STEAM Radio are the latest community based radio station to open up in Manchester, based in The Old Abbey Taphouse in Hulme, a local hub for diverse culture and historic activism. Ran by Liam, Hannah, Frankie and Ella, we chatted to two of them about how it all began and where it’s heading?
Can you tell us a bit about Steam?
Liam: Just before we went into full lockdown I turned to Rachel, who runs the pub with Craig, and we talked about how to keep the community active and interested and what would be the best way to do that? I’ve been involved in radio since 2010 and it’s all I’ve ever really known. So in March we set up The Old Abbey Taphouse Radio (TOAT) and it was chugging along, loads of people doing weird and wonderful things. It started to tail off and we then got approached by Frankie who loved the shows but wanted to rebrand and give it a more
professional feel and so we did!
Hannah: I showed up because my dad already had a show on TOAT and he had been playing every week for 30 weeks. He was so unsure if TOAT was going to stop and said I should get involved and so here I am!
So where did the name STEAM come from?
Liam: It’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths, STEM with art! The Tap House has always been a hub for discussing and hosting events around those themes and we are placed in the middle of this hub.
What are your plans for yourselves and the community?
Hannah: So I am here doing the admin and email based side of things at the The Tap House and it’s great seeing what they do in the hub here. Frankie runs an initiative called TV Dinners, a service that gives out free hot meals to the vulnerable people in the community, which is fantastic! Everything has been difficult recently because everyone is recording at home, so people who have joined us are people with real experience or have the capability to record at home because they have the gear to do it. My vision for the future is to hold open spaces in our studio so there is room for those people to come in and for us to train them up.
Liam: Plans going forward are for people to come in and run workshops! Lots of people have good stories and ideas but have never been able to get on the radio. It’s going to be good to give people the chance to learn like we did, through the student radio. We also had some funding to revamp the upstairs of The Taphouse, where we have built our studio and band practise spaces.
With the studio spaces, what will that look like in the future?
Liam: In theory we can get bands to record and to do to live sessions in there. We want black walls and fairy lights!
Hannah: We just want it to be cosy!
What’s the difference now you’ve gone from student radio to having your own thing?
Liam: So far there is Frankie, Ella, Hannah and myself, we all have different skill sets. Frankie is the funding and the boring numbers, Ella does most of the design, Hannah does admin and band liaison and sorts out the tide of emails and messages and I work on the uploading and endless editing of the shows. It means that there are a lot of big ideas that need scaling down and we can do that great together.
Hannah: With Fuse FM (the student radio) it’s been there a long time so they have a specific structure, whereas with this we have more possibilities to do what we want. We’ve got so many ideas and we can plan our future.
Liam: At Fuse we were always told we can’t do whatever we want, but here we have got a more blue-sky way of thinking and it’s only us saying no to ourselves rather than someone telling us no.
Have you got any more insight into TOAT or some more background to the history and culture of The Taphouse?
Hannah: In the fifties a Black Mancunian boxer called Len Johnson, who was interestingly teetotal at the time, came in and ordered a pint but was refused service because the colour bar was still in force. He then wrote articles and came back with loads of support from the Communist party, of which he was a member, and all that commotion led to the colour bar being lifted, which spread country wide. All that started here. We have a statue
commemorating Vimto in Manchester, but no Black leaders and change makers. So there is now a petition to get a statue of Len Johnson put up in Manchester. The petition has been put together by Deej Malik Johnson (no relation) and has already got lots of movement. We have done a special about Len that you can listen to!
MUKA: Access the petition here- https://www.change.org/p/manchester-city-council-a-monument-for-len-johnson-in-manchester?use_react=false&fbclid=IwAR2rXGbmidOF1xamn-Vp8cQWqI9BEu-spzsLTqMEqDMKkkLKl_uG9BO9PHo
Liam: A Blue plaque also, we are trying to get a Blue plaque over here!
I know you mentioned people have got stories, are you going to try to uncover more hidden stories?
