By: Karissa Gall
A start-up Strathcona community radio station is working to keep at-risk area youth off the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by encouraging them to get on the air.
Ray-Cam Community Radio, a community radio station broadcasting out of the Ray-Cam Media Lab on the basement level of the Ray-Cam Co-operative Centre at 920 East Hastings St., recently launched its website with an on-air schedule and live stream. Shows are planned and produced by community members and include “The Girls Show”, “The Downtown Eastside Show”, “Hip-Hop Central” and “The Doughnut Show”.
According to Media Lab Director Bob Gilson, most of the hosts and DJs had no experience working in radio when they started with the station, and have gained valuable skills and experience in broadcasting since getting involved.
“I’ve always maintained since we started this project that it’s not about the actual output of the radio station, it’s about the process of engaging different groups and helping them learn the skills needed to become a broadcast journalist, an on-air host, or a radio engineer. There are a number of skills sets available to learn with the equipment that we have here,” said Gilson.
He said the recent addition of a Vancouver Community Network Youth Initiative intern, Karissa Gall, to the Ray-Cam Community Radio team has brought “the skills that the station was lacking in, the writing component.”
“It’s easy to teach somebody how to use the electronic equipment, how to put the components of a documentary together, but it’s not easy to teach someone how to write and create a story, it takes a lot of experience, and this young woman had all those skills in spades,” said Gilson. “Being a journalist, being a writer, being young and on-the-ball and current in her thinking, Karissa has been a good role model and her skill sets have enhanced what we are doing. The news stories that she has produced have added a sophistication to the station, and I’m glad to have some quality work on the site that people can listen to and learn from.”
He said that teaching and producing local news is “really important, especially for this community, Strathcona.”
“There’s a lot of development going on here; some people view it as gentrification, so there are a number of efforts by the local residents to organize, to meet, to discuss those issues, and the city really hasn’t provided forums very often for that to occur,” he said. “Ray-Cam Community Radio, as part of its mandate, will being trying to broadcast news and events that are important to the local residents, so that they’re better informed.”
With a dozen youth aged 8 to 16 demonstrating an interest in broadcasting and an application for a community radio permit now submitted, Gilson said he is looking forward to having an even greater capacity to engage the local community in the radio station as both a process and a product.