Local people: Rob Persani
25th April 2021
To universal dismay in August 2020, much-loved local broadcaster Rob Persani signed off his final breakfast show for the former Rutland Radio. When the station was sold, what must have felt like a devastating blow for Rob and his fellow broadcasters unexpectedly transformed into a new and exciting opportunity. Rob tells Amander Meade about the brand new radio station he helped to launch in March 2021: Rutland & Stamford Sound
Rob, how did you feel about the outpouring of support when Rutland Radio came to an end?
I just felt terrible for the listeners of the old station in that the closure happened for them so suddenly, as we were unable to share the news earlier. It felt like a very quick goodbye, with no idea what the future might hold. Then, to my delight, Rutland County Council proposed a unique plan to explore the possibility of creating a whole new community station. I don’t know of anywhere else in the country where this has ever happened.
How did that local strength of feeling contribute to the idea for a new local station?
The people of Stamford and Rutland have been vitally important in every stage of the new project, from naming the station to local businesses influencing the look and feel, and, of course, in the listeners defining the sort of content they wanted to hear.
It certainly wasn’t a ‘given’ at the start that a new station would be viable, and indeed the project is still about making sure we create something that’s going to be sustainable for years to come. We depend on listener support, but it’s also about a strong delivery model that works in a cost-effective way, as we are a not-for-profit organisation.
What was it like starting a station from absolute scratch?
We could have made something really simple to get us on air quickly, but that approach would have compromised on due diligence and setting up in a truly community-focused way. Both the Project Management Board and I were very sure from the start that we wanted to build a new community radio station that was strong and sustainable for the future.
How is the station funded and managed?
The start-up was broadly funded by Rutland County Council with help from a DCMS/Lottery Local Connections grant. Going forward we will be mainly funded from a mixture of advertising, sponsorship and community grants. The station is managed by a new Community Interest Company. The original advisory team stayed on to become Directors of the Board and contribute their various skills and experience.
We have a team of eight presenters at the moment, all broadcasting from our homes to keep overheads as low as we possibly can. Home broadcasting – even at national level – has become the norm.
Is there a feeling of optimism operationally?
Definitely. One of our key objectives is to support local businesses as they re-engage with their customers. We’ll take an active role in promoting charities and not-for-profit community organisations. After a long year of lockdown, we can’t wait to start attending events and seeing people face to face.
We launched on 5 March with a full daytime programme schedule, and the response has been really outstanding. In fact, it feels like we’ve never been away, as the familiarity and connection with the community is already there. The response on social media has been phenomenal, and we’ve picked up listeners from all over the UK and the world. Many of our listeners are former locals who miss living in Stamford and Rutland.
How can our readers help make the station a success?
Tell your friends and family about us and help them to access the new ways of listening to Rutland & Stamford Sound, which is currently an online station. There are a wide range of options to listen – via your computer, smart phone, smart speakers or other connected device.