Meet the community radio hosts

July 18, 2023

Interviews: Elisabeth Marie

Pictures: Ben Kelly

While a love of the sound of your own voice will help with a radio career, it’s a love of the form itself that propelled these community radio hosts into the mostly volunteer-run side of their industry.

Lauren ‘Davo’ Davidson
Fresh 92.7 – Breakfast Show

Why is community radio important?
Community radio is so important because Adelaide gets overlooked so often that it is nice to have a place where we are so hyper-local and so hyper-focussed. Similar to CityMag as well! You’ve got your big networks that are Australia wide, but it is so nice to have something that is totally Adelaide local.

What does an average work day look like for you?
We get in bright and early at quarter to six in the morning, usually followed by a lot of caffeine, and we plan our show. We do our show for four hours, so until 10 o’clock, and then usually head to Nano’s for breakfast together. Then I do a lot of copywriting, scripting and editing, and a lot of videos for social media as well. We usually knock off around 2:30pm.

That’s pretty good timing. You have the whole afternoon. You can nap.
And we do! 4:30am wakeups – absolutely we fit a nap in there.

What is the worst part of your job?
The 4:30am alarm. But that has to be the only thing. I have always loved radio, ever since I was a little girl. I remember Triple M came to my primary school and I got to be on air for a hot second and I thought it was the best thing in the world. I caught the bug.

What is the best part of the job?
The best part is making people laugh. Making people’s day a little bit better. If you’ve said a story or made a joke that people can relate to, it can make them feel a little less alone or put a smile on their face.

What is a song you wish nobody would ever request again?
‘Cotton Eye Joe’.

Does that get requested a lot?
It used to be on our Windback playlist and Tayla (Mezzino, Driving You Home) made sure it got taken off because she had had a gutful. Nobody actually likes that song unless they’re dancing to it at The Woolshed at 3am.

What’s your favourite song or musician of all time?
Personally, I’m an emo through and through. But I work at an EDM station, so I must say my favourite DJs are FISHER, Dom Dolla and Fred Again. If I’m not listening to them, I’m listening to old-school emo. I love a bit of Fallout Boy.



Chris Alderman
Vision Australia – News

Why is community radio important?
It’s important for our audience as it is a serious need to cater to the vision-impaired. So, reading for people who can’t see, or can’t read, or can’t read in English.

How did you get into community radio?
A few years back, I was talking to someone at the gym and they mentioned that they were involved with Vision Australia and suggested that I should join too because they thought I have a ‘good radio voice’. I made a phone call, went in and had a trial and have been doing it since.

What does your usual day look like?
Most of the time I’m reading on the radio, but you need to have a pre-read to familiarise yourself with the material. I read for various audiences and some of them have a very international flavour, so you need to have your head around what you’re saying. You also need to pick and choose what content you’re reading so it’s not all stories on the same topic. One story about Donald Trump is more than enough.

What sort of materials are you reading?
I do the National Press Club, which is stories from The Australian and The Australian Financial Review. It can be a little bit dry at times, but it’s important to some people. I also do The Guardian International and Time Magazine, which focus on whatever is the worldwide news at the time. I sometimes do Crikey or The Conversation – they tend to be a little bit more politically charged, and it can be a bit difficult because you may be reading something that you don’t fundamentally agree with, but you have to find a way to convey it. I also do the Northern Territory round up which is very eclectic – there is always the obligatory ‘snake in a toilet’ or ‘crocodile in the pool’ story.

What is the worst part of your volunteering?
I fixed the issue of the bad coffee in the break room by buying a new coffee machine and giving it to them. But in all seriousness, the most difficult part is reading something that has real emotional impact and trying to remain reserved. I have five kids, so if I am reading something about a family who has been wiped out in a natural disaster or something terrible like that it’s hard not to let that affect you in some way.

What is the best part?
Undoubtedly it is the people. They are just so sweet, generous and intelligent. It doesn’t matter what you do in your paid gig, when you get there, you’re just another volunteer. You talk to people from all kinds of backgrounds – you find common interests with every person there.



Tom Holmes
Fresh 92.7 – Breakfast Show

How did you get into community radio?
Me and Callum (Leaney, Breakfast Show) just started a podcast together in Year 12 and we thought, ‘Hey, why don’t we make some money out of this?’ The podcast market is so saturated that we approached Fresh and spent years and years volunteering there until eventually we got a show, and then another show, and now we’re doing Breakfast.

Was the Breakfast show the goal?
It was the goal, and now we are just trying to go up and up and see how far we can go.

And you’re going to stick together?
Yeah, we are a packaged deal. He is my husband.

Thank you.

