FreshAir - Edinburgh University


 Where is FreshAir?


Fresh Air is Edinburgh's student-run radio station. We broadcast 24 hours a day, with live shows throughout term time.

Studio Email
Studio Phone
0131 622 6667
Office Email
Fresh Air
c/o Societies’ Centre
60 Pleasance

About FreshAir

Fresh Air is Edinburgh's student-run radio station. We broadcast 24 hours a day, with live shows throughout term time. Fresh Air is open to absolutely anyone, student or non-student, and offers a wide-range of areas to participate in for everyone. We welcome everybody to get involved and to join the station. If you fancy joining, you will be trained in the studio, have access to its facilities throughout the year, be able to join any team within the station and of course be able to have your very own show on the station – so long as you submit a valid demo and show proposal form. All aspects of this are clearly explained when you join the station. We are a fully-working station and so there are lots and lots of things to help out with if you want… Teams and opportunities include: Production Presenting Advertising and marketing Music (reviewing new music, interviewing artists and gigs, creating playlist) News and features Publicity Fundraising Technical and new for this year, the Arts and Speech team So, hope to see you soon! For any more information about the main broadcast please email

Station History


Edinburgh University students Robert Barrow and Eric Wilkinson set off on the epic adventure that became Fresh Air FM. In the autumn of 1990, the two became interested in radio broadcasting and production, and met when Robbie carried out a survey to gauge support for a student radio station within Edinburgh University. A partnership which was to last over two years quickly developed, and they formed the society Edinburgh Student Radio. The initial aim was to set up a permanent station. By the beginning of the following academic year, they realized that this was perhaps overly ambitious as a starting point, and instead focused on the idea of a short term broadcast, taking advantage of the Radio Authorities new RSL scheme. With support from the Edinburgh Enterprise Centre, ESR recruited prospective presenters and ran a training course with the help of John Gray, formerly of BBC Scotland. The team also identified a site from which the broadcast could be run and, eventually, a name for the station: Fresh Air FM (other suggestions included Outburst Radio, UFM and plain old Edinburgh Student Radio). The final hurdle, finance, was cleared by the procurement of a grant from the Edinburgh University Development Trust to supplement advertising income: together this represented sufficient funding to cover the costs of a two-week RSL broadcast. The launch of Fresh Air FM (Autumn 1992) Fresh Air FM was duly launched on 3rd October 1992. As one of the first student stations broadcasting in the UK on freely-radiating FM, and the first in Scotland, Fresh Air was bound to attract the attention of the media. The Sunday Times, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News ran pleasant previews immediately prior to the October 1992 broadcast, but perhaps inevitably within three weeks, the Sun was painting a somewhat different picture: “Oh ****! Roy swears on air: Foul-mouthed Roy let rip with a string of swear words when he got confused changing records. Thousands of Edinburgh University students heard the jock blurt out: f***, c*** and b****** The listening figures may not be entirely accurate, but the quotes regrettably are. However in many ways, it did not matter what the broadcast sounded like: the fact that Fresh Air FM was broadcasting at all, and the fact that it covered its costs, was cause for celebration. In practice, despite the bad press, some good quality radio was put out on the airwaves during Fresh Air's first two weeks, with 82% of 307 listeners polled rating the quality of the broadcast as ‘good or ESR seized the opportunity presented by the Euro summit in Edinburgh in December 1992 to run a second, shorter RSL broadcast, using the name Summit FM, under the captaincy of Eric Wilkinson. The station won an impressive array of grants from the likes of Scottish Enterprise, Scottish and Newcastle and the Prince’s Trust, and was the only ESR broadcast to make a profit. However some lessons from the October broadcast had clearly not been learnt. The Radio Authority received a complaint about gratuitous use of the words f***, and b**** during one particular show, broadcast under the guise of poetry. The Authority were not amused, but let Fresh Air off with a rap over the knuckles and a stern reminder of the legal requirement to keep recordings of all material broadcast for 42 days after transmission. Bigger broadcasts, bigger debt (1993-1995) A team led by Stephen Stafford kept the flame burning through 1993, and during that time the station developed a relationship with Edinburgh University Settlement, which was able to provide office space and financial help. Come January 1994 Fresh Air was back with its most ambitious broadcast to date (twenty four hours a day for three weeks), studio space in the luxury of the Pleasance and a new transmitter site. Still the station had to hire in most of the equipment, and raised funds through a mixture of grants, donations, events and commercial advertising. One disadvantage of the new studio arrangements was the need to hire an expensive link to connect the studio to the transmitter. Overall this broadcast failed to cover its costs by a considerable margin. Having proved that a longer broadcast was possible, at least from an organisational standpoint, Rebecca Simmonds and her committee turned up Fresh Air to full power 24 hours for 28 days – from the beginning of Freshers Week in October 1994. From modest beginnings, Edinburgh Student Radio was now a large society running a substantial business operation. This broadcast, despite rather last-minute organisation, was very successful. The remainder of the year saw the purchase of broadcast studio equipment with the help of a capital grant from Edinburgh University Students Association, meaning that future RSL broadcasts would no longer be encumbered with the considerable cost of studio hire. The next RSL took place in Autumn 