People living with mental illness have found their voice – literally – on Support in Mind Scotland’s radio station, Radio Stafford 103, saying: “Being involved makes a difference” … “it gives me confidence and takes my mind of other stuff”… “it gives me focus”.
Like the group who are the driving force behind it, Radio Stafford has been on quite a journey since it was first mooted in 2011-12. People attending the Stafford Centre, our Edinburgh resource centre in Broughton Street, were discussing new projects and out of one inspired lightbulb moment Radio Stafford was born.
It was a daunting prospect, but from very humble beginnings, the radio station has forged its own identity and gone from strength to strength. It is now hoping to grow its audience and profile and, by doing so, increase mental health awareness.
“We started off with just a table, a chair a microphone and a mixing desk,” said Mike Staley, who in his guise as Lord Sir Dj MOG has become one of the main faces and voices of Radio Stafford. “It was a very basic operation, but as we picked up new skills and equipment the station began to grow into something we are all really proud of.”
The title Radio Stafford 103 comes from the Stafford Centre’s roots (it was originally based in Stafford Street in the 1980s) and the building number the centre occupies in Broughton Street.
DJ MOG added: “The idea was for us to challenge and break down the discrimination and stigma often associated with mental illness and to spread positive messages and mental health awareness. I think we are succeeding in doing that.”
As the station took shape, a rudimentary radio booth was constructed. People using the centre started to volunteer to become presenters and DJs, and after being shown the ropes by their peers, they were soon broadcasting to listeners from around the world via the internet-based platform.
A visit in 2016 from Forth One breakfast show duo Mark ‘Boogie’ Bouglas and Arlene Stuart gave the radio team even more encouragement. The pair offered invaluable advice for the volunteer presenters, and recorded soundbites to be featured in their shows. The station has also been visited by MSPs and featured interviews with SiMS charity ambassadors such as Scott and Jenny Hastings.
A game-changer came later that year when Support in Mind Scotland secured funding from oil and gas exploration company Cairn Energy. Their generous donation allowed the station to move from the broom cupboard-sized booth it first occupied to a bright and welcoming radio room, kitted out with new equipment.
Plans are now afoot to join the radio room to the centre’s music room, allowing live sets to be broadcast.
“It’s an exciting time for Radio Stafford,” said rock show host MOG – who explained that his acronym stands for Man Of Genius!
“We have a fresh new line-up and are always exploring new ideas. Some of the people just want to play music at first, while others are comfortable speaking over the mic. It gives them a chance to express themselves through music.
“There have been people who, when they first came into the centre, were too unwell or too shy to speak. But in time – and with support – they have found the confidence and voice to do radio shows. It gives a lot of pride, and we do everything we can to look after each other. We are always keen to engage with local charities and organisations and hope they will listen in and make connections with us.
“We have listeners in the US, Germany, Australia, Canada and many other countries. We get a lot of good feedback on social media, and our ‘listen again’ feature does well. We upload our shows to the Mixcloud on our website – and people can listen to them as a podcast.”
Frances Simpson, chief executive of Support in Mind Scotland, said: “Radio Stafford embodies everything we are about – giving people a voice, developing confidence and skills and creating opportunities for people to take control of their lives.”
The ultimate dream for Radio Stafford would be to secure an FM licence and be rolled out across our mental health services nationwide. For now, we are keen to make links with other charities and organisations. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org,uk or call the Stafford Centre on 0131 557 0718
You can listen to Radio Stafford at www.radiostafford103.co.uk
Colin Leslie, fundraising & communications manager, Support in Mind Scotland.