Womxn in Radio: Cara Pickering [Block Radio]
In the lead up to International Women's day we will be dropping interviews with some of our favourite women who are working behind the scenes in radio, catching up about the projects they are running, their role within the industry and providing womxn with any tips on how to get involved.
Our first edition comes from the wonderful Cara Pickering, aka Momma C, who launched Block Radio last year during lockdown in an effort to provide a space for underrepresented groups and music in Coventry.
We also put together a piece from all the womxn looking at how we can tackle the under representation of minority groups in radio. Find that HERE.
Firstly, can you introduce who you are and what is your role at Block Radio?
Hi, I am Cara Pickering aka Momma C. I set up Block Radio, but in my day job, I am the Visual Arts Programme Producer for UK City of Culture. I grew up in Coventry and have had a weird and wonderful career in dancing, singing, fashion PR and events.
Where did the idea to start Block Radio come from and what's the aim of the station?
Radio is something I have always wanted to do, but just never found a route. After getting a knock back from a local station, I just decided to start my own. Lockdown also proved that there was a need for an outlet. I literally just kept feeling helpless that entire scenes were locked off. It just didn't make sense.
It's early days but, the specific aim of Block Radio is to highlight people, groups and music that don't often get a spotlight in Coventry. Typically its a ska and indie-focused landscape. I also just want people to have a space to experiment, grow, try, fail and succeed. If there is anything the last year has taught us, it's that trying to live in today's society is like a really cruel game of "The Floor is Lava". Most of us are just trying to survive, make it to the other side and make it look graceful. God that's dramatic haha. But it's just how I feel.
How important has a female/ non binary presence been in shaping Block Radio?
Female presence has been super important in shaping Block. The idea was developed with another female DJ and music PR, Ellie who has been amazing the whole way. In fact, most of the strategic conversations are made with my female co-hort. A promotor called Erin from Drink Your Milk has been instrumental in developing our live music offering. If it wasn't for Lockdown 2, we would have had a really amazing, real life event. But you know... Rona.
Any tips you would give to women/ non binary people who are looking to get involved with radio?
I would say, go for it. if it's what you want to do, just drop someone a message. You don't have to be perfect, just do you. Now I am doing it, I wish I had done it sooner.
Do you believe there is enough female/non binary presence on your station?
Do you know what, I would love more female and non binary presence. I have found that the Coventry scene has been very male dominated. Like many places. And as a Black female, I especially feel like there is more work to be done across the board in many industries. I run Block by myself and have a full-time job and a 5 year old, so I am not as far along in my quest for an equal balance in our 6 months as a station as I would like to be. No excuses. It's my reality and the reality is, to make real change you have to put in the work. One of the things we do have is a split of our DJs across the Coventry wards. Ages from 18-60, different socio-economic backgrounds and sexual orientations. I have some plans to diversify our offering in lots of different ways and I am looking forward to uncovering the talent that is out there.
Were you intimidated by a very (white) male dominated presence in the radio and music industry?
Not sure I want to answer this one... But, I am married to a very white and male human and my son is dual heritage, so I feel like I often present myself as a badass haha. Momma has to keep the house in check. But to be honest, all my life, I have been in scenarios where I am the only black girl or one of the few and I just learnt to put my head down and work to stack those credentials. So there is little doubt that can be cast on my ability. I guess that is what has influenced some of my methods of working. No matter what I do, I open doors for others. White, Black or otherwise. We just gotta keep lifting each other up.
How have you developed a sense of community through your online space? What have been the challenges?
In terms of our Residents, we have a lovely facebook group where we chat breeze. But I never expected we would have to go so long without being able to get together. You know, some people don't know each other other than digitally. But I really hope we can build on that in the real world sense. It hasn't been easy. We check in on each other. I always drop them a message when Boris drops a new Tier. And as you know, lately that has been A LOT! They are super supportive of each other and of me. Despite not being around each other, I am so grateful to be able to share this experience with them.
We haven't made it to physical space yet, but it's important to me because not everyone has access to equipment, internet etc. We can also really hone in on that community feel. I fully believe that collaboration is the key to making it over the lava (remember the lava). So a real place to hang, chat and be critical friends feels essential.
Roughly how many shows do you have on the station? What's the ratio like between male and women/nb hosts?
We have around 14 shows. 6 are led by women. 2 are collectives made up of men and women and the rest are either collectives of men or solo male DJs. The weekly shows are mostly men. The women on the station tend to be monthly or fortnightly. I let people choose their own time commitment.
How do you choose who features on your station?
People often send in test shows or proposals. we have a chat and they give it a go. It's quite a no frills, relaxed route to be honest. Sometimes, I contact people for guest mixes too. I don't care how many followers you have. It sounds cheesy, but I wanna hear that passion. That love for whatever it is you want to talk about or play. That realness.
And finally, what's your future vision of the station?
My vision is that Block supports presenters and DJs to just be. To figure out who they are, what direction they want to move in or to just try out new things. Pressure free.
A big thanks to Cara for chatting with us, you can follow Block Radio via the Social's below: