Saturday, May 27, 2006

Says in the news that the chinook are starting to show up off the south shore of the island, just as the salmonberries ripen. This is when the old people say that the fish begin to return and so they are here right on schedule.

But I wasn't out fishing today. Today I was playing at Watson and Bell, in a scene reminiscent of the first telephone call. I was present at the birth of Radio Bowen.

Seems David Chamberlain, tinkerer, record collector and radio fan, got it in his head that he would start up a radio station on Bowen. Having community radio here has been a dream for people for many years now, but the cost and complexity of getting licensed is overwhelming. Dave on the other hand is undaunted.

With time on his hands and a strong will to get started, he has moved into a space in Artisan Square with the aim of running a bookstore and a small radio station. I visited him there today and heard, gloriously, the first test of the transmitter.

The bookstore is nothing yet: papered over windows and shelves laid out with masking tape on the floor. In the back room, in front of a picture window that looks out over Mount Collins, is a computer, an audio processor and small, 1 micro watt transmitter which falls well within in the standards for an unlicensed radio operation. With no audio compression, and the transmitter operating right out of the box, Dave was playing Louis Prima on the computer and transmitting a perfectly clear mono FM signal not 20 feet to an old radio in the bookstore part of the space. To the untrained eye, it was nothing, not even the range of the wireless router I am using to compose this post. But to a radio fan like me, it was like watching a child being born - a glorious, stunning achievement that means much.

Dave is broadcasting on 88.5mHz on the FM dial and as I drove by the outside of the shop, I couldn't get the signal. But with some good compression and a higher mount for the transmitter, he hopes that the Cove will be in range and that's about 1km away. But of course, in this day in age, the hope for real broadcasting will lie on the internet, so get ready for a streaming feed as soon as he can get the server set up and some programming in place. I've already suggested to him that we broadcast Evensong and the Irish music session at The Snug. It would be great to do the kitchen junket too and live broadcasts from the Bowen Island Fastpitch League. And how about Bowfest and concerts and lectures and the affordable housing forum...and that's before we even put mind to regular programming of local music, classic jazz and homemade radio plays.

Having worked in community radio for years in Peterborough, I can say that there is nothing like having a broadcast outlet for the creativity, inspiration and zaniness that all communities possess. I wish Dave the best of luck with the enterprise, and having been present for the birth of Bowen Radio, I'll be first in line to help stuff the airwaves full of goodness.

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