1995, and had its fair share of problems, both financial and technical. Famously, the transmitter mast collapsed three days into the broadcast during a storm, and the station went off air for twelve hours. One area of improvement at this time was the high-profile, professional looking station marketing campaign organised by Chris Cooke. In the end the station pulled through and did succeed in recruiting a lot of young new talent. Broader horizons (1996) By the end of 1995 it was clear that it was no longer possible for a small team to manage the entire station. Accordingly the ESR committee was restructured to form a larger team with more clearly defined roles, catching up with the huge expansion of the station that had taken place over the previous two years. It had also become clear that to effectively sell advertising, the station had to be presented as a professional advertising medium. Largely as a result of Advertising Manager Olly Dale hard work, the next broadcast in February-March 1996 was financed largely by commercial advertising from local businesses in Edinburgh. This shift away from a reliance on grants, events and donations as a source of income was pivotal to the future development of the station, now being headed by Kim Karam. In the months after the Spring 1996 broadcast, the committee started to consider how the station might reach beyond Edinburgh University. After several committee members attended the Spring Conference of the newly rejuvenated Student Radio Association in Liverpool, the station decided that it would be advantageous to join forces with other student stations in the UK, and managed to muster the pound required for membership. There was a debate within Edinburgh Student Radio on the future structure and direction of the organisation. The motion: This house believes that Edinburgh Student Radio should seek to obtain an eight year Independent Local Radio licence was defeated by a majority vote after lively discussion. In many ways this was a very successful exercise, as it gave the members an opportunity to participate directly in deciding the future of the station, and forced both members and committee to carefully think through the implications of pursuing a permanent licence, the founding aim of ESR. With the organisation and finance of the station on a firmer footing, the next area of attention was programming. A major step forward was the creation in summer 1995 of Student Radio News (SRN), a sister society to Edinburgh Student Radio, set up by Will Boden and run by Leo Kelion. The dedicated journalists of SRN concentrated on gathering and presenting news and making features for Fresh Air. Over time SRN developed very effective training and identified a news style that blended well with the station predominantly music-based output. Thanks to SRN, Fresh Air FM was one of the few student stations in the UK that had a comprehensive in-house news service. Meanwhile ahead of the February 1996 broadcast, formal auditioning of all prospective presenters was introduced, with individuals submitting show proposal according to an advertised programme schedule. Furthermore a playlist was introduced, designed by Head of Music Alastair Walker to give a musical continuity to the station output that previously had been lacking. One final component was required for the entire October 1996 broadcast. Beer. Lots of it. The entire broadcast was sponsored by McEwan, covering all the RSL costs and providing for the first time a sizeable publicity budget, not to mention 62 cases of Export. The broadcast was hugely successful. For the first time, Fresh Air FM attended Freshers; Fairs at several institutions in the city outside Edinburgh University, and the station ran a one-day Radiothon in aid of Edinburgh Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Through a combination of events such as two highly successful roadshows in Bristo Square and Princes Street, the station raised almost £3,000 in 24 hours. Horsepower the irresistible rise of the BPM bandits During the Autumn 1995 broadcast, dance music began to play an important role in the programming schedule. A number of guest DJs from Edinburgh club scene were invited to appear on Fresh Air FM, and immediately attracted a loyal listenership that had not previously had any interest in the station. The station also began to get more adventurous and more successful with the organisation of events: having hosted several successful Tartan Amoebas ceilidh nights in 1994 and 1995 and run a groundbreaking but ultimately unsuccessful hip-hop club Doggystyle in Autumn 1995, the station held Hark at Teviot in January 1996. Hark was a fashion show and club night rolled into one, and featured a host of top club DJs from the Edinburgh scene. While the event lost money, it was very well attended, boosted the credibility of the station and set a precedent for the station’s closer involvement with the club scene over subsequent broadcasts in February and October 1996. By the time of Fresh Air FM February 1997 broadcast the whole weekend was given over to dance music. The DJs loved it and the punters loved it – the phones were buzzing. The station also had its own fortnightly club, Reformation, run by Ed Ridley at the Honeycomb. As for the launch party at the Honeycomb, with packed Reformation night immediately afterwards I honestly can't remember. That good. The best f****** conference says Xfm's Sammy Jacob (April 1997) The Student Radio Association Spring Conference took place 4-6th April 1997 after six months of planning. The biggest SRA conference ever with 250 student delegates and dozens of music and media professionals in attendance, the event was universally judged a huge success. A Friday night traditional haggis supper followed by Edinburgh’s premier ceilidh group, the Robert Fish Band helped to break the ice. After a packed day of seminars, workshops, free CDs and our very own substitute Grand National in Bristo Square, Saturday was one huge party night, with the Supernaturals, Stereophonics and Burger Queen all playing their part. The spirit of Fresh Air FM was there in abundance. Sammy Jacob from Xfm was effusive in his praise of Fresh Air FM's foray into conference management. The best f****** conference I have ever been to, he