Catherine Wilkinson, a Doctoral Student at the University of Liverpool

“That’s a boss segue” is a phrase I hear almost on a daily basis at my PhD CASE Partner, KCC Live. For those who are not technologically minded, or in with the lingo, a segue is an uninterrupted transition from one piece of music to another. KCC Live is a community, youth-led radio station situated in Knowsley, just outside of Liverpool. The station targets listeners between the ages of 10-24 and has a cohort of volunteers aged 16 and upwards, assisting with roles such as programming, fundraising and presenting. I am researching into how KCC Live creates social capital among these young people in the current time of political, social and economic uncertainty.

Within my project I draw on a range of creative qualitative methods: namely, participant observation at KCC LIVE; interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders at the radio station; a listener survey and follow-up interviews, focus groups and listener diaries. Through participant observation I am building research into the fabric of the everyday activity at the station, as opposed to it simply being an add-on. This considered, I participate as a volunteer and overtly observe the multi-layered everyday lifeworlds of the station volunteers and staff. Certainly, other studies of community radio have taken successfully adopted a case study approach (e.g. Hilliard, 2001; Reed and Hanson, 2006; Hood, 2007). In particular, I shadow 12 young volunteers, documenting their engagement with the station and, through repeated informal ethnographic interviews, I have explored what involvement in the station means for their lives and, if any move on from the station, why they stop volunteering and where they move on to.

When I started my 12 months of participant observation at the station, I did not know what to expect. I vaguely remember picturing myself sat on a stool at the side of a studio, frantically jotting down notes in an over-sized diary. However, the reality has been very different (although, confessedly, I do have an over-sized diary) and I can say with honesty that my time at KCC Live has been the best year of my life. I have met worldwide famous artists including Little Mix and JLS, I have interviewed former Coronation Street actors and X Factor contestants. I have assisted in fundraising activities include a 12 hour ‘bowlathon’. Yet, the latest string to my bow came in early June when I was granted press access to Manchester festival Parklife, alongside the station manager. Half the time was spent traipsing through the mud in my newly-purchased wellies listening to an array of credible artists, whilst the other half was spent backstage getting a free makeover including hair and makeup and eating free Nandos. My conclusion? I genuinely have the most fun PhD out there!