The Makers:

  • Ash Chalk

It may not always be open to the public but Levels 1-4 is a bustle of activity, collaboration, making and creating. 'The Makers' is an exclusive peek behind the scenes to meet the people that make Peckham Levels and to take a look inside their units. Our conversation with Frankie and Ami of a female led, online, community radio station, founded by Becky Richardson, Ami Bennett and Frankie Wells.

How did become what it is today? 
Frankie: I got made redundant which was the best thing ever. Me and Becky were working together, plugging radio. I had been at a community radio station and me and Becky just had a conversation about what a shame it was that we were losing a space for young people. We’d all been having similar conversations so we said Why don't we do it ourselves?
Ami: Frankie and Becky's main concern was How are we going to get people to come and present shows? And I thought That's going to be the easy bit. And it really was. Because there are less women in radio and less diversity, you stick together and look out for one another. I've always found in my career that for the most part, women are really good at lifting one another up. And because of that you forge relationships with people and you stay in touch. 
What we wanted to create was something that was really not competitive but that gives you a chance, a safe space to explore creatively, whatever it is you want to do. 
Frankie: And it's been really nice to see our DJs come together and start conversations and work on projects together outside of this.
Why did you choose Peckham Levels? 
Frankie: I'm very passionate about from being from South East London. Becky's from South East, she's lived in Peckham for years and Amy's a fan of it. 
We know about Peckham, we know about the community and we think it's cool, it's got great spaces and great nightlife. We wanted a space where we could support DJs and talk about their ideas but also support them in events they put on and that seemed to be all encompassed at Peckham Levels. It just seemed to be the perfect place. 
Ami: For me, everything was super serendipitous. We were having a freak out about where we were going to go and then that day we got an e-mail from Peckham saying a space has come up. So we came to see it and thought This is absolutely perfect. But also our neighbours. Everybody has been so nice and it's really good to be in the midst of a creative hub. 
Frankie: Sometimes I need help with a mike and I just knock on Brother Film's door and they help me out. I've learned a lot from them. 
Ami: There are lots of other people here who work in music and if ever we needed la cable or something fixing, we know there's a bunch of doors that we can knock on and we would like to think that other people come and do the same to us.
Why did you get into radio? 
Ami: I was that kid who used to make radio shows with a two deck type player. I would sit and listen to the chart and try and record Destiny's Child.I think it's a deeply personal medium. It interacts with people in a way that TV can't because the presenter has to narrate in a way that paints a picture for the audience. I grew up listening to like Sara Cox and Zoe Ball and amazing female broadcasters and I always felt like they were my mates. (Radio) has a really special place in my heart because when I was when I was at school we would listen to Radio 1 in our Design & Technology class. I always thought it would be well cool to work in radio. In the exact same breath I thought I would never be able to do that and for somehow I've managed to do it. I ended up producing shows with Zoe Ball and Sara Cox. I still adore the people that gave me my first legs up in radio and I want to do that for as many other young women as we possibly can. 
Frankie: I love storytelling. I love stories and listening to people's experiences and I think radio is such a nice, intimate and special way of doing that. It keeps growing and it's so exciting because we get to make those changes. I think loads of people thought that Spotify would kill the radio off but people want that human connection.
Ami: A human taste maker having conversation around the music, you can't compare that to an algorithm. 
Frankie: I genuinely think I've gotten cooler since listening to Foundation FM because I know so much about music. 
Ami: Everyone at my work thinks I'm secretly cool. I'm like the least cool person here. 
Frankie: No I take the biscuit on that! I'm so uncool it hurts. 
Ami: This morning I listened to the Beach Boys. 
Frankie: The Beach Boys are my favourite band! I want God Only Knows to be my funeral song. 
Do you guys have any tips for other young people looking to start their own station or business? 
Frankie: Do your research. Research research research. Go and ask as many questions as possible. People are really nice and people want to help you. I 'm so happy when people e-mail me. And there's loads of courses for getting into radio. 
Ami: The benefit of this generation that you can literally throw stuff onto the internet, everything is DIY. My biggest bit of advice is to surround yourself with brilliant people. There's absolutely no way I would have been able to do anything like this if it wasn't for Becky and Frankie. I'm a classic example of someone who goes I'd love to do this but... and I do think that's part of the social conditioning of being a woman. And I always give this advice:
Don't be a dick. Because people remember, the industry is relatively small even though you think it's massive. It never hurts to be nice to people, it doesn't cost anything and everybody is nice somewhere inside.
What are your plans for the future? 
Ami: This time last year did the idea for Foundation FM didn't even exist. 
Frankie: We started talking about it in April and launched in November. We were excited to get on air. 
Ami: In the grand scheme of things we'd like to see some of our talent going on to do bigger and better things. We're under no illusion that our presenters will stay here forever. The Ambition of this place is to ask our presenters - What do you want to do? And then say Cool, how can we make that happen? 
You can listen to here.

Writing and Photography by Ash Chalk