What’s the best thing about community radio?
The best thing is when we go to all these different events that we host and just the amount of people from all different neighbourhoods across South Australia, and knowing Fresh and listening to Fresh for years and years. We are still fairly new to Fresh, so it’s cool to have these people accept us into their station that have been listening for 20-plus years. They just accept us.

What is the worst part of your job?
The early mornings are rough. I don’t think I will ever get used to early mornings. I am not a morning person.

What is the best part of your job?
Connecting with people, and, and this sounds a bit up my arse, but when you’re out and someone recognises you, it gratifies what I am actually doing.

What does an average day look like for you?
After the show, I do a lot of audio editing for our show. I get stuff prepared for the next day. But I am done by around 1 or 2 pm. Even though the early mornings suck, we do get to leave early, which is nice.

What’s a song that you hope nobody will ever request again?
‘Keep on Moving’ by Patrick Topping. The worst part is that on radio you can’t have these polarising views, so I have to pretend to like it.

Am I allowed to publish that you hate it and try to get people to stop asking for it that way?
Yes! I am trying the most subtle ways I can to get rid of that song. I can get you to say it for me.

What’s your favourite song? Do you like EDM music?
It wasn’t really my scene until I started at Fresh, but now I really love it. I know he is so popular, but Fred Again. He just keeps coming out with more and more hits and every time it’s great.



Cheryl Crabtree
CoastFM, Radio Adelaide, RadioKSA

Why do you love community radio?
I feel like I’m giving back to the community, and it also gives me a fix for my love of all things Australian music. I am an accountant by day, and a radio announcer by night.

What are some of the shows you present?
I do a show on Radio Adelaide called Up Down Under, which is all Aussie music. I will quite often focus on one artist and do an interview with them and play their influences, their favourite song and, of course, their music. I also have a show on KSA called Rockaholics, and I honestly don’t know how it works, because I’m co-hosting with a seventy-year-old man who, I kid you not, looks just like John Lennon. All he wants to play is The Beatles and ’60s music and I’m the ’80s rock chick who only wants to play Cold Chisel and Jimmy Barnes. On Coast FM I do the Saturday night After Party starting from midnight, and I get to play whatever I like!

How did you get into community radio?
It was actually another school mum. We went to a Support Act fundraiser and she got into the subject that she was in radio once and I told her that I had always wanted to be on radio. She said she knew someone who could teach us. We started in a tiny station in McLaren Vale called Triple Z and we got some training and did a show called The Z Girls. Even though I loved it, it wasn’t my community, so I moved to Radio Adelaide and the rest is history.

What are the best and worst parts of your volunteering?
The worst part is the first five minutes of the midnight shift because it is so late and I am dreading staying awake, but then I get into it and the next three hours and fifty-five minutes are the best. All of a sudden it hits 3am and I don’t want to go home!

Have you ever had someone request a really terrible song?
Thankfully, I have found that my listeners understand the type of music that we play and will always request something suitable. They probably also know that if they ask for something bad, I will just say no and tease them!

What is your all-time favourite music you sneak into every broadcast?
You don’t need to ask me twice to play some Cold Chisel or The Angels.



Virginie ‘The Frenchie’ Forest
Radio Adelaide – The Range

Why do you think community radio is important?
Being a foreigner and embracing my new country and culture, it made sense to join community radio because it’s all about the people. What used to frustrate me when I arrived in Adelaide was when I was sharing my story, people always said to me, ‘Why Adelaide?’ They were always surprised. That would frustrate me because, to me, Adelaide is a wonderful place to live, and I get to talk about all the things happening here and share what is special.

What brought you to community radio?
When I was a little girl, I used to play and put on my own radio show. When I moved to Adelaide, I lived not far from the Radio Adelaide station. I would see the logo and thought that could be fun to try. It was so close to where I was living, but I was too busy. Then I got made redundant at the beginning of COVID. Sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise. I thought, ‘You should take the course. You have time and why not, it could be fun’. Long story short, after my course they offered me a music program about local music. Being from France, I was worried about my accent, but what I thought was a problem was an asset on radio. Because people can’t see your face or the way you dress, you get noticed for your tone of voice and your personality and, in my case, my accent absolutely makes my voice stand out. Sometimes we think something is a weakness, but actually, you can turn it into an asset.

What do you love community radio?
It’s very diversified and you feel like you’re being seen. It’s a good place to meet so many interesting people. For most people, it isn’t their everyday job.

How do you go about your broadcasting session?
I have to prepare my show during the week and research the songs I want to play. I play about 32 tracks so I need to research during the week what original music I want to play, with at least 20 per cent being local artists. Tuesdays I arrive about an hour and a half before my show and then I start by uploading the playlist. Then I have to write my scripts. Because it’s a long show, at about 4pm – almost the middle of the show – I pick a topic and I talk about it for 20 minutes or so. It doesn’t have to be music related, it can be to do with Adelaide or South Australia.

