Chris Phillips, Managing Director, Wycombe Sound

Chris has been the (unpaid) Managing Director of Wycombe Community Radio CIC since 2013 and is still passionate about it.

How did you come to be in this role as Managing Director? My passion for radio started many years ago. In 1967 I set up the High Wycombe hospital radio service. However, after about 40 years, the hospital removed the bedside units on the assumption that people would use their mobile phones to access TV and radio.

Following that decision by Wycombe Hospital, I got in touch with Pippa and Keith, the other 2 original directors, and we set up a company called Wycombe Community Radio CIC.

In 2013 we secured our first Restricted Service Licence (RSL), which can only run for four weeks, with another in 2014 whilst we waited for Ofcom to invite applications to provide a community radio station in our area.

We called the radio station “Wycombe Sound”.

In 2015 we were very excited to hear that Ofcom was inviting applications for a community licence for the High Wycombe area and we put in an application.

Six months later, in 2016, we learned that we had been successful in obtaining a five-year licence and Wycombe Sound became a permanent feature, broadcasting on the frequency of 106.6 FM.

In 2013 I had bought the building next door to Wycombe Sound’s current studio as premises for my other business, the Jackie Palmer Stage School and Academy. In 2015 the Academy needed extra accommodation and so expanded into the next door building, Bridge House, which is now the current home of the Radio Station.

What was your biggest challenge in setting up the radio station?  The biggest challenge was funding and this continues to be a challenge. The premises and power and heat do not cost the Radio Station anything as it is housed in spare space in the Academy’s premises and so it provides a large chunk of funding to the radio station each year. The Radio Station does get a fair bit of income from advertising. Even though it is run by volunteers, there are other expenses – cost of PRS (music) and internet licences, rent for the transmitter, and bought-in material for broadcast, such as the travel news.

What are the station’s broadcasting hours? The plan has always been to be live on air from 7 am to 7 pm. The station’s licence dictates that we must broadcast “as live” for 15 hours per day (but that can include pre-recorded material) – there are many occasions when we broadcast live material after 7 pm, which is thanks to the input of volunteers.

The prompt for setting up Wycombe Sound was the closure of hospital radio, so can hospital patients now listen to Wycombe Sound? Yes – Wycombe Sound is available on ‘Radio Player’, ‘Smart speaker’ and the internet as well as on 106.6 FM so patients in Wycombe Hospital can listen.

What do you enjoy most? The whole thing.  I had been hankering to do this since about 1970. I initially started broadcasting for the BBC in 1979 at Pebble Mill in Birmingham on an attachment arranged by my department. On completion of the attachment I worked at weekends for BBC Radio Oxford. Having officially retired from the BBC at 50 in 1989 I was able to continue at Radio Oxford for next 15 years. Now I present for 3 hours on Friday afternoons on 106.6 FM and this is the highlight of my week.

However I am delighted that the station is successful – this is down to the input of a team of talented and dedicated people (Pippa, Keith, Luke, Bob) – an amazing team of people. My hope is that we can make the station sustainable in its own right.  I am currently working on a project to move the transmitter from its current site to reduce rental costs.

I do have some concerns about relocating when the current site gets demolished as part of the Local Plan for town centre redevelopment, but I have a plan for handling that.

Another thing that I’m looking forward to is that Ofcom will be inviting applications for DAB radio licences. We have joined forces with Marlow FM to set up a company (South Bucks Digital) which will become active once DAB licences do become available.

There have been lots of challenges along the way but I always like a challenge.

Could the station use more volunteers? Yes – there are loads of volunteers who come in to do their programmes, but we always have space for more to work alongside and with presenters to help with the programme production, administration and seeking advertisers reduce the load on people like Pippa who does so much.

Any new projects? We have set up a charity called Wycombe Sound Education. One my passions is to see people develop and succeed. I have seen many instances of this happening with students of the Academy where, through the training we provide, they have gone on to further education and enjoyed success in whatever career they have chosen.   I believe we can do more through Wycombe Sound Education where not only can young people achieve but find out their strengths for themselves and this doesn’t need to be academic.

The new charity will deliver a course called Employment FM, which aims to help youngsters and/or people who have lost confidence through redundancy/ job loss. I am really looking forward to seeing that project make a difference to those people and help them achieve their potential.

For more information about Wycombe Sound please see its website, which includes contact details if you’d like to volunteer.

Find out more about volunteering as a trustee, and browse some of the roles available in Bucks.

Updated on October 28, 2020

Image courtesy of St Francis's Children Society