If you do only one thing during your time at university, make sure it involves student media. Smoke Media is such a massive thing at Westminster, it’s almost impossible to not be involved. It’s such a blast, you meet awesome people, and you get to go to really cool things like The Student Radio Awards.
The Student Radio Awards, or SRA’s, are basically a giant celebration for student radio stations across the UK. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. The SRA’s, put on by the Student Radio Association, recognises the extraordinary talent coming out of uni stations by granting Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards across a variety of different categories. They take place at the indig02 arena (yep, inside of the O2) and act as an opportunity for all the stations in the country to come together and celebrate the best of student radio.
They’re exciting, nerve-wracking, and the most fun you could have on a school night.
Along with the actual ceremony, the SRA’s are used as a networking opportunity. Industry guests from every major radio station are there, and they encourage you to meet them! It’s much more than an excuse to drink free wine and party with your friends; it’s a chance to snag opportunities and market yourself to your future bosses. But if free wine is more your style, there’s plenty of that, too.
I was lucky enough to go last year (that’s me at the 1:35 mark!) where I got to watch student radio history be made. Smoke Radio, the University of Westminster station, won Best Station for the first time in 20 years. The reaction — not only from my friends on the station but from the whole crowd — was just insane. The applause from the audience was immense. You could literally feel the excitement, the pride, the sheer joy at winning something that seemed almost impossible. It was once in a lifetime, and I desperately wanted to do it again.
So you can only imagine how pumped I was to attend this year’s awards not only as a guest, but as a nominee. A podcast I write for was nominated for Best Multi-Platform Initiative, along with Smoke Radio’s Student Pride Broadcast. Smoke also had two more noms: Best Station and Best Specialist Programme.
I was absolutely buzzing to pull out my little black dress, throw on some lipstick, and tackle the free Prosseco again. I knew that if it were half as exciting as 2015, it’d still be a really great night.
After a gourmet dinner and a bottle of wine or two, the ceremony started. In the end, Smoke brought home two awards: A bronze for Best Station, while Student Pride snagged a Silver for Best Multi-Platform Initiative. The podcast didn’t win, but it didn’t really matter. We might not have won big, but it definitely wasn’t a bad night. If anything, four nominations and two awards was a huge celebration in itself for Smoke.
It’s easy to overlook the accomplishments of students because of age, lack of experience, or whatever else. It’s another thing entirely to honour them. Back home, we don’t have anything like The Student Radio Awards. My undergrad university was super tiny with a small communications program and one student media outlet: an online magazine that’s not even funded by the school. So to see students be acknowledged for their contributions to their uni radios, to watch them be rewarded for thinking creatively, and to be offered the opportunity to talk first-hand with people in their industry leaves me feeling all kinds of happy feels. The future of media is standing on that stage, and it’s super important to watch.
We ended the night dancing to DJ sets by Radio 1’s Phil Taggart and Capital’s Coco Cole, singing along to our favourite songs until the lights came on to send us home. At that moment, it didn’t matter who had won gold, who lost, or who hadn’t even been nominated. Nobody cared.
Instead, it was a massive party where everyone came together. Just a bunch of talented and beautiful radio nerds gathered on a make-shift dance floor, screaming their lungs out to old pop songs and celebrating just how awesome they are.
You can read more at The Unlatched Suitcase!