What is Swansea? Is it an animal? – Sonar @ SRAcon 2019

The Sonar Massive, well, 5 of us, went on a trip to Swansea for this thing called SRA Con. It was pretty good.

So what is SRA Con? It’s an event where all the UK student radio stations get together to learn more about the radio industry from some of the very best in all walks of radio.

The very first talk was from Stephanie Hirst who is, without doubt, one of the most inspirational people in radio. She took us through her personal journey as a radio presenter and DJ from a teenager to the present day where she now broadcasts from her kitchen. Up to October 2014, she suffered with gender dysphoria and was thinking about taking her own life, but her passion for radio kept her going. Her story received the loudest round of applause of the whole conference, and it was only the first talk!

On each day, there were various ‘breakout sessions’ we could attend, ranging from the technology used to broadcast to presenting a music show.

To top off the first day, there was Demo Factor. Think X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent but for radio demos.

People submitted demo shows and they were played out in front of everyone attending the conference and judged by a live panel featuring names such as Paul Sylvester, Chris North, and Adele Roberts.

Well done to everyone who submitted demos and the eventual winner, Finlay Panting of University Radio York.

Day two was an early start, especially for those who went to the afterparty but a full English to start the day wore off some of the hangovers.

The headline acts for Wednesday were from Radio 1’s Matt Edmundson and Mollie King with producer Aled Haydn-Jones who had been awake on Red Bull all night, with Will Manning and his production team talking us through the making of the Official Big Top 40 in the afternoon.

During the day, there was a talk on social media which will definitely be put to use to help push our station forward to yet more greatness.

Wednesday night was all about the I Love Student Radio Awards. Our humble station and various members were nominated for all sorts of awards, but our biggest achievement was being shortlisted for Most Improved Station.

Our successes at the Student Union Awards only shows what we’re capable of and proves that we can continue to make Radio Sonar bigger and better.

The last day was kicked off by Mike Cass of Virgin Radio who talked us through how he got the host of the biggest radio show in Europe onto a station which had less than half a million listeners and make it a success.

Before we headed off home, there was time for Radio 2’s Trevor Nelson and Helen Thomas to talk about their journeys into radio, and what goes in to producing and presenting a show on Europe’s largest radio station.

If I had one complaint about SRA Con it would be the lack of sports-oriented shows and Radio 4/5 talks, but maybe that’s just me being an old man at heart.

As a first-year (in what seemed like a largely 2nd and 3rd year crowd), it helped me a huge amount into realising what radio is all about, and how to improve my own practices when it comes to producing and presenting. 10/10 I would recommend to ANYONE who is interested in getting involved in radio.

In the words of our very own Ben Winter: We came, we saw, we conga’d. We are the Sonar Massive!

Big thanks Xtreme Radio and Swansea University for hosting an unforgettable event, and to Andy Allen for getting all five of us into his Toyota and keeping us entertained with his music.

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