Mainstream commercial radio has long dominated Dublin’s FM band. A small section of alternative and pirate radio stations such as Radio Nova, Jazz FM, and Power FM offered a satisfying substitute for predictable playlists, colourless content and advert overkill. While the major pirate stations have all but disappeared over the last ten years, following massive clampdowns or burnout, the advent of internet Radio and podcasting has brought about a rock steady recovery for alternative stations. Dublin is once again all ears.
Dublin Digital Radio (DDR) launched as “a platform for groups that are underrepresented in current mainstream media”. With a diverse, sturdy schedule, consistently promoted via killer illustrated artwork (by Aoife Davis), they are on a musical mission to “break the mold with the medium of radio” and 9 months in, have succeeded in acquiring audiences and harnessing diverse hosts.
DDR does not want to be a clique, a boy’s club or to be stifled by genres or bureaucracy. The station was founded by four but is maintained by the solid gold volunteers who continuously contribute valuable time and manpower.
We sat down with DDR founders Brian, Simon, Sean, and Breen and some of their regular hosts at Jigsaw (DDR’s physical and spiritual home) to hear more about the Dublin Digital Radio story.
The station has evolved into a very different beast to what we originally thought it was going to be – in a great way. We started broadcasting in October 2016 but wheels started to get in motion in early June – that’s when we really started to talk about it… it was an idea for years before that.
Together is Better
The whole idea from the start was to get different people from various music scenes together, that’s definitely been my favorite thing – meeting people who I never knew existed. You meet someone who plays Dub in a bar on a Sunday, you never knew that before and all of a sudden he’s doing a show here.
We wouldn’t have gotten going without building a community around us early on. At the start we were asking people do you know where we can get a desktop computer or a mixer or do you know anyone that might be interested in a radio show, or do you know where we can get a space? So by talking to people and delving out into our own communities, we were able to build it – it was very much a word of mouth.
Programming wise the only things we say no to are things that there is already an abundance of, no one wants a station of just house and techno. But other than that – we are always an open book and open door.
Our House, Our Home
We were really lucky, all we need is a space the size of a cupboard to operate the studio in. However, having our studio in Jigsaw allows us to operate both online and to meet our community through regular DDR events and parties in their downstairs space, here you can bring everyone together. We are so lucky, it’s so central, there are no time or noise limits.
The hardest thing we are continuing to deal with is finance, the only thing that’s holding us back from doing most things like buying better gear is having cash. Every party is a fundraiser, no one makes any money from this, every cent we earn goes back into the station.
Let’s Get Political
One of the days that got the best feedback was the day Cathy organised for International Women’s Day (Strike 4 Repeal). Dj’s like Kate Butler, Aoife Nic Canna, Dandelion took part – they are all pirate radio heads who were dying to get back on. Listening to it that morning, it felt like an outlet for something that’s happening in Dublin….they are not going to get coverage on RTE or coverage anywhere else – which it didn’t.
Lots of other media platforms are scared to piss someone off, whereas you have the freedom here to do whatever you want to do which is the best thing.
I would hope that inspired other women to get involved with radio. For example, The Gash Collective workshops that we facilitated a few months ago (offering women vinyl, CJD and production workshops) were full within a couple of days – it was all women doing the workshops and on the after party lineup in Wigwam.
Future plans? To keep going as we are going and see where it takes us. You see these pirate radio stations that do a couple of years and then they fall to the wayside, so I think longevity itself is a goal. I think how you do that is consistent quality radio, good organization, and getting fresh faces involved every now and again to stay relevant.
The worst thing in the world would be if Jigsaw closed, it would be hard to find another home that would be as accommodating, it wouldn’t have the same atmosphere.
* I’m Jill Woodnutt from Dublin – my show is Staxx Lyrical. I play old school, underground & independent hip-hop along with some jazz, soul, downtempo and R&B.
* DDR is an inclusive platform for people to share their tastes, ideas and opinions. It gives full creative freedom to all the show hosts which is what I enjoy about it. DDR is important because it lets listeners hear uncensored discussions and music that might not otherwise get played on Irish radio. It’s ran by people who volunteer their time and effort to let listeners hear what is genuinely exciting to them and I feel listeners really connect to that. DDR also runs different events to interact with the community – like the recent DDR X GASH Collective female music workshops.
* The station has been growing nicely since it started and I hope it continues to do that ..I’ve started to do more interviews and discussions which has been fun – I’m currently lining up some more guests for the coming months.
* I’m Emily Carson from Dublin. Each week on my show ‘Vocal‘ I pick a famous female artist (usually one that was at her peak in the 80s/90s) and do a retrospective of their music, why they caught the public’s imagination so much and what issues faced them as women during the period they became famous.
