The innovative live performance duo Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton (Hunt & Darton) will set up shop – or, recording studio – on streets across the country, eking out local people’s stories, observations and opinions, from the charmingly mundane to the quite extraordinary to the borderline ridiculous, in a celebration of local radio and community.

Stringent budgets and an ever-increasing centralisation of the media in London have led to a devastating demise in support for local radio, with tens of local shows closing their networks earlier this year. Hunt & Darton will travel the UK, aerials strapped to their heads, inviting members of the public and guest presenters to highlight local activity and what their community means to them.

Radio Local can be seen 29 June St Helens (Heart of Glass), 21 Jul Fleetwood (Leftcoast), 28 Sep Manchester (SICK! Festival), 16 Nov Peterborough (Vivacity)

You’re taking your immersive installation Radio Local across the UK, what can you tell us about it?

Radio Local is a brand new pop up radio station. We build radio for and with the people in its immediate vicinity. Collaborating with community radio stations we broadcast from our outdoor studio for the duration of a day in our new home. Prior to the live event H&D and invited Artists (Scottee, Split Britches, HighRise Theatre, Harold Offeh, Figs in Wigs and the like) spend time collecting voices and stories. We round up folk who love radio to join us in our workshops.

We delegate the DJing to unsung heroes and seek out the weird and wonderful to make guest appearances. Hunt & Darton are the unflinching hosts for the 12/24 hours only retiring for an hour to allow their guest presenters to steal the show (New Art Club, Vic Melody, Moot Moot, Brian Lobel and the like). This is hyper local radio. The food review is from the immediate cafes, jingles are generated live in our shed, the issues are collected from a public chalk board, the news is someone’s news not the news and we re-enact a soap opera written over the day on a typewriter set up for all to use.

What inspired you to create Radio Local?

We love radio. There’s time and space here like no other medium. It has people at its heart and it elevates both the quiet and the bold. It takes you across a spectrum of emotion jumping from hard stories to co-hosting antics or from humble gardening shows to war torn countries, from opera to grime and sometimes even without changing the station. It holds music up and shares it with the world on a scale and with a passion that is unbeatable. It breaks through our oversaturated lives offering a space of contemplation and rigour.

TV has not killed the radio star, it’s just its annoying loud older brother. And we love what it means to be local. This show celebrates everything Local: We love the local chippy that asks how your week’s been, pubs and cafes providing surrogate families and extensions of the home, people taking pride in where they live, doing things for the community and when it’s noticed that someone is ill. With the ongoing debate between global vs local, with Brexit splitting the country and nationalist views re-entering the political main stage this seemed like a timely subject to make art about. A lot of the build up to our current state of affairs we witnessed first-hand touring our pop up cafe (Hunt & Darton Cafe) over five years filling empty shops in struggling towns across the UK. Add to this the catastrophic decisions around replacing local programming with national broadcasts and the reason for Radio Local peaks.

How did you choose the locations for Radio Local?

We have a mission statement; How many places can we be local with Radio Local. We want to broadcast from busy squares in towns and cities but also on top a remote mountain where are only audience member might be a goat. Currently, we are on an Arts Council funded tour working with partners who have an interest in work that involves the general public in an genuinely meaningful, engaging way and perhaps those who have specific community issues that the work might be able to begin to bridge, highlight or provide room for voice. Our work does not involve complex unpacking, it often passes over authorship to the general public and it celebrates people for exactly what they are in that moment: we are big fans of art as life.

What do you hope audiences take away from it?

Ultimately, we want people to have fun (obviously), why else do we wear aerials on our head! But also, to have had a new experience, perhaps a meaningful one and to have been themselves doing it. So, to have felt challenged and kind of hugged at the same time. Lastly, a renewed love for radio and their community radio station. Oh and to love us forever and ever until they die.

What are the challenges of staging this kind of event?

You don’t know what the public might do. That’s the best and the worst bit but thankfully we’ve had quite a lot of experience in this realm. The rules of engagement  are set and H&D are pretty firm as we are notorious for. A bit more of a technical one… As it is not a road show. We aren’t always putting on a ‘show’ show. We have had to carefully build our set to consider the quieter broadcast moments that might be great for listeners but less captivating for the live audience. We have set up several things they can do when we are being boring…Make a jingle, write a line of the soap opera, have a cuppa and a hob knob, take on a local scavenger hunt, listen in our listening shed or chalk up their problems… they can of course just wait in the green room and before making an appearance on the show.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming along to Radio Local

All we hear is radio ga ga {SLAP SLAP} Radio goo goo {SLAP SLAP} Radio ga ga {SLAP SLAP} All we hear is radio ga ga {SLAP SLAP} Radio blah blah {SLAP SLAP} Radio, what’s new? Radio, someone still loves you.

Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly

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