Melita Dennett – Director – Radio Reverb

Tell me about your background, why and when did you come to Brighton?
I’m Hastings born and fled, so not from too far afield, but I was always drawn to Brighton. I used to come over for punk gigs, skipping off school to get the train to see the likes of the Slits, Buzzcocks, The Clash, The Damned at the Top Rank and other places, then you used to be able to get a train back at 1.30am for school the next day! Then I accidentally got a job in the Civil Service in Worthing, which was the worst job I’ve ever had, but it provided a ticket to move to Brighton.
What is your job(s), and what does it entail?
Absolutely everyone at RadioReverb is a volunteer. It’s one of the largest voluntary organisations in Brighton & Hove, with more than a hundred people involved in making programmes and managing the station. I’m one of the Directors, and I also produce a weekly programme. Learning to do things like scheduling, some of the technical bits and bobs and endless form-filling for licensing authorities is a bit of a learning curve and keeping a hundred or so producers happy and on track is a bit like herding cats sometimes, but it’s a talented and great team and I’m constantly surprised and gripped by the programmes I hear.
How did you get into radio?
Thankfully I was sacked from the Civil Service and ended up doing a Librarianship degree at the University of Brighton, then spent two years causing trouble as a Student Union officer. I took stock, thought about what I was REALLY interested in and realised it was radio, so I ended up as part of a production team on G-Spot, a groundbreaking LGBT show on what was then Festival Radio. It was all about learning quickly on the job, and withing three moneths I was working as a freelancer on Radio 1, we took the programme format to the Edinburgh Festival, and I continued freelancing, taking up doing radio training and getting involved in as many things as I could. It wasn’t a traditional career path, but those twisty paths are often the best.
What makes Radio Reverb special, and why should we support it?
It’s special because it’s VERY Brighton & Hove, doesn’t have any adverts, playlists or cheesy DJs, and we’re very focused on the audiences. The core aim is to represent Brighton & Hove in all its glorious hues, and provide a service that nobody else here is doing. It survives on passion and commitment, it’s very hand-to-mouth and without the enthusiastic and committed team of producers it would fall to bits. Listeners should support it because it comes free to their ears and if you like what you hear, please help keep us ad-free and independent by bunging in a quid or two.
We’re proud to say we have more female broadcasters than all the other local radio services combined, we have the UK’s only Transgender show on FM, the UK’s only show on FM made by people with learning disabilities and featuring only music made by people with learning disabilities, the city’s only dedicated LGBT show, the UK’s only female-fronted rockabilly show…. And we’ve got comedy, drum n bass, free jazz, electronica, an older people’s show, a local food and drink show… the list goes on!
Reverb organised a Reverbathon recently. How did that go?
We’ve run birthday “Reverbathons” for the past three years now, where we broadcast live over a weekend which coincides with our first broadcast. This year was our eighth birthday, and it also coincided with International Women’s Day so on that day we had a women’s takeover of only female presenters from 8am to midnight. Our listeners and sponsors were amazing, raising well over £3,000, with donations coming from as far afield as the US.
How can people and organisations get involved?
We’re always open to hearing about what people and charities are doing locally. We don’t run any news, but we do talk to the people behind the news stories in depth. We cover extensively events like the Brighton Festival and Fringe, the Sick! Festival, Cinecity and so on, as well as giving airtime even to the tiniest community groups and charities. If it’s happening locally and it’s interesting, we’re on it.
Are there any programme making opportunities?
We do welcome new producers provided they have an idea for a show that’s unique and doesn’t replicate anything else either locally or nationally. We want people with original voices and ideas and a strong Brighton & Hove focus. We’re also happy to take one-off programme ideas, and people do pop us over an individual programme or documentary they’ve made which we’re happy to give a spin if it works.
We moved to new premises in North Laine almost a year ago and we’re now running training workshops for people who are interested in learning how to make programmes and features, or who just fancy giving something new a go.
Any plans for the next year or two?
The main thing is to put us on an even keel financially as it’s all very hand-to-mouth, but we don’t mind admitting that! We want to bring in more voices from people marginalised by mainstream media. We’d also like to be on DAB to expand the opportunities for listeners to hear us, and of course expand the number of shows to increase listener choice further. We’ve also been asked to host the alternative stage at this year’s Brighton Pride, so that’s in planning now. That’ll do for the time being!
I hear you are a music lover, always at gigs, and still in possession of record decks… Tell us about your musical tastes, past and present?
Yes! I’ve not bought a CD in about two years and I’ve never bought a download either (and that doesn’t mean I do it illegally either!) – it’s vinyl all the way. I grew up as  Bowie obsessive (I saw him at Brighton Dome in May 1973!) then it was punk rock. My tastes are pretty broad, taking in classical music, electronica and weird shit, and of course I still love the sound of guitars in your face.
How do you view the music scene here in Brighton?
It’s brilliant. I’d say it’s the strongest it’s been in years. I prefer intimate venues, so places like The Hope, The Albert, Green Door Store are my usual haunts, and there are so many places putting on under-the-radar gigs such as the Cowley Club, West Hill Hall and Campbell Road Studios, that it’s often hard to keep track on what’s going on. Every time I visit another town and can’t find a single interesting gig it reminds me how lucky we are to be here.
Tell us about your best ever gig(s)
Bowie at the Dome of course! The Damned on Hastings Pier in ’77 (twice), Cocteau Twins at the Town & Country club circa 1984, Joy Division in ’79 blah blah blah, but coming up to date, The Academy of Sun were astounding at the Green Door Store last year, and Christeene at the Hope was also one of the most gob-smacking events of the decade so far, so catch her at the Marlborough in May or else!
If you could see any artist, dead or alive, who would that be?
Judy Garland and Jacques Brel