Smoke Radio is the University’s award-winning radio station. Featuring news, interviews and podcasts, the radio is run by an enthusiastic team of students who work tirelessly to make the station the best it can be. The great thing about the station is that there are always plenty of opportunities for students to get involved in, from music, digital, journalism to so much more. If you have a creative mind and a passion for storytelling, you’ll fit right in!
We sat down with Olivia Otts, the station manager at Smoke Radio and a third year Film BA student, to discuss all things digital.
Can you tell us more about Smoke Radio?
Here at Smoke Radio we are excited for the relaunch of the radio station in a hybrid virtual streaming format. Over the years, the station has produced shows and original podcasts from our studio in Harrow Campus and also from satellite studios at the Cavendish Campus. Prior to the pandemic, the radio station won eight awards at the Student Radio Association, including Best Student Radio Station, sponsored by BBC Radio 1. As part of that win, some of the Smoke Radio students hosted their own shows over Christmas on BBC Radio 1, which was an incredible opportunity.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
As the Station Manager, my role is to reinvent Smoke Radio for a hybrid, post-pandemic phase, ensuring that our members can participate from anywhere and with any level of experience.
Prior to joining the station, some of my previous roles include being a producer for the BBC’s 50:50 Equality Project, an intern for an academic conference on media archives and ethics, and a producer of both scripted and branded projects within my Film BA course, amongst other valuable experiences. This range reiterates that Smoke Radio is keen on many areas of expertise both within and beyond radio, as all backgrounds can bring a valuable skill set to the table.
What’s your favourite thing about Smoke Radio?
The journalism strand of Smoke Radio is where I started, and remains the area that I align closest to. In 2020, against the backdrop of the US election, we produced content that reflected the personal experiences of the UK and international students alongside policy analysis. The combination of the factual with the personal is key to the success of broadcast journalism – without a heart to the story, you just have a list of headlines.
I’ve personally found interviewing students to be one of the most fascinating parts of the Smoke Radio process, as it helps us to uncover unexpected success stories. An awareness of the achievements and aspirations of our own peers is both inspiring and a great resource for potential future collaborations. The station also covers the Students’ Union elections and news events, which are key to community organisation and changemaking.
Why should students join Smoke Radio?
Joining Smoke Radio has been an invaluable experience. Harder skills such as broadcast regulations, ethics, equipment usage, and audio editing are essential for a wide range of creative disciplines post-graduation, from radio, PR to journalism. While some of the online workflows and streaming processes are technical, they maintain the core elements of creativity that make Smoke Radio such a worthwhile endeavour. The associated skills of community outreach, industry networking, project management, and teamwork are applicable across all disciplines.
As a career mentee learning from journalists at the BBC World Service, I’ve learned that broadcasting, research, and production career paths attract people of many specialisms. Recruiting new members is always an exciting part of the process, as we are continually impressed by the range of experience and interests represented by Westminster’s student body.
How can students get involved with the radio station?
Students who are interested in getting involved in our station relaunch can join in a wide range of positions, from marketing, technical, music to events. We will also be electing a new Station Manager before the end of the academic year, who will be key in integrating the leadership team for Smoke Radio’s 2022-2023 year. Smoke Radio is available to all the students, regardless of their experience.
Here is what some of our fellow members say about the station:
“Hi, I’m George and I’m Head of Podcasts in the upcoming relaunch of Smoke Radio. I’ve always had a huge passion for content creation and presenting. I’ve done this through my youtube channel where I’ve built up these passions and skills over the last few years and more recently with my film review podcast “Spill Yer Beans” which I started last year. My aim is to bring these skills to Smoke, along with many other exciting ideas from fellow students.
“Hi, my name is Olivia Serio. I’m really excited to connect with students across campuses and interests in that universal language of music. Music is the thing that plays in the background of all aspects of my life and I’m so looking forward to sharing that with everyone at the University.”
The author, Olivia Otts
Olivia Otts is a final year student at the University of Westminster studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Film. She is currently a Mentee with the BBC World Service and holds an Elected Executive Governorship with the University of Westminster. She is also the Station Manager of Smoke Radio, preparing a podcast and journalism-focused relaunch in a hybrid remote streaming format. She is a former Academic Conference Intern for Westminster alongside the CILECT Foundation and was additionally an Industry Panellist on Diversity for the BBC from her work as a Producer for the BBC Press Office on their 50:50 Project.