The creators of a new First Nations radio station are hoping having a station in downtown Williams Lake will make them more accessible.
At an open house held Friday, Dec. 14 staff showed off the renovated space in the first block of Third Avenue North.
It includes two recording booths, more than a dozen repurposed computers from the federal government for training alongside one wall and an idea tree to solicit suggestions from the public.
“We went with red, which seems to be the TNG colour, and had some youth come in to do the painting,” said radio manager Graham Gillies. “We also hope to make a bigger interview booth toward the front that will fit four people.”
Gillies said in the future it is hoped the station will be replicated on a small scale in the six Tsilhqot’in communities.
“This space in Williams Lake will be our flagship model to have a crossover with language technology, all around skill development and community communication.”
Rob Hopkins, aka “Radio Rob,” a broadcaster at CFET Radio in Tagish, Yukon has been involved with the radio station since its inception last year, helping to implement Open Broadcaster, a software he developed for broadcasting online.
“The audience and these guys can run their network of radio stations from any web browser,” he said in a previous interview, noting he has customers all over Canada and the high Arctic using the software.
Presently TNG Radio is streaming online and through two off-air radio stations in Tl’etinqox and Tsi Del Del on 105 FM with a general play list of music and language lessons.
At this point they cannot determine how many people are tuning in, however, when Gillies reset the list one day the station went down in Tl’etinqox and within one minute they were receiving calls from listeners asking where it was.
“We hope to have the other four communities hooked up on FM by March, depending on funding,” he said, noting the radio’s website should be ready to launch by the end of December.
As he showed off the computer area, Hopkins said the design is a maker space which means it’s not just about computers, but could include a 3D printer or other equipment that perhaps some people cannot afford to have at home.
“We are trying to keep it open to what the community wants and suggests,” Gillies said. “We want to be able to host workshops.”
While participants in a workshop are busy, there could be opportunities to record some conversations that could then be broadcasted on the radio.
Crystal Rain Harry, is the community radio co-ordinator and works with the six Tsilhqot’in communities and local organizations.
“I’ve done a lot of cultural activities with one of the communities and I’ve noticed the women really enjoy it. It’s the conversations that happen around the activity that start sparking and lead to all sort of interesting content.”
Gillies said many youth have visited the new site, eager to get started on some training, and be on the air.
“We have also done some work with elders after hours,” he added. “It is a government funded but community owned project. It would happen without TNG and our funding from Heritage Canada, but the whole idea is that it is in the hands of the community to craft what they want it to look like.”
Trying out one of the computer during the open house was Candace Frank who started training a week ago to become a radio host.
“I will be working a lot with the Tsilhqot’in language and am actually on my third year of learning my language,” Frank said. “I didn’t grow up learning it from my mom. She just refused to pass on our language because she’s a residential school survivor.”
She’s been enrolled at the University of Northern B.C., based out of Quesnel where she grew up.
Tracey Elkins has been recording tracts with language lessons in both English and Tsilhqot’in with community members.
“I’ve had to relearn my language,” Elkins said.