By Gerard Walton
At the heart of every good university is a thriving Students’ Union. At the heart of every good Students’ Union are thriving clubs and societies. Queen’s University Belfast is no exception to this rule, and Queens Radio is a key part of this.
A controversial issue in these troubling financial times is funding, and QR is no different, with secretary Sarah Laverty claiming the society had been given “a quarter of what we need”.
This will obviously hinder any progress that is to be made but a Students’ Union Finance Department official claimed that:
“There is less money around the Union this year. We must cut our cloth accordingly. However we are confident that QR and our other established societies will continue to flourish.”
QR has been broadcasting since September 2003 and has been gaining deserved recognition of late.
In 2010, the station had three shows nominated for the Irish Smedia awards.
The society itself won Best Contribution to SU Media at the QUB Media Awards.
Perhaps most tellingly of all, the club was nominated for Most Improved Society of the Year, showing the upward momentum that has been gained.
To find out how this success would continue I spoke to deputy station manager Jamie Glover.
As deputy station manager, Jamie had a laudable aim when asked of the station’s hopes for the current year:
“(We aim) to improve members’ experience of the station by delivering more training and running more society nights.”
Last year QR ran two acoustic nights in the Students’ Union, and Jamie, recognising the popularity of these nights, promised a continuation of the events, alongside the occasional club night in surrounding Belfast venues.
However those expecting a return to the Treehouse venue in the Elms Village will be disappointed.
Jamie said, “The Union used to run the Treehouse, but it is being taken over a private company, who will charge a far higher rate and more than the society can afford.”
“It was pretty quiet there as well. We did a night in there for freshers week which was completely packed, but the popularity was only because it was the first or second night in Elms for new students.”
There is still reason for Jamie to be cheerful about QR though, as the station is looking into the possibility of an FM broadcasting license.
QR previously held a Medium Wave license between 2003 and 2006 and Jamie claimed that “the format is dead.”
He said: “You can’t get MW frequencies on all car radios.”
On the subject of cost, Jamie admitted: “It (FM) will probably be more expensive than the MW one but we aren’t sure how much exactly yet.”
Attracting new members to replace graduates will also be important in maintaining success for QR, and Sarah Laverty plays a key role in this as secretary, ensuring any interested students are kept well informed.
Sarah said: “I am the main point of contact for the society about any information in general. I organise voice training for new members, and keep track of the mailing list as a whole.”
A good measure of QR’s progress would always be how accurately it prepares members for a potential career in radio broadcasting.
Unlike many other universities, QUB does not have a media department and so the focus falls heavily on societies such as QR to pick up the slack.
Sarah revealed: “A lot of the people joining (the society) have no experience whatsoever. Therefore they get training right from the very basics. We’re not a huge station so people are free to run their own shows and make the inevitable mistakes which come with this.”
We all know how tough it can be to get your feet on that first rung on the ladder, and Sarah was quick to assure potential new members that joining QR was worth it in the long run.
She said: “Those wishing to break into the NI music scene will have lots of opportunities to network and people can keep copies of all their own shows for use in a portfolio.”
Time will tell whether QR can deliver on its promises, but it will be through no lack of determination, as the society looks forward with great optimism in the face of adversity.