Apr 30, 2010

An interview With Elly Roberts of Calon FM - Wrexham Community Radio

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AmeriCymru member Elly Roberts has been a local and international DJ for over 30 years, having performed in Greece, Holland, Spain and Los Angeles, USA. He has been a music lover since he was a child, and considers himself a lapsed musician since giving up playing the piano as a teenager. His love of music has never waned, and by having his own show on Calon FM, he’s realising a life-long ambition to be a presenter. AmeriCymru spoke to him about his work on Calon FM and elsewhere.

elly roberts of calon fm wrexham community radio station

Americymru: Calon FM is a community radio station. Care to tell us a little about the way the station serves the local community?

Elly: Calon FM offers all kinds of support to the local community, from free open access training courses for anyone with an interest in radio (provided in conjucture with Glyndwr University), to supporting a multitude of local businesses and, crucially, giving airtime to local and national charities.

Calon works with people from a huge range of backgrounds and skill sets. From complete novices to to experienced journalists and the technically minded, from university graduates to those just beginning their training. Being part of this environment is one of the many joys of being involved in community radio – we’re always approachable and can usually offer something for everyone.

Americymru: What kind of programming does the station put out?

Elly: Many, many different kinds. There’s currently at least 80 hours going out live every week and this is really only limited by the imagination of the presenters. Cookery, comedy, local news, multi-lingual shows, poetry, local interest (very important), whilst every genre of music is represented throughout the week. Finding free time to put out all of the programming is definitely a challenge.

Americymru: Do you broadcast in Welsh? If so what proportion of your broadcasts are in the Welsh language?

Elly: The station puts out shows not just in Welsh but a variety of languages that include Spanish, Chinese, Polish, and German. Calon FM are always on the lookout for Welsh language presenters and our current bilingual host Michelle Murphy broadcasts for 4 hours each week. The terrific thing about Michelle’s style is her inclusion of the English audience too. As a result the overwhelming majority of listeners understand what’s being discussed and can get involved with the programme, and in doing so pick up elements of the Welsh language.

Americymru: Can you tell us something about your show "The Plug".

Elly: THE PLUG - My mission.

The Plug name itself was purposely designed to be short and memorable, like the television music show The Tube back in the 80s. I chose the name because the programme is designed to ‘plug’ (good) music that may not necessarily be heard on the radio. At one time a ‘plugger’ was employed by an artist or band, and even by record companies themselves, to go around the radio stations across the UK , promoting their artists, persuading stations to air their music.

On The Plug playlist itself, it includes both new ( and pre-release) singles by up-and-coming artists and album tracks. Each week there’s an Album of the Week, where I play 2 (or sometimes 3) tracks from it. Older music can be used as a ‘hook’ (a musical term) to reel-in the listener at the beginning on the show, generally something anthemic. During the 2 hour show there can be two features, like Dusted Down, that includes a back-catalogue classic, forgotten gem, or an obscure song. Another feature is Flashback, where I play a song that (hopefully) brings back happy memories, but sometimes sad ones too. Music has a knack of taking people back to a certain time, place and event, creating a soundtrack to our lives. Depending on time etc, other mini- features may be explored in the future, building-up a considerable body of work that appeals to both younger and older listeners. By definition, the PLUG is a no boundaries show that aims to be the most eclectic on the airwaves, where one minute you’ll hear rock, then jazz, then soul, then folk, etc. all sitting nicely next to each other, due to careful planning.

There are possibilities of including genre ‘specials’ like a soul, rock, jazz, Americana, and country theme. In addition, topical themes can be introduced like, say Mother’s Day selections, or a dedicated show to a recently deceased artist, paying homage to their work.

Americymru: You also appear on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru. When can our readers listen to you on those stations?

Elly: This is a tricky one. Since 2004 I have been making freelance contributions to BBC Radio Wales, and BBC Radio Cymru since 2005. Due to the nature of those contributions, I can be called at any time in advance about a musical topic, say The Beatles for example, and I will then do the link nationally (Wales) from the BBC’s studio here in Wrexham. Unfortunately, I never know when I will receive the ‘call’, so it’s totally unpredictable. The same applies with BBC Radio Cymru, but their contributions are normally done on the telephone. BBC Radio Cymru has also given me the chance to make ‘none-music’ contributions such as local or national issues. The latter brought me the opportunity to guest on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show on 12 April this yea, with a listening audience of approximately 8.5 million, the largest in Europe.

I was contacted by producers in London, who said they had been ‘tracking’ my contributions on both of the Welsh channels.

elly roberts of calon fm wrexham community radio station performing in santa barbara california

Americymru: We read in your bio on the station website that you have been "a local and international DJ for over 30 years" and that you have performed in Greece, Holland, Spain and Los Angeles, USA. Care to tell us something about your experience in the US?

Elly: Yes, I have performed in all those countries, and in most cases just ‘one offs,’ like my friend’s wedding party in Enschede, Holland, in 2000.

But by far the most thrilling experience of all was in LA and Santa Barbara, California. It was dream come true.

I was invited over to LA, by my old friend, to back-up his then embryonic new musical Rock venture, a favour I was more than happy to oblige. He needed an experienced DJ that could handle anything thrown at him, in this case me.

Due to my vast CD collection, I can pretty much handle any type of gig, tailored to specific needs, though they are few and far between nowadays, and tend to be favours for friends. Before leaving for LA I carefully selected the relevant CDs. The plan was to top ‘n’ tail the gig with back-up during the participant switch over during the presentation. Initially, we did two house party warm-ups in Beverly Hills, leading to a proper public performance in Santa Barbara, 90 miles north of LA. During my three week vacation, I met several actors, musicians and show-biz types. I have been invited back to LA, sometime in the future, with a planned visit back to Holland this summer.

Americymru: Where can listeners go to tune in to Calon FM?

Elly: Locally with an approximate radius of 15-20 miles from Wrexham in north-east Wales, CALON FM can be found on the 105 FM band.

Globally, or even locally, using a computer, it can be found at www.calonfm.com

My show can be heard between 2 – 4 PM each Monday via the Listen Live link, with a Listen Again facility up-and-running by Wednesday afternoon, which can then be heard any time if you miss the Monday slot.

If your readers go to the CALON FM homepage at www.calonfm.com they’ll find my showpage under Shows.

Americymru: Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Elly: Yes. Via the internet, I genuinely hope that listeners in America will follow all shows on CALON FM at www.calonfm.com because the station can provide listeners with a flavour of what the station is all about and keep abreast of events in our thriving community here in Wrexham, and surrounding area. Despite Wrexham’s close proximity to the English border - about 5 miles away - there continues to be a an ever present and long established Welsh speaking community in and around the town, particularly in my own native village of Rhosllannerchrugog, barely 3 miles outside Wrexham.

Calon FM also provides a bi-lingual (Welsh-English) programme fronted by presenter Michelle Murphy, a show called ‘Hanner Reis Hanner Chips’ ( Half Rice Half Chips) on a Friday afternoon between 2 – 3PM UK time, again with a Listen Again facility for anytime listening. This show will be invaluable for Welsh learners and fluent speakers in America.

One final request. I would very much appreciate if your readers could SPREAD THE WORD about both the radio station and my show, which is now listened to online, in USA, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Holland, Japan and the UK.

The Plug feedback is more than welcome at the CALON FM email addresses – info@calonfm.com or the studio directly at studio@calonfm.com

Your readers, if they wish, can contact me directly now at either my new email address ellyr@ellyr.co.uk (and/or elly2000@freenet.co.uk for the next 6 months)

As I have a string family connection with Wisconsin and America, I hope your readers will follow my show on a regular basis.

If you ‘Google’ Elly Roberts, you’ll learn a lot more about what I get involved with.

Thank you for your kind interest.

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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