London Fields Radio an Interview with Kate Hutchinson and Eleni Thoma
Can you introduce yourselves?
Kate: Hello! We are London Fields Radio, Hackney’s very own micro radio revolution, broadcasting from the corner of the Wilton Way Cafe in E8. I am Kate Hutchinson, station manager at LFR (and Clubbing editor at Time Out) and she is Eleni Thoma, café manager, chief barista and gallery programmer at the Wilton Way Cafe.
What is the idea behind London Fields Radion and why was it set up?
Kate: LFR was built with the café, which opened over two years ago now. As far as we’re aware, it was the first east London internet radio station of its kind, intended to reflect the kinds of conversation that you’d find at the Wilton Way Cafe – fuelled by, to use our marketing speak, its delectable coffee blends, of course! – for an audience both in and outside Hackney. The café is a focal point for the local community and the radio station is its mouthpiece and does its best to represent the awesome and diverse characters that live in the area. We should also mention that people often mistake the station for being live on the internet or the airwaves – at the moment, it’s just live in the cafe and shows are podcasted for online.
Who is involved?
Eleni: David McHugh and Dominik Prosser, who own the cafe, started LFR, which is currently managed by Kate Hutchinson. We have a team of four for the day to day running of the station: Sarah Bates, Dimi Soukiouroglou and me – I run the cafe and schedule all of the programmes. The station has a host of DJs and producers from various backgrounds who each dedicate their free time and put together their own shows for the station.
What kinds of shows do you programme?
Kate: There’s no set schedule or anything like that but London Fields Radio is wildly diverse. Podcasts range from topical, thematic and new music shows to interesting combinations of interests like design and dubstep and current affairs and ’60s soul, to ones with interesting twists: drag gardening, vintage porn and the sex industry (an afterhours podcast!) and dining and disco have all featured on our station. We tend to focus on the arts, culture and talk-based side of things but we also have shows from DJs, promoters and musicians who play around the area and put on their own events, like Roxanne Roll, Mister Sushi, Blonde Ambition, Lucy Pink and Oli D.A.B. & Robin. And we seem to have become an unofficial radio base for east London’s alternative cabaret scene: Jonny Woo, Scottee, Russella, Amy Lamé and Ophelia Bitz have all had a podcasting turn on London Fields Radio.
Tell us about some of you more regular DJs.
Kate: Where to start! We have nearly 60 shows, many of which have more than one person on the mic. And then we have a lot of one-off shows too and shows from live events. But our most regular shows are probably Aztec Garden, Slow Sundays and Fush and Chups, which are weekly. Aztec Garden is Luke Ferrar and Rachel Buswell, two media kids with a killer sense of humour and an enviable record bag between them. Their show is the place to find brand new electronic bass bombs for the dancefloor and their own pirate radio-style adverts. Slow Sundays, meanwhile, is rising DJ Tom Wiltshire’s weekly Sunday chill-out show, filled with the kinds of really beautiful and gentle house music that seems to be so popular in the area’s clubs at the moment but sound equally as great on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you’ve got a stinking hangover. Then Fush and Chups is a weekly show fronted by New Zealander Tuataroa and friends, full of Kiwi in-jokes for fans of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ and their experiences around Hackney. But we have so many ace people dropping by: there’s riot grrrl sisters Becky and Zoe (Sisters of Mirthy), roller derby crew London Rockin’ Rollers, Dazed and Confused art editor Francesca Gavin, Vyner Street design duo Hellicar & Lewis… the list goes on.
Eleni: Wilton Way had several derelict shops along the street before the café opened. Wilton’s set out to revive the street and benefit the businesses in the area. There is so much diversity in Hackney, talented people and exciting projects and London Fields Radio brings it all together in our corner of the cafe. It’s an exciting time at the moment: there is a huge focus on Hackney and east London thanks to the Olympics and it’s a great opportunity to showcase all of the great things that are going on in the borough.
How does the radio station and the cafe fit together?
Eleni: The shows are recorded in an open booth from the corner of the café during opening hours. It’s quite a balancing act, putting the right shows on at the right times so that our customers can sit and enjoy their coffee and so that presenters can hear what they’re doing at busy times in the cafe, when it can be really hectic! Some of the shows, like Ophelia Bitz’s Artwank!, we had to do after the cafe shut because of its X-rated content – we get a lot of families at the cafe during peak times! – but the station provides a great atmosphere and keeps everyone engaged and entertained.
Tell us more about the community spirit in Wilton Way.
Eleni: There is a close relationship building between the businesses on Wilton Way and the residents. The Royal Wedding Street Party that we threw last year brought the community together to make decorations for the street and celebrate with a communal lunch, which was amazing and a really great example of the community spirit in E8 in action. It was a fantastic opportunity for everyone to meet each other and the event went better than we could have ever imagined. I think the residents appreciate that the independent businesses of Wilton Way care about the community and doing fun things for the community and vice versa.
What’s next for LFR?
Kate: We are continuing to expand our schedule – I’ve actually just been busy on the yeah! Hackney forums recruiting for shows! Then we’re doing an evening of pop-up radio and radio party fun at the Print House Gallery for the Land of Kings festival on May 5. And we’re looking to expand with more stations across London over the next couple of years. There’s a huge focus on radio and pop-up broadcasting in east London at the moment, but we’re hoping to build radio stations that will last and serve the community across the capital.
Our members would love a late night coffee place, any plans to extend the cafe opening hours?
Eleni: Yes! We usually extend our opening hours in the summer, but there may be plans to keep the café open in the evening and host other events. We don’t want to reveal too much but we’ve got some ideas for early evening/late-night fundraisers ahead of our next street party for the Jubilee on Sunday 3 June.
Anything else you want to add?
Eleni: We are currently organising the next street party to mark the Queen’s Jubilee. The party will be held on Sunday 3rd of June and everyone from the community is invited to ‘dance through the decades’ from the 1950s till now. London Fields Radio will be releasing a week of 10 special shows prior to the party and it will also be broadcasting live from the café on the day. Bring your tables and picnics down to enjoy a day of activities, food, live music and more! And if you’d like to get involved or perform or whatever, please get in touch: [email protected]
Kate: We’d love some more shows from yeah! Hackney readers. We’re especially looking for shows from some of the older residents of Hackney and on specific interests like gardening, cycling, dogs, coffee and walking. Please do get in touch if you’re interested – and no previous radio experience is necessary! Just great ideas and dedication. Drop me a line at [email protected]