There are only four rules on a Thursday night at Victoria Street; keep it clean, no dissing, keep it real, and finally share the love. If the rules are broken you’re off the mic and off the air.
The Hillz FM is a radio station run by volunteers in Coventry. It gives young people the chance to test their radio skills, and gives the community of Hillfields a voice. The station, currently at the end of its third FM broadcast, has become a huge success with over 600 youths getting involved since its launch in 2004.
Daniel Finnan runs the Thursday open mic night, which showcases hip hop and grime music. He is surprised at the level of interest from the community.
“I’ve grown a monster”, he said. And it’s true, by 7.30pm the rooms are crammed with people not just from Hillfields, but the rest of Coventry and even Birmingham. All of whom want their slot on the air. The night is fast paced with lyrics too fast to follow and more people arriving every minute.
|"I've grown a monster"|
|Daniel Finnan, Hillz FM|
There are regulars amongst the crowd. The open mic starts with 27 year-old Stretch Armstrong, followed by first time performer 20 year-old Kelly.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” she said after stepping away from the mic.
The rules are printed in large letters on a white board in the corner of the room. Despite a few small slip ups, at which point the mic is taken away and adverts are played, the rules are obeyed and the night runs smoothly.
Not everyone wants to get on the mic. Others take control of the decks and cue the music. In the other studio 15 year-old Martin Dehany is busy taking emails and shout-outs from the listeners. He got involved with the station through a series of sessions ran by Daniel at his school.
|Hillz FM DJ|
“It’s a good way of getting everyone together as a community,” he said.
The station is a positive community tool. Courses are run to gain qualifications for those involved. The Hillz boasts a close link to City College Coventry. Other volunteers from the station have gone as far as appearing on BBC 1Xtra.
Since its launch the Hillz has branched out in a number of diverse musical tastes. As well as hip hop open mic nights there are indie acoustic rooms, metal, R’n’B, and even French rap. There is also a weekly show about religion.
The station, which finishes broadcasting on the wireless on 19 July, will continue to produce output which can be heard via the website. The Hillz is also running a number of summer workshops for anyone who wants to get involved in DJ’ing, mixing, flash animation and other radio skills.