Liam: That is how TOAT started originally, but it’s not what I’m best at so I needed help there. We had the Gasper Garden Project, we had people from the university do a show about how are you surviving being in the arts? Now that we have grown and know the history of the area we are getting a better response, especially with the station being prominent we are hitting all the right areas. The guys that run the pub are really engaged with the local community so know who to talk to and where to look. So it’s becoming a hub and a pub.
Hannah: The Hub-Pub, the Hubbub!
So you have mentioned some shows, but is there anyone else you want to shout out?
Liam: I think it would be a mistake to say that there are any bad shows! They have all been really well thought out and professional, but that’s all through Hannah. I think we both really enjoyed the show that Wilderness Record Shop put on for us.
Hannah: They were very nervous and rushed and apologised ahead, but honestly it was one of the most professional shows I’ve ever heard. They had jingles and everything!
Liam: Did they record it live in the store?
Hannah: Yeah they did, they did the whole thing using vinyl that they sell in the shop, so anything you hear you can go buy from them! There is also a new zine that has come out called Black Spring, due to launch in November. They are going to do a show that hopefully continues. They look at cool experimental music, so I’m very excited to see what happens with them.
Liam: Of course we have mentioned Hannah’s dad OG OR MAN, which is our flagship show. He is unintentionally the driving force of the station and kept us going.
Hannah: He comments on everyone’s shows and gets in touch with them. I would love everyone to follow suit and collaborate and get to know each other.
How can people listen to STEAM?
Hannah: We are currently internet only because radio is just so expensive and we are for the smaller community. The next project is to get an app so you can access everything in one place. But for now it is www.steam-mcr.com.
Liam: I don’t think FM Radio is a viable thing anymore because it is so expensive and we would rather spend it in different places.
What other radio stations do you listen to?
Hannah: Reform radio is absolutely fantastic, I really look up to them. They give so much help to everyone and we have come to them asking advice and they are always so helpful. We don’t really have any competition, everyone just helps everyone out.
Liam: Producers at the minute have got plenty of time and are really trying to help. People are going from station to station and that’s really nice.
Hannah: Mixtress has got a reform show and she’s so good! Check out her show, Saturday Flavours!
How can people get involved with STEAM?
Hannah: Email me! If you want to do a show then send a short proposal and we can have a chat with it. If you need help developing it then I can help you do that too! If you need help setting up at home then we can help you out with that too. Right now we are only streaming from Thursday to Sunday, but we will be adding more and more slots in the future. We do have one off slots alongside residencies so you can pop in just to do one slot!
Contact me on email@example.com
Liam: In the meantime if you are bored, please send us jingles!
Can you recommend us 3 people, business or groups doing good stuff?
Hannah: We have a show called Good Stuff whilst you mention it! Anya who did that has started interviewing a different Manchester based charity each week, last week she talked to Barnabus and Invisible Manchester about homelessness. The idea with Good Stuff is not just talking about stuff but about how the community can get involved with tangible actions.
Liam: TV Dinners, which we mentioned earlier is still going on. That’s being run from the Taphouse, so if you want to get involved then give them a hand! I’ve got a friend from school who moved to Manchester 6 weeks ago, he was living in the camps in Calais doing
opera and ballet classes for kids. He now lives in Levenshulme and is doing an opera documentary. He’s called Joel! I think his documentary is called Lost In The Deep Blue Sea and hopefully he will be doing something with us soon.
Hannah: I might just shout out some great local punk bands! Slap Rash are really sick, Springfield Elementary and Ice Boy Violet.
Liam: We also have a playlist that we are using for us and in the pub that has all local bands on, so send us your stuff!
What a lovely set of people. Chatting to them really gave us a wonderful insight into how passionate all these guys are about radio and creating a community around it, and to enjoy every moment of it! So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for everything they put out and what’s to come in the future for the brand and the space!
Check out our first show on STEAM Radio right here!