What’s the worst part of your job?
My worst nightmare is technical problems when I’m doing my show live and by myself. I’m producer, broadcaster, everything, so when something goes wrong in the studio, it’s just me.

What’s the best part of your job?
As a foreigner, to be a part of the community. I have this feeling, like, I don’t know if I’m making a difference, but at least I’m here in Adelaide and I’m not just taking – I’m giving back to the community by promoting local artists. I feel connected to the world in my new country.



Tayla Mezzino
Fresh 92.7 – Friday Drive & Weekend Breakfast

Why do you think community radio is important?
Community radio is so important because it allows you to learn on the job and without any experience, which is so important for people who are younger and don’t really know what they want to do with their lives. They let you come through their doors without any experience and just give you a shot.

How did you get into community radio?
When I was in Year 9, we had a week of work experience. I loved listening to Fresh when I was younger – I have always loved dance music – so I thought, ‘Why not? I’ll message Fresh and see if I could do my work experience with them’. And they did let me in all the way back in 2009. In 2018, I was working as a remedial massage therapist and I wasn’t filling my days and a friend said I should go back and volunteer at Fresh in my spare time. I thought it was a great idea, so I did, and I’ve been here ever since.

What does an average work day look like for you?
I am actually the promotions coordinator, the street team coordinator and the daytime announcer. So, say we have a street team event on, I will come into the office and go pack the street team car with whatever we need before heading out to whatever amazing place we are at that day. Then I set up all our outdoor broadcasting stuff and we can do our show from different locations. If I’m not out and about, I can come into the station and broadcast from there, listening to music and reading all the texts on the text line. It’s always a fun day.

What’s the worst part of your job?
Doing so many different jobs. Because we are a community radio station, a lot of us have to pick up the slack, because there aren’t as many people working here. The hardest part is being pulled in a million different directions.

What is the best part?
The people. The people are the best people you can find, and they’re all in one place. Also, all the music and events and fun we have. I wake up in the morning and I am always so excited to get to work.

What is a song you don’t want anybody to ever request again?
We just got it deleted out of our playlist because I was infuriated that it was even in there – Cotton-Eyed Joe. I was like, ‘Why are we playing this?’ (Tayla begins crankily muttering the lyrics in tune.) It annoyed me so much that I removed it completely and now nobody can play it even if they wanted to.

What’s your favourite album or singer or song?
I love drum and bass, so I have to say Wilkinson – he is my all-time favourite. At the end of last year, I got to interview him over Skype and it made my life.



Callum Leaney
Fresh 92.7 – Breakfast Show

Why do you think community radio is important?
I think it ‘ really important because, unlike commercial radio, it gives you more opportunities to try out experimental things and try new ideas that you wouldn’t get in a more rigid system. You can be more of yourself from the get-go and work with that and see how that plays into how you want to be in the future. It is very important for up-and-comers to establish themselves.

How did you get into community radio?
I started a podcast with Tom (Holmes, Breakfast Show), who is on the brekkie show with me now. We started a podcast in our last year of high school that was just for our mates and it sucked. We got so much validation from our mates who loved it no matter how bad it was. It made us pretty cocky so we approached Fresh all arrogant like, ‘We want to do this and we want to do the breakfast show!’ And they were like, ‘What the hell? What is this and who are you?’ So yeah, we came in pretty hot and they brought us in to do demos and put us on the path. Then we did a bunch of odd jobs, like telling people not to swear when they go on air, before eventually getting a small show on Sundays and then doing the Drive Home. We started cocky, but it’s all we ever wanted and now we are here. In our early demos we would say, ‘Hey, it’s Tom and Callum with your daily breakfast show’ and the producers were, like, ‘What the hell is this? You’re claiming that you’re on breakfast and you’re not, and you can’t be making such a bold claim’. So it’s lovely to be here now.

What is the worst part of your job?
Being in the city, I spend so much money on lunch. It has destroyed my bank account because I am in the food hotspot.

What is the best part of your job?
Doing the interviews with people that I have admired for a long, long time. We got to interview Flume earlier this year and I have absolutely adored him since I was a kid. Being able to do that sort of stuff and connect with those people I really admire is amazing.

What’s a song that you never want requested ever again?
For the most part, people have good taste. There is this one really annoying song called ‘Here’s Johnny’ that I don’t like that much. But overall, the Fresh family has pretty good taste and I don’t mind playing their suggestions.

