In Conversation With :Radio
Reform Radio is a Manchester based community radio station that was formed in 2013. Aside from broadcasting the best music, arts and culture that Manchester has to offer, it uses its framework as an online radio station to support young adults into employment. The not-for-profit company delivers a range of creative workshops, traineeships and job opportunities to the local community which in turn supports the wider music industry in the city.
One of those young people is Letitia Douglas who has her sights set on becoming a producer. At the start of her career, she’s moved through the Reform Radio ecosystem and has landed a job as a part-time Studio Assistant. Here she tells us about the support and training Reform Radio has offered her, and gives advice to others her age wanting to get a foot in the door.
What sparked your interest in music and why specifically the technical side?
Growing up I always had an interest in music. From a young age I used to bang on table tops with knives and forks and then when I got older I’d cop music software like Fruity Loops and Logic Pro. I wanted to do what I love but get paid for it as well, but I started to realise that there’s not many areas in the industry where there’s a path to follow to get a job – you have to create your own portfolio to get into the industry. I like producing, so I thought the closest thing to producing would be working at a radio station.
Sofar Sounds gig at Reform Radio studios
How did you find the position at Reform Radio and what was the process?
I found out about Reform Radio about four years ago. I’d heard that they do a lot for the music community so I looked them up on Facebook and saw they had a workshop coming up. I applied for that workshop and through that I got to know the team. They had a lot of volunteering opportunities so I thought it would be a great chance to get some experience. I started off volunteering, then I moved to working there part-time.
Did you go to University as well?
I applied for a media school under UCLAN [University of Central Lancashire]. Their main building is in Preston but their media department is in Salford. I studied music production, but personally I knew most of the stuff I learned there already. Music Production is learned through you understanding how music works through your own eyes. I still enjoyed it but while I was there I thought I could have done all of it without going to university.
Can you tell us about the kind of support and training you received through Reform?
One of the first workshops I went to taught us how to produce a radio show but there were loads of different ones. We were taught how to facilitate our own workshops and were given training in how to work with people with learning or mental disabilities. We also took courses on mental health, and how to deal with our own mental health. So it was really good in that we weren’t just given one aspect of the industry to focus on, we were given a whole package and that helped in becoming trained to work in all different types of situations. Since then I’ve hosted a couple of workshops myself.
How did you get your role as Studio Assistant?
I progressed into it. When I first met the directors at Reform Radio I told them about the things I was interested in and they helped me get there. Firstly I volunteered as a studio assistant. I was actually assistant to another studio assistant and learning the ropes. I showed that I was really interested in the role and from that became the main studio assistant and started getting paid.
Can you talk us through what that role entails?
My role is to basically make sure the radio shows run smoothly. That includes greeting presenters or DJs at the front entrance and leading them to the studio and making sure that they’re comfortable – so offering them drinks or snacks. If they’ve never been to the studio before then I’ll show them the ropes of how to use the equipment and make sure the music and mic levels are right and that everything is working. I also do tweets and send out emails.
HERchester recording in the main studio
London is often seen as the epicentre of the music industry. What do you think the positives are working outside of the capital?
I’ve never personally thought about moving to London. Manchester is a big city and we have a lot of opportunities here. If I was to move to London I’d be competing against a thousand other people trying to do the same thing as me, so it’d be harder to get noticed. Whereas here people know me, and so the chances of me progressing are greater. Because we’re a smaller city there’s a bigger sense of community and people wanting to work together, whereas London is so big and successful that it doesn’t need people to support each other. Other cities seem more friendly in that sense.
How does your studio role compliment your work as a producer?
There’s a really good opportunity to network at radio stations because you meet so many people. Even if you aren’t necessarily wanting to work in radio, it can be a good place to start because you learn things that relate to producing. If I was asked to create a podcast or radio show, I’ve now got experience in that.
Reform Radio music industry workshop
Audio Content Funded project Open Forum
Audio Content Funded project Open Forum
What are your plans for the future - where do you see yourself in the music industry?
I want to be an established producer and I also want to help other people in similar situations as myself, because it can be very hard as a black female to get a foot in the door. It’d be great to go into music counselling and support.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the industry in COVID times?
It seems like a simple answer, but my advice is to just keep going. Even though we’re stuck in this situation where it feels like there’s no point carrying on, use this time to get as much information as possible and develop yourself. Once we come out of this situation you can look back on this time and ask yourself what you did. It’s the perfect opportunity to hone in on your skills and focus on yourself. Once we go back to normal you might not have this much spare time again.