Voice of the youth: the glory of Leeds Student Radio

The tone of the whole station is of an easy joy in the medium.

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“You shouldn’t admit your mistakes on radio, but I done bad . . .” One of the many volunteers broadcasting from Leeds Student Union apologises for an awkward gap between songs. It’s a light apology – no real embarrassment. The tone of the whole station is of an easy joy in the medium: in other words, you rarely get the feeling that any of the presenters would rather be on telly.

DJs like to talk, of course, but who on professional radio has such decently humble stories as Just Listen’s Oscar, with his “heavy metal and hard rock hour”, fondly ­talking about his dad yelling to “Invaders” by Iron Maiden on his way to work at KFC in the 1980s, driving the same clapped-out Fiat Punto in which Oscar now limps about the city? Or Lucy and Sandie on a Thursday, worrying that Courtney Love just doesn’t seem like a nice person? “But she made a banger,” Sandie concedes. “This song is awesome; here’s ‘Violet’ by Hole.”

Transmitting most hours in term time, LSR offers cookery and tech tips (“now the latest headphone stuff . . . switching from mono to stereo for panoramics if you’re mixing . . . Audio-Technica and the E70, but it can get pretty steep”), and sympathetic ads for a cab company happy to transport you from a perhaps regretted one-night stand (“Avoid that walk of shame”). The news bulletins, however, are terrible – read with an air of catatonic shock during which the station sometimes drops off air for 20 minutes, as though its mind has been blown.

But then a programme such as Saturday Sport is a very serious little operation, with four “football correspondents” covering everything from Ipswich Town v Barnsley to Yeovil Town v Morecambe. This lot (unpreening, nobody agitating to be included) are better than anyone I’ve heard on Talksport on a Monday morning going over the weekend’s fixtures.

Ditto the Hannah in the Hizzle evening slot, moving excellently between disco and grime via seductive appeals to Dizzee Rascal. (“If you’re listening, Dizzee . . . Ah, just wishful thinking!”) Hannah sounds like the bloom on an apricot, and is possibly studying Seneca, because she mentions “controlled anger” a lot while rifling through her Sister Sledge. Dizzee could do worse.

Listen online at thisislsr.com.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit and the break-up of Britain