Croydon Radio has gone off-air, the community-run digital station having decided to leave its studio in Matthew’s Yard, off Surrey Street, after a demand for a 150 per cent rent increase.
There has been no new or live programming from the station since Friday, as instead they pump out auto-generated music selections – a sort of Tragic FM – presumably with the hope of resuming its normal schedule once new premises are located.
The latest financial crunch at the hipster “arts, cultural and creative hub” (Matthew’s Yard’s chosen descriptor, not ours), offering “a shabby industrial aesthetic” (please refer to our previous parenthetical remarks), and where you’re lucky to get change out of a tenner if you’re buying coffees for yourself and a couple of friends, has forced the rent hike for Croydon Radio, which was among the first partner organisations to move into the former warehouse when it opened in 2012.
Founded by Tim Longhurst and Tracey Rabbetts, the internet-based Croydon Radio had a roster of around 50 volunteer presenters, producers and wannabe DJs, generating an output which was both eclectic and eccentric, and attracted what can only be described as a niche audience, of fewer than 40,000 listeners in its first year.
Hoped for commercial sponsors and advertisers never seemed to materialise in any significant amounts, leaving the station without any income to pay towards the cost of its upkeep or to invest in equipment – notoriously, presenters in the early days had to shuffle the studio’s single spare microphone from guest to guest if they had more than one interviewee in the studio at the same time.
Some less-inspired programmes were quietly dropped from the schedules: a Saturday sports show that appeared to consist entirely of the presenter reading the match reports that had appeared in the previous day’s Sadvertiser somehow never caught on.
The station enjoyed audience success when the then Tory-run council effectively handed Croydon Radio the broadcast rights to Town Hall meetings, apparently without the matter ever being put out to tender. Entirely coincidentally, we are sure, and with no impact on the station’s editorial positioning, around the same time, Croydon Radio won the “Voluntary Group of the Year” category at the council-run civic awards.
Croydon Radio’s access to this valuable content came to an end in 2014 when the new council introduced its own webcasting service.
And there have been outages before – such as when “internet café” Matthew’s Yard lost its internet access.
But there’s a sense that this time, the shutdown of programmes could be permanent, unless a new venue can be found urgently.
A notice on the station’s website states, “Sorry, there are no live shows today.” The same message is displayed for every day this week.
Inside Croydon contacted Rabbetts of Croydon Radio for comment, but she failed to respond.
According to Saif Bonar, the founder of Matthew’s Yard, the radio station had been paying less than £2,500 per year in rent since it opened.“The people behind Croydon Radio, its presenters and volunteers, worked tirelessly and passionately to do something good for Croydon without financial rewards,” Bonar told Inside Croydon. “It’s regrettable it has had to come to an end and will be a net loss for Croydon.”
Bonar said that his business had incurred “a high volume of one-off costs in the last financial year”.
“This meant that we had to review the fees they paid. As an unfunded community initiative, Croydon Radio were unable to meet the requests for the higher monthly fee and, sadly and reluctantly for both sides, they chose to vacate the space.
“The fees charged have been the same since Croydon Radio first opened and we could not absorb increased operating costs any longer.”
Bonar described the rent hike, to £500 per month, “still represents excellent value for money compared to the rocketing prices of property around Croydon town centre”, adding, “I had no choice but to do everything possible to ensure Matthew’s Yard’s finances get back on track.”
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