*It’s been an amazing experience to meet so many new people and collaborate. Cathy Flynn (host of Getting Away With It) organised a full 24 hours of female-led programming for International Women’s Day in aid of Strike4Repeal and it was both radical in its content and was a worthwhile opportunity to work together with other women. The day turned out great and I was really proud to be a part of it, the buzz in the studio on the night was also deadly.
* Seeing DDR come together so quickly, with such a swell of support from people who are all giving their time and expertise for free is a really positive reflection on Dublin. While there’s been so much discussion in the media of bias or the bizarre requirement for ‘balance’ in some debates it’s really refreshing to see a space where new and unheard voices can shine, unfettered by outside influences or parameters.
* I’d love to see the station get more subscriber support through their Patreon and for the studio to get equipment donations etc so the broadcast quality is as high as possible. The founders have great ambitions and a great ethos and I really hope the whole thing goes from strength to strength. I’ve really enjoyed researching and working on my show it but I’m going to give it a few months rest while my day job gets a bit mad for festival season. I’m planning to return to it in July – maybe with an entirely new concept.
* I’m Gib Cassidy – originally from Wexford, but living in Dublin 6 for many years.
* During The Elastic Witch Show I play a fairly broad range of stuff – I guess the show is primarily known for 80s post punk, minimal synth, coldwave and all the stuff that those genres have influenced.
* DRR is a vital, much needed and true underground/DIY radio station. I never listen to commercial radio but I listen to loads of other shows on DDR.
* I think all cities benefit from having an DIY radio station. You’ll find great local radio stations in cities all over Europe – why not Dublin? There’s quite a considerable community vibe, pretty solid political element and above all though, is the music! So much great stuff that would never be played on commercial, playlisted radio.
* I’m going to keep plugging along every second Monday afternoon.. I’d eventually like to get more guests in, I’ve had a few already and it’s always been good fun. My 75 year old Mum even texted me one time to say she was listening in and enjoying the show down in Wexford. I was playing fairly banging techno at the time!
* I’m Cathy Flynn from Swords, Co Dublin, now living in Phibsborough,.
* My show is ‘Getting Away With It’, is every second saturday 3-4pm. I play Indie/Alternative, post punk, 80s and 90s one hit wonders, Manchester bands, acid house, psych, synth…(whatever I want). My show has been described as “great music to clean to house to”.
* DDR is a great example of collective organising, and is a real alternative voice in Dublin’s music scene and media landscape – there is so many different kinds of music and shows and people. The sheer amount of variety in DDR is what is best about it to me. On a personal level, I am delighted to finally have an opportunity to be involved in running a radio station.
* I hope DDR continues to grow and be interesting. I also hope we get to throw more parties & host some gigs. I also hope to support other organisations & movements like we did with Strike 4 Repeal with our 24 Hours of Women’s Voice’s day. Personally, I would like to start djing parties/nightclubs, which I haven’t done since a brief dalliance back in the day. I would also like to produce some documentary shows.
Brian Mc Namara
* I’m Brian McNamara- originally from Glasnevin, Dublin but moved to Galway when I was around five years old, returning to the bright lights of the big shmoke at the tender age of eighteen.
* I usually DJ under the name ‘Breen’ and my show on DDR is called ‘Beneath The Bricks w/Breen‘
*My show usually has a bit of everything from ambient, jazz, soul, afrobeat, highlife to some more heavier bits but in general I use the radio show to play stuff I don’t really get a chance to play in da cloob.
* My favourite thing about DDR is that it’s grown into a platform and a space for all different types of people to hang out, exchange music, give advice, discuss ideas and all that. There are people from different music scenes all hanging out together now which is great. It’s also been nice to see people get gigs off the back of starting a show and seeing people with DDR beside their names on the gig posters. Without sounding like a massive dickhead, it does have that community/family feel, at least for me it does anyway.
* Hopefully DDR is providing something different to Dublin in terms of giving a platform to people, music, cultures etc. that otherwise wouldn’t have had a platform to showcase their talents. I think (hope) we are contributing to the scene we have going here and if not we’re trying our best anyway. We also throw the odd party so I think that counts for something.
* I’d like to see the station continue to grow the way it has been for the last eight months and increase the diversity of shows on offer. We are trying to increase our listenership, the broadcasting quality and the equipment we have but these things take time and money. Hopefully, we can convince more people we are doing something worthwhile. Most importantly I’d like the station to continue delivering consistent quality radio to all the listeners. In terms of my show, I just want to keep sharing all the great music I find. Simple as that.
You too can be part of Dublin Digital Radio’s community. Listen live, listen back on their website or do contribute to their Patreon which helps cover basic costs. Every cent will help sustain and support this much needed Dublin station.