According to Community Radio 2BBB FM’s Leo Bradney George, the secret to The Shire’s community radio success boils down to just one thing…
Leo came to The Shire in 1982 with a background in production and writing for ABC TV. His involvement in music video productions for the likes of The Easybeats’ Vanda & Young with hits such as Hey St Peter, Down Among the Dead Men credentialed him well for his next role working in our community radio station. And his time, patience and effort over the past 35 years (all voluntary!!) are to be commended.
When quizzed about the machinations of managing a radio station, rather than sharing the details of his role with us, we hear what is a recurring theme in this very modest man’s parlance: “it works because of the contributions of each and every volunteer. From the presenters to the fundraisers, the computer whizzes to the storage guys, the accountants to the cleaners – everyone gives what they’re able to and their reward is the continuity of their community radio station.”
So how did Leo initially come into contact with our Community Radio?
“Settling in to our exciting new life in our bush home put me in touch with my inner child. We were off the grid and living with the native flora and fauna – but it wasn’t going to be complete without my prized record collection. Unfortunately… I had no way of playing them! So I joined the station as a volunteer presenter.”
His passion for music goes way, way back and spans the genres.
Leo reminisces about his school days when a call went out to students to join a brass band. “I had no idea what I was going to play, but I put my hand up anyway (this doesn’t surprise us – ed.). Our instructor taught this diverse bunch of kids how to play their instruments – and then how to play together as a band. There’s something pretty cool about having a piece of music placed in front of you that none of you have seen before, and off you go. You all start playing together. I realise now how important this process of creating something together was.”
This was the beginning of musical appreciation in general and it connected Leo to most genres. “There’s a lot of music in the ‘world music’ category with jazz, bluegrass or electronica influences that I like.” He also names: “brass, jazz, classical, bluegrass, weird stuff, electronic stuff, experimental and expressive music…” as other favourites.
And he loves the fact that such a broad range of music style is represented at Triple B – which, as he says, describes our Shire’s diverse community after all.
“Unlike most radio stations we don’t ‘manage’ playlists. Each of our 45 or so presenters brings their unique interpretation of a genre to share with their audience – the community. Debbie Spillane, one of our presenters, told us that at her previous station she was allowed to select and play just one song per hour from a list provided. At 2BBB they can play what they like – as long as they don’t breach codes of conduct of course.”
There’s diversity in the range of volunteer presenters as well. “We have country music programs, run by Elva Hyndman and Cliff Hudson. They seem to have the most faithful audience. Their listeners are most likely to have their radio on every day and call in with requests.”
(This could be a challenge for Triple B listeners of other musical genres?…)
“We also have stalwarts like Brian Goddard – aka Googs; and Seth Jordan who have been involved with “The B’s” since its inception. Isn’t that fantastic?”
“Plus we have young, sometimes school age volunteers on work-experience. One student, Sam Vallins, (son of songwriter/musician, John Vallins and singer, Lori Balmer) has now gone on to big things with Austereo and 2Day FM. “…I watched Sam step up to the mic during one of my on-air sessions and that was it. He was right at home! I get a real thrill to witness their talent and enthusiasm and see their confidence develop as they embark on their career journey.”
Sam Vallins tells it like this:
“I’ll always be so thankful that Leo was the poor sod who had to show the work experience kid around that day. If it weren’t for his infectious enthusiasm for the station, the community and what it stood for, and his willingness to allow me to jump on the mic during his shift and really get a taste for it, I wouldn’t be where I’ve ended up now. At its heart Triple B is truly local content, letting every volunteer make that station sound a little like them – a freedom that Leo has bravely fought in favour of over the years. For me, the chance to experiment, learn my craft, bring bold ideas to life and fail miserably at others taught me lessons that I have carried with me since. And with every stride, Leo was there to support it. Not a week goes by in my work where I don’t hark back to my experience at The B’s, surrounded by dust, mud-brick, faulty CD players and a community of volunteers that love what they do. Leo is as much of a radio legend as anyone else I work with today. There are very few people who truly understand the community they serve and broadcast to – but Leo has always been just that.”
So how does one become a part of the Triple B team?
“We already have many amazing volunteers including:
- Paul Hemphill who manages all the station’s financials;
- Kerrie Smith (Khipu Computing) who takes care bookkeeping;
- Kye Ruigrok does a great job with artist recordings in a very small studio space – which actually produces a great sound. He’s a bit of a dynamo – largely responsible for setting up our open-air studio shack during the Bello Winter Music festival outside the Green Grocer. Actually a few wonderful volunteers put an enormous effort into building that hut and performance area which went down a real treat!;
- Solicitor Paul Tipper has put together and run the legal content of our training courses;
- Daryl Martin stores our little blue 1960s caravan for us when it’s not in use (thanks Daryl!).”
“A lot of our volunteers are found just by having a chat over our street stall or with our bucket-rattlers at the markets. Our Shire retailers and business owners are also very generous with donations. Sponsor contributions are important too and of course sponsors get advertising time. All of this is volunteering in one sense or another and it just works. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, you might say.”
2BBB holds 2 day Training Courses for a small fee. For anyone interested in getting involved, you’ll learn the equipment, the structure of community radio, the protocols, legalities and more.
Leo explains his personal perspective on community volunteering…
“As a volunteer I’m always learning something new. There’s always something you don’t know … until you do. I taught myself how to rip CDs, burn, transfer and edit. Recently we had a computer hard drive crash and as there wasn’t anybody to ask I just had to get on the phone, ask people, google it, and learnt a lot! It’s good for the old brain and it’s kind of exciting. This may be my ‘inner kid’ at work and why I haven’t grown up yet. It shouldn’t stop at any age I think!”
So what is the secret to a community radio’s success, Leo?
And I like keeping things simple.”
The symbol of Triple B is represented in mosaic art form at the entrance to their Mud Brick House and features the Lyrebird.
In the 1930s a flute playing farmer in Dorrigo would sit and play the flute to his pet Lyrebird. He played his tunes over and over, and as lyrebirds are notorious mimikers, this pet learned these tunes and also sang them regularly. The flutist later released his Lyrebird into nearby rainforest – never to be seen again. As this species not only has the ability to learn song, but also to pass them down the generations, after 30 years or so small passages of that flutist’s songs could be heard in the rainforest. True Story!
artwork created by: Pru Iggulden
Bellingen Shire is a secret Australian hamlet along the Waterfall Way on the NSW mid-north coast. This region is popular for its unique landscape where the Great Dividing Range almost touches the sea. It boasts a diverse history and proud indigenous culture, and is home to an eclectic and supportive community of farmers, alternative lifestylers, tree-changers, and families who have called this region home for generations. Interesting in so many ways and with so much to offer, it’s no wonder visitors return time & time again, while other never leave… Check out the Bellingen Accommodation directory and Where to Eat in Bellingen Shire.