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Spark wins Best Station at Student Radio Awards

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Published on 18 November 2022

Spark volunteers and intern after their win
Spark volunteers and intern after their win

The University of Sunderland’s community radio station Spark has won Gold in the Best Station category at this year’s Student Radio Awards in London. 

Held annually since 1995, the awards serve both to celebrate the diversity of the content and talent in student radio and audio community, and to help launch the next generation of radio talent into the radio industry. 

Judged by nearly 200 industry appointed judges, hundreds of student entries, spanning over a dozen categories, are whittled down to Bronze, Silver and Gold winners. 

The win comes as Spark celebrates its 25th anniversary. 

Richard Berry, Senior Lecturer in Radio at the University of Sunderland and manager of Spark, said: “The station win comes 25 years since my colleague Caroline Mitchell launched a station called Radio Utopia. We changed the name up in 1998 and became Utopia FM, which was our name until Spark launched in 2009. 

“The station award is a culmination of all the hard working, creative, and ambitious students that have worked on the station – many of whom were at the ceremony with their industry employers. This celebrates their contribution but also that of the University, colleagues, and former colleagues who are sadly no longer with us.

Eight talented Sparkies also picked up awards at the ceremony held at Indigo, The O2, on Wednesday evening (November 16):

Chrissy Cameron (Media Production) – Gold, Best Presenter (prize includes presenting on BBC Radio 1 over Christmas) and a Bronze Equality, Diversity and Inclusion award for his documentary It's Okay to Be Ace

Grace Daily (Screen Performance) – Gold, Best Newcomer

Bobbi Bunker (Media Production) – Silver, Best Newcomer

Grace McDonough, Roisin Zerhouni and Lottie Steele (GRL) (MA Radio graduates) – Silver, Best Speech Programming 

Tyler Smith (Journalism graduate, now graduate intern at the University’s mediaHUB) – Bronze, Best Specialist Music Programming 

Lewis Smith (Community Volunteer) – Bronze, Best Presenter

Spark’s coverage of the Sunderland City Runs in May – Silver, Best Event Programming

Dr Caroline Mitchell, Professor of Radio and Participation at the University of Sunderland, said “I’m thrilled for everyone involved in Spark – the awards are a testament to years of developing the station as a space for training, learning and creativity. Radio’s enduring popularity is down to how it is able to connect with people and communities and Spark volunteers do this in spades, on a daily basis. 

“The industry has changed enormously since Utopia’s early days; Spark is effective because it remains true to the participatory spirit of community and student radio and it is always at the cutting edge of using innovative music and speech programming, visualisation and podcasting to keep its young audience involved in radio.”

Spark's winning streak continued at the Community Radio Awards held at Kings House in Bedford on Saturday (November 19):

Arts & Creative Radio of the Year:

Jay Sykes (Graduate and Academic Tutor) - Gold, Hills Are Alive 

Lottie Steele (MA Radio graduate) - Bronze, Be the Sea

Young Person of the Year (Under 25):

Megan Hayward (MA Radio graduate) - Gold 

Station manager, Richard Berry, said: "This has been a great week for all the team at Spark that shows the commitment of all the staff and students who make the station work.

"To win Student Radio Station of the Year on the Wednesday then to go through it all again on Saturday has been a rollercoaster ride.

"I’m so thrilled for the volunteers who picked up awards at the weekend as it recognises their individual contributions to radio, especially as Megan’s award recognises the work that often goes on behind the scenes organizing teams and producing programmes.

"For all this to happen in our 25th year makes it all the more special."

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