told the assembled delegates in the magnificent surroundings of the neo-gothic debating hall in Teviot Row House. Quite chuffed we were, to be honest. Then we had to clear up. T in the Park 1997 – probably the biggest RSL in the UK ever! At the invitation of Sub City in Glasgow, Fresh Air FM ran the Edinburgh end of an ambitious three-site RSL broadcast for the T in the Park festival in summer 1997. Together the two stations mounted a major outside broadcast operation at the T in the Park site near Perth. With generous sponsorship from Philips Consumer Communications, we were able to record interviews on minidisc, edit them in the on-site editing suite and send them via ISDN to the Glasgow and Edinburgh studios. There interviews and features were blended with a play list showcasing the extraordinary diversity of music at T in the Park, most of which were bands and artists Fresh Air FM had been plugging for months or years. The theme of the Student Radio Association Conference hosted by Fresh Air FM was Professional Student Radio. The T in the Park broadcast was just that. Student Radio Goes Permanent In the second half of 1997 the station went through another period of reorganisation, so that the some of the huge task of running the station was shifted from the over-worked committee. Given the outrageously high charges for FM RSL broadcasts, particularly those for songwriters’ and musicians’ royalties, raising finance continues to be the biggest difficulty facing the station. An exciting development is the recent trial of low-power long term AM licences at a couple of student stations in the UK. These allow low-cost, year-round broadcasting and the indications are that such licences are likely to become more freely available in the near future. The chances are that Fresh Air AM could feasibly happen. With increased profile gained by broadcasting 12 months a year, Fresh Air could be there as an underground force to be reckoned with. This has been a long term goal of the Fresh Air FM Committee for 2 years now and preparations are still taking place for the station to be THE word of Edinburgh's alternative culture for 12 months of the year, 24 hours a day. Acid House From the beginning of 1998 it was clear the face of Student radio was changing. Dodgy presenters playing Smith's B-Sides were now officially old hat. Fresh Air’s October Broadcast was predominately filled by clubs bringing their hedonistic experience to the airwaves. The quality of underground alternative music along with a successful club style fly posting campaign launched the station into the eye of young people across Edinburgh. With the help of DJ's from clubs such as Manga, Sublime and Big Beat the student broadcasters were gathering skill and knowledge of Edinburgh's progressive music scene. During this time there was a buzz excitement in the Air at Fresh Air towers. Acid house and rave culture came to this island in 1988. Finally ten years later, a similar revolution was happening north of the border. This city on the East Coast had become turned on to dance music. No one can ever explain that feeling when something new is happening, it is as if someone had been putting something in the water, but in this case it was in the air. Student Radio had changed, and it was for the good of everyone involved. Smashy and Nicey (Marsha Shandur, 1999) Despite the massive underground success of what was achieved in 1998, there was still room for improvement. Efficient management and good organisation would turn this monster into a force to be reckoned with. By mixing the high quality musical output with well-presented music driven daytime shows; Fresh Air was catering for a niche in the market. Station manager at the time, Marsha Shandur said, “Radio 1 do what they do very well, but we didn't want to compete for either those listeners or the ones who were already hooked on local, commercial Smashy and Nicey stations. Marsha's work for the station didn't go unnoticed. Apart from being the face of Fresh Air, she was also awarded Best Female Presenter” at Radio 1's Student Radio Awards. Her enthusiasm for alternative music showed everyone involved in student radio at that time that it was possible to gain mainstream success without compromising musical principles. Beaten at our own game? (1999) A wave of shock and excitement shook Edinburgh with the news that a new local station would cater for the 18-25 market, directly competing for Fresh Air’’s dedicated listeners. It turned out that this ‘alternative’ music station was nothing of the sort, only concentrating its efforts into promoting house music of the lowest common denominator. This aside, it became clear that Fresh Air had always been on the right wavelength. Now the moneymen had moved in and with their minimal knowledge of the underground and succeeded in making the Student Station look like the true sound of alternative Edinburgh. A Fresh Millennium (2000) For 1 week in October 2000, Fresh Air FM hosted Freshers Week Radio”. Orchestrated in conjunction with Edinburgh University Students Association, it was a great success. The programming consisted of listing and feature intensive daytime output that concentrated on helping new university students settle into the city. As a platform for gaining the support of the student body, its impact was immense. For the following 3 weeks, Fresh Air continued to provide an unrivalled mix of new, alternative music that other mainstream stations would never be able to expose. With over 150 members working all year round to make Fresh Air FM's broadcasts better every time, the station is still growing. Every time we go on air we realise what we can do better, how we can widen our audience and how we can make our output sound more professional quotes Billy Bartram, former Station Manager. Over the past year Fresh Air has been increasing the effort that goes into producing news and feature based programs which make the station sound more informative and entertaining. All this whilst still catering for the hardcore alternative music fans. (2001) To celebrate a successful 10 years of student radio, Fresh Air held a birthday party at the Honeycomb on 19th April with the cream of Scottish DJing Talent – featuring appearances from the Jengaheads as well as