months ago, we were lucky to recruit a group of 3 young people who despite coming from separate sides of the nationalist/unionist communities in Belfast, were all united by their love for a particular subject matter and managed to come together on their own to produce a weekly radio show talking about the thing that they love. We have also had a great response from international members of the team. We have had 2 students from Canada and Germany respectively that have done exceptional work reporting on international news stories and working with our young people to prepare them for broadcasting.
NP: What do you think are the 3 key characteristics somebody has to have to work with young people and have an influence on them?
SM: I believe to truly connect and bring the most out of young people you should strive to first be empathetic to the issues they face. Young people, as I mentioned previously, regularly suffer from the pressure of having many time commitments in their daily lives. We must, therefore, have an understanding of this and encourage young people to progress but in their own time and without contributing further to the pressures they face. Encouragement brings me to my second attribute, as I believe people working with young people should be hardworking and determined in their own work as an example to the young people that they are mentoring. I also believe that to truly have an impact on the young people you work with, you should try to be fun where ever you can. While sometimes the work that we do with young people needs to be completed in a professional and serious manner, you want to make sure that these young people remember their time with you in a positive light and with happy memories. For this, I encourage that lessons and workshops can be done with creative exercises and games that make them informative, yet entertaining at the same time. Smiling, having fun and laughing can be contagious and further encourages outcomes, outputs and wider engagement from others.
NP: What are your future plans connected with the radio?
SM: For me and the entire team of young people at Radio YNP, our focus is to make as big of a mark as possible on the people that listen to us. We want to leave a lasting impression with quality/useful content that people will listen to for years to come as a legacy for the work that we have done. We have talked of hopes to increase the sustainability of the station, to invent ideas that could help maintain the station organically without the reliance on funding or staff to keep it going. Whether this is possible or not is unknown but we want to ensure that Radio YNP continues to carry out the great work that it has done throughout its first year indefinitely.
Check out Radio YNP’s website to learn more and listen online: http://www.radioynp.com/
This project is supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).