FORTY years on air is a huge achievement for Mt Lawley community radio station RTRFM.
For its small, hardworking staff – including breakfast presenter Caitlin Nienaber known to love a good tune, an impromptu dance and a strong cup of tea – it’s a time to reflect on the past and communicate to all Perth people that 92.1FM is resilient, crucial and worthy of a good listen.
“Often non-profit places like this don’t get the chance to stop and go: ‘Hey, we’re actually doing good work here,’ because it is a constant treadmill and a battle to stay going,” Nienaber said.
The local stalwart took to the air in 1977 at UWA and moved to its current Beaufort Street location in 2005.
Funding has been an ongoing issue for RTRFM – taking its name from a play on “aRTy Radio”– which relies largely on listener donations.
It recently received $120,000 from the State Government, as promised by Mark McGowan in the last election.
“We were quite a different sounding station when we started – I think our goal was originally educational, tying in to the university,” Nienaber said.
“It has evolved so much over the years: we were playing a lot of classical music back then and there were a lot of people at the uni who got involved.
“There was punk stuff and reggae happening and then in the ’90s there was a big push for electronic music and dance to play a part.”
Nienaber – obsessed with music and radio since her teens – started as a volunteer at the station in 2009.
“I really love my job, meeting so many different people just trying things out, being creative and starting projects just for the hell of it and often times they don’t get a lot of recognition and often it costs them money rather than there being any money in it for them,” she said.
“I like that I can be part of a platform that gives legitimacy to those people and champions them.
“That is really powerful and that should be encouraged because the world out there is hard enough: it’s lovely to be able to celebrate art and music and community.
“Also, in my job I get to see how much having the companionship of radio, particularly early in the morning, means to people.”
The team has spent a year organising celebratory concert, The Big 40, featuring acts such as Abbe May, Downsyde and Odette Mercy.
What: The Big 40
When: November 19
Where: Perth Concert Hall