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Break London APE radio station apes BBC for music and talk-talk

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 August 2013

Trevor Blackman at the studio

Trevor Blackman at the studio

Archant

Few passers-by would know it as they walk by the old housing offices in east London.

Troy Prince learning music production at the radio studio from mentor Jonathan MensahTroy Prince learning music production at the radio studio from mentor Jonathan Mensah

Tucked away at the back, down the end of a long, winding corridor, is a radio station broadcasting to the world.

It is actually a media training centre for youngsters who include teenagers and a few ‘hyper active’ kids who’ve been excluded from school.

But they all have a dream—to break into broadcasting, getting careers in radio, TV and even film production.

That’s the idea behind Break London, a station that’s fast becoming the East End’s voice for today’s generation. You pick it up online through your computer or smartphone.

East London's online radio stationEast London's online radio station

The premises are fitted out with high-tech broadcasting equipment begged or borrowed from the BBC.

Trevor Blackman, the man behind it, is a disillusioned broadcaster who found the BBC was no apple pie.

So he set up Apple Pie Enterprises which, by its initials, seems to ‘ape’ the BBC with a mix of programmes from pop to serious talk shows that put east London politicians under fire.

“I found the BBC really was incestuous, about who you knew,” Trevor tells you. “I wanted to get young people into the industry, white working class, black, Asian, who had a dream and aspired to get into broadcasting, but felt it couldn’t happen for them.

" I found the BBC really incestuous, about who you knew, so we created APE media

Trevor Blackman"

Trevor Blackman

“So we created APE media and have managed to get work placements in the media.”

Apple Pie Enterprise is a media training company in radio, TV and journalism that recruits across east London.

Trevor, at 40, is its managing director. He was a producer and news presenter in his 20s on the BBC’s GLR London station, which inherited its airwaves from the Beeb’s ill-fated Radio London in the late 1980s.

Trevor wasn’t satisfied with the established media and went ‘ape’. He got into community work and joined Newham Council putting life back into areas like Plaistow and West Ham, receiving an award in 2003 from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for ‘Best National Youth Strategy’. It was a year later he set up APE media.

“Now it seems quite sexy to work with young people from east London,” he says proudly.

“But when I started, it wasn’t—we had to work hard to get into the media.

He got a grant through New Deal for the Communities under Tony Blair in 1998 to give kids from deprived areas the skills to get into the media. The premises in Stratford Broadway were given to them by East Thames Housing which used to run a radio course there.

“The offices were lying empty and I asked if we could use it,” Trevor added. “The equipment like the mixing desks we got from the BBC.”

But there was a serious point to it all, rather than any ego tripping.

“Lots of kids were being excluded from school and leaving without qualifications,” Trevor pointed out. “We offered training and accredited courses. We have supported children into finding a path to their next step when they leave school.”

The young hopefuls cram into two tiny studios leading off the station’s small production room at the end of that winding corridor, getting one-to-one tuition from those in the business, leaning over mixing desks that blend music, speech and jingles smoothly on air.

They are now delving into TV production with the new London station when it goes on the air next year.

Some have a genuine interest in broadcast journalism and don’t necessarily want to be presenters, but rather be the force behind the scene, doing the research, producing the show.

There is a real buzz with this little station and it’s not all music. There’s speech, serious broadcasting including political shows, talk shows, current affairs, fashion. Politicians invited to the studio who have been put on the spot include Newham’s mayor Sir Robin Wales.

The station is actually 70 per cent speech, 30 per cent music and 100 per cent enthusiasm—the “full gauntlet of broadcasting,” as Trevor puts it.

But he drums it into his wannabe broadcasters that you can’t just go on air and make it up.

“There are laws of liebel,” they are warned. “Say the wrong thing and the station can get sued.”

Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it’s about their talent and their enthusiasm.

That little radio station at the back of the old housing offices in Stratford Broadway just makes sure they’re ready to broadcast to the world.

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