Wheres the Balloon?
(an unreliable history of Rocket FM in Lewes)
‘Where’s the balloon?’ said Derek, plaintively.
‘Has anybody seen the balloon?’ It was May of
1999 and Derek was in the attic at Thebes, off the High Street,
manfully suffering an interruption to his afternoon show on
‘Festival Radio’, in the form of a large blue
hot-air balloon which had left the golf course earlier and
was floating low over the town. Watts started, suddenly and
uncomfortably aware of a looming presence over his shoulder.
Glancing up through the skylight, he found his field of vision
filled with blue, and it wasn’t the sky. The balloon
was so low he could almost touch it. ‘Ah, there it is’
Hmm… a hot air balloon - perhaps a fitting symbol for
community radio - powered by hot air and difficult to get
off the ground, unstable and liable to crash.
Six months earlier, the first local broadcast in the history
of Lewes had taken place, but it very nearly didn’t.
I remember attending a crisis meeting of a self-selecting
group in October, about a month before the intended start
date. The problems, which have recurred each time, were no
money, no equipment and no studio premises. A whip-round partially
addressed the first, a decision was taken to hire in all the
kit as a package and, shortly after, a friendly local business
offered a rather bijou upper room for the studio. The time
remaining was used as best we could. Adverts were hastily
sold to help with funding and they were all made on the evening
of the first day’s broadcasting!
Then we encountered another by-now familiar problem…where
to mount the antenna, which must be up high. The town hall
roof provided the solution that time.