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RTRFM’s Radiothon

Peter Barr
Peter Barr, RTRFM

Feeding Friendly

Every August, a 10-day whirlwind of love, community and music descends on Perth. Radiothon, RTRFM’s annual tin-rattle, is a celebration of the city’s favourite independent radio station, and for RTR’s breakfast presenter, Peter Barr, it’s an opportunity to show your love by getting loose. ALEX GRIFFIN reports.

As tradition dictates, RTRFM’s Radiothon will kick off with the famous Radiothon Opening Party this Friday, August 15, which sees Northbridge transformed into a four-venue (The Bakery, Ya-Ya’s, The Bird, Flyrite) smorgasbord of local talent including Hideous Sun Demon, Rainy Day Women, Davey Craddock & The Spectacles, Kučka and many more.

Before that kicks off, Out To Lunch and Drivetime will broadcast live from The Bird, prepping you for the goodness to come. “Opening parties are really important,” reckons Barr, “because it announces to the community that a special time of year is on, and that we need your help. What better way to ask for a favour? ‘Hey, we need a solid, here’s a party!’ Pledge hard, but don’t forget to party hard too.”

This year’s drive will be Barr’s 20th since joining the station last century (“I’d say I’ve personally raised $400 million,” he admits with characteristic modesty), yet the challenge of keeping the station alive for another year remains as serious as ever. Though RTR runs more fundraising events than you can shake an antenna at over the course of the year, Radiothon is the most crucial to the station’s survival.

The drive aims to raise the huge sums involved in keeping the station going for a year, covering essential running costs like water, gas and electricity, and to hear Barr tell it, the 10 days of fundraising are a frantic labour of love. RTR usually operates on a skeleton crew of staff and volunteer presenters, but the drive sees the station swell into a frazzled army of people manning phones and taking pledges; basically, forget about community radio stations being all beanbags and afternoon naps in the CD library. “It’s intense work!” Barr exclaims, eyes goggling.

Were RTR simply just a radio station, Radiothon mightn’t be such a big deal, but 92.1 is a frequency that has a special resonance in many hearts across Perth, be it from getting through the working week with Out To Lunch, hearing a different view of current affairs to what you read in mainstream media, or exploring the outer zones of sound in one of the station’s specialty programs. RTR’s dedication to local music is unparalleled. If someone’s recorded a note in Perth over the last two decades, chances are they’ve wound up being played on the station, and events like In The Pines are as much a part of living and loving music in Perth as is complaining about the city being missing out on Splendour sideshows. Barr describes Perth’s oldest FM station in terms that are equal parts key-to-the-city speech and iPhone app relationship horoscope.

“What RTR provides is a truly local perspective for matters that are of importance to us, like the environment, social justice and indigenous matters. It’s is a dear, trusted friend. You may not hang out with this buddy all the time, but you know they are always there, and every time you get together, you’re gonna have a good time! Longevity with a buddy breeds intimacy, positive vibes and good times, and RTRFM is now approaching 40 years of being a good buddy. It’s always been there, and we’ve changed and shifted with the times as we’ve gotten older, but our core belief is that our radio is good and pure, just like our best friends.”

Though membership may bring a range of pretty specky benefits and prizes, donating to Radiothon isn’t just about free CDs and the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from keeping the station rattling along.

“RTR is part of a bigger picture, the community broadcasting sector,” Barr says. “To me, the central message of Radiothon is that this sector is important. I don’t mean to get political, but given the peculiar attitudes of the incumbent federal government to things I hold dear like science, environment, social justice and the community broadcasting sector, RTR and other independent voices around the country need to be nurtured, cherished and supported. We would certainly miss it if it wasn’t here, and I think we’d have a poorer society without it.”

For full Radiothon details, head to rtrfm.com.au.