Giving local people the opportunity to work in radio broadcasting is what ALL FM is good at. Len Grant trudges through last week’s show and ice to visit their Mill Street Venture Centre studios and meet one of their most successful new talents.
Ahmed Koroma is quiet and unassuming – more John Peel than Chris Evans – as we sit in the corner of the production office. How, I wondered, did he first get involved with the community radio station?
It was two years ago that I answered an advert in The Advertiser inviting applications for a radio production course at MANCAT [now The Manchester College]. I applied and, well, I got accepted. The course included technical skills like mixing the decks and compiling your programme but it was really about how to communicate effectively. Generally, in everyday life, it improves your communication. Before I would never have been able to talk in front of a crowd, but now I can.
After the course Ahmed was part of the outside broadcast team covering the New Islington Festival in 2008. (I was there too, and remember photographing him doing his vox pop interviews with the party-goers). Shortly afterwards he developed his own show – African Taxi – and has been broadcasting every week since.
I am actually a taxi driver here in Manchester and I am from Sierra Leone in Africa, so it made sense to put it all together. The show is just like a real taxi ride: it’s open to everyone and as we are going round I play you some music and chat to make you feel welcome. I bring Africa to Manchester and I take Manchester to Africa.
In fact, Ahmed’s show goes further than Africa. The internet allows ALL FM’s output to be heard worldwide and this taxi driver has a regular followers in Australia and the US.
I do more than two hours research for each show and, on air, I interview many musicians and managers from Sierra Leone. Although I play music from different African countries, most is from my country and that, I know, makes the people back home very happy. Until recently Sierra Leone had suffered civil war for many years and still the people there are very traumatised, so hearing their celebrities on the radio is a positive experience.
Ahmed left his home country 16 years ago but now, since the civil was has ended, returns each year and has plans for the future.
There is an african proverb that says, ‘a toad likes water but not when the water is boiling’. Well, the water was really boiling when I was in Sierra Leone so I had to jump to a safe place and I found myself here. But now, with my business partners, I have set up a recording studio back home and one day I hope to start a radio station there too. Maybe I’ll call it ALL FM in honour of the station that has given me a great start.
As well as radio presenter and real life taxi driver, Ahmed is a the social secretary for the Sierra Leone community in Manchester and has set up a football team – open to all nationalities – which is about to reach the top of their league.
African taxi can be heard on ALL FM 96.9 every Wednesday at 12 noon.
Listen again on the ALL FM website.