On 2 June 2014 The Cabinet Office announced that Wythenshawe’s Community Media charity has won a Queens Award for Voluntary Service. The annual awards, established to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002,
recognise and reward excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community.
On the 3 June 2014 two volunteers and the General Manager went to the Houses of Parliament to meet local MP Mike Kane and then continue to a special Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.
Those attending was Kath Forden, Mike George and Jason Kenyon.
Kath Forden is Chair of the Charity’s Trustees and a long time volunteer who presents the Disability Matters show every Friday morning at 11 am on Wythenshawe FM 97.2 FM. Kath has been blind, and hearing and mobility impaired since birth but she hasn’t let these things get in her way. She was a founder of Gingerbread for single mums in Wythenshawe and has also featured on Manchester City Council’s Valuing Older People billboards. She says:
“Wythenshawe is a great place to live, work and play. There is lots of green space, a great community spirit, and thanks to the Council’s regeneration there are jobs too. But the area often seems to get negative coverage. After ten years as a Radio Regen project WFM 97.2 became independent in 2010 and now we are a fully local charity. Local volunteers, local board members, local funders and of course local community radio, by the people, for the people.”
Mike George was the long standing volunteer who nominated Wythenshawe FM for the Queens Award for Voluntary Service. He currently presents the Breakfast Show on Mondays and also produces and presents Hospital Heartbeat
which charts the successes of Wythenshawe Hospital (University Hospital South Manchester). He says: “There is something very special about the volunteers at Wythenshawe FM. I am very pleased all their contributions to community life are being recognised in this prestigious national award. Our link to Wythenshawe Hospital is particularly important for me. “I am a volunteer receptionist at the Heart Centre and a Dining Companion
there, one of about 350 volunteers altogether, having had a heart bypass myself in 2000. It would be great if this award helped bring about a boost to WFM’s hospital radio activities.”
Jason Kenyon, WFM 97.2’s General Manager, has been involved since the very first broadcast back in 2000. He says: “The achievement of producing 90 or more hours of live community radio every week, giving a real voice to local people, is tremendous. But there’s much more to this charity than that. Training and confidence building,
projects with schools and community groups, free advertising for good causes. The real sense of achievement for volunteers can be life-changing. “This has been a time of real pressure on public services and charities and we would particularly like to thank Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, Wythenshawe Forum Trust and The Manchester College for their backing, and of course our volunteers for around 10,000 hours community contribution every year.”
Advocates for the nomination were the late MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East Paul Goggins and Phil Korbel of the Radio Regen charity which first brought the community radio project to Wythenshawe in 2000.
Referring to three examples of outstanding community impact Phil Korbel wrote:
“You would hope that any successful local radio station could achieve these sorts of things, but the point is that this station is kept on the air by its volunteers – the people that turn up – day in, day out – to play their music, talk to fellow locals about their neighbourhood and generally provide what one local MP called ‘social cement.’
“The longevity of the station in the face of appalling cuts to funding, the fact that Wythenshawe, in spite of all its problems, has a voice for its residents – is nothing short of amazing.”
Paul Goggins MP wrote: “Whilst it has faced considerable financial challenges over the years, the station now has a solid footing in the community with the backing of the local housing trusts.”
“It is noticeable how the self esteem of those who volunteer at the station has improved as a result of their work at the radio station and through wider social networks.”
“I wholeheartedly support their nomination for the Queens Award for Voluntary Service.”