What’s your all-time favourite music?
I do love electronic music and I think I love it even more being at Fresh. Being able to play some of the more obscure stuff at breakfast is pretty fun.

What does an average work day look like for you?
We will get in at 5:45am. We do the show and then it is off to get food. Then we will make promos and put together the best bits for socials and stuff. There are also heaps of meetings and interviews.



Gwen Phillips
Vision Australia – True Crime

How did you get into community radio?
I retired about 10 years ago, and of course, I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing. I have an arts background and also used to teach studio, television and radio techniques. When you are volunteering, you need to find something that you are passionate about, and as my partner always says, I can talk the hind leg off a horse.

What programs do you present?
I put my hand up for everything, so I have done a variety. Regularly, I present a half-an-hour true-crime story. I try to get a variety and get lots of Australian true crime in there. I buy publications and read some historical true crime stories from the 1800s, but also crimes that have occurred in the last century. I also co-present Food Connections where we talk about food, our experiences and the world of cuisine.

Why do you think community radio is important?
You’re filling out a service and communicating with people and it is great that Vision Australia presents a variety of content and publications for the community. It is great for both vision-impaired people and also for people who may understand and speak English but their reading skills in the language aren’t as established, so they can read along with the paper or magazine in front of them and learn that way.

What is the worst part of your volunteering?
Nothing at all.

What is your favourite part about volunteering?
I love the variety that comes with working at Vision Australia. I also love all the off-the-cuff stuff and doing live broadcasts.



Phillip Virgo
5MBS – Classical

How did you get into community radio?
About 10 years ago I started to feel a bit guilty because I had been listening to 5MBS for years without paying to be a member. So really, it was guilt that made me sign up to be a member, and on the membership form, it asked if I had ever thought about becoming a radio presenter and I had a lightbulb moment. Now, I have been doing three or four programs a week ever since.

Why is community radio important?
It’s important because we provide emerging classical musicians in Adelaide with their first, and sometimes, only opportunity to be broadcast.

What does your average day look like?
I, as a presenter, produce all my programs, write the scripts, pre-record evening programs or travel to the station and broadcast live. It’s all done myself, which is good. You don’t have anybody telling you what to do. Well, we do have the guidelines, but I’m famous for ignoring them.

Why do you love community radio?
I enjoy sharing my vast music collection with the rest of the world. The collection fills up most of my house because I have been interested in music my entire life.

What programs do you present?
I work across three daytime classical music programs. From six o’clock onwards there are programs of local concerts where we broadcast concerts held at Elder Hall and other venues. These concerts are often featuring young, emerging artists. We also have a two-hour chamber music show that I often do on Monday nights.

What is the best part of community radio?
Every now and then, you put together a really fabulous program and the satisfaction of knowing that an audience has enjoyed it is the best part. Also, friendships that I have made over the last 10 years.

Do you have a favourite artist?
The chamber music of Brahms is probably my favourite, but, hey, Beethoven, Mozart – you can’t go wrong. I just love great music.



Kate Johnson
Radio Adelaide – Breakfast Show

Why do you like community radio?
I like it because it’s a rush. When that microphone goes on and you know everyone’s listening – well, probably just my mum, but still – what you say matters.

Why is community radio important?
It gives a local voice. Radio is an industry where you can just get people from Melbourne and broadcast across the country. These Adelaide voices give people a platform, talking about things that don’t make it in the news. Things that seep through the cracks.

What does your average day look like?
I go in and I need to hype myself up. There are security cameras there, so maybe they’ve seen, but I just dance. For the show, I have four interviews lined up. Then I find the most interesting articles of the week on The Conversation and then I just like to talk to all these professors and people that are really passionate about these things. You can just ask these people questions about the thing they’ve been studying.

Who’s your favourite person to interview or your favourite topics?
I love interviewing psychologists cause it’s a free psych session. Also, musicians and artists because they’re so passionate and you get a sort of glimpse inside their brain.

What is the best part of your job?
Being able to connect with so many people and not having to go through the getting-to-know-you phase.

What is the worst part? I had a bit of a stalk on your profile – is it actually the ventilation?
I knew you were going to ask me that. I was sitting at a café this morning, having a toastie and I was, like, ‘Well it’s the early starts’. But I’m not going to do the cop-out answer. I’m going to do the other answer: There’s no beach at a radio studio.

Have you tried to get them to do an outside broadcast?
You can’t do it on a beach cause of the audio and the wind. Hence the ventilation issue.

What is your favourite song or musician?
I love Taylor Swift. My answer will always be that. I think she’s a genius. I think that her songs can apply to any situation. There are so many layers, depending how deep you want to get.


This article was first published in print Issue 38 of CityMag, released in February 2023.

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