How a community radio started – in a garage

08:22 March 10, 2022

Phyllis Baxter had an eagle eye for spotting talent and success, especially among young people.

The moment she felt this unique potential, she would go out of her way to support, promote and help the person she saw as so valuable to our community.

One such talented youngster was King’s School alumnus Oscar Pearson, who at the age of 17 predicted the need for Ottery and the surrounding area to have its own community internet radio station.

Oscar never gave up on the idea, although the initial broadcast in August 2010 – to an audience of over 4,500 people – had to be done from a garage in Oak Close.

We happened to catch up with Oscar on his return to our area after eight successful years as BBC breakfast host in Guernsey. We believe his tale of how it all began should be a manifesto for those leaving school now and, as Oscar did 12 years ago, believe there is a great world out there out there waiting to be conquered. .

When we asked Oscar how the idea came to him, he replied, “After getting involved with University Radio York, I came back to Ottery for the Easter break and had a chat with Phyllis Baxter and I asked him if Ottery had ever had any form of radio forecasting, and the answer was no.

“Then I thought the summer break would be a great opportunity to see how many people would be interested in developing a radio station in the city.

“The response after our call for volunteers has been incredible. We originally planned to broadcast eight to nine hours a day, but after the wide variety of residents who got involved, we had to extend our airtime to over 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday.

“It was something relatively new and the ability to be able to connect at any time made it extremely popular.

“Unfortunately we didn’t have a studio and had to use modern but portable technology, hence the story of having to broadcast this weekend from a garage in Oak Close.

“I’m still amazed how we managed to go around the homes of volunteers who didn’t have their own equipment, record the audio file and get it ready to play over the weekend.

“We were lucky that those who had done this before, they recorded the program themselves, sent it to me, ready to air.

“August 24-25 will always stick with me as the weekend we successfully completed our first trial broadcast of Radio Ottery online.

“We wanted to appeal to as many people as possible and that’s why our program was so important and having it posted on our website gave listeners a choice of when to tune in.

“After this weekend, the feedback and support that Radio Ottery had so far developed was incredible. People from South West Ontario, India, deepest Scotland, the United States United, England and of course locals have come back to us to congratulate the team for coming up with the idea of ​​providing Ottery with its own station.”

While this was happening, Oscar was only two years away from university and during the days leading up to the show he had an internship at the BBC and this ensured the continuity of the project.

Phillis with Oscar
– Credit: Phyllis Baxter Group

Fortunately, this brilliant idea paved the way for what would become a very successful career in broadcasting.

“I could remember meeting Phyllis, doing Radio Ottery with Josefina Gori and Ian Holmes and Daniel Mumby and Steve Mingo and everyone who helped.

“If it wasn’t for them – Phyllis in particular – I wouldn’t have a career at the BBC, a lifestyle I love, and I would never have met some of my best friends. I will always be grateful.”

We still believe that the conversation Oscar had with Phyllis and Oscar’s vision led to more recent events, such as the activation of Devon Radio Station’s new FM transmitter for Ottery St Mary in October 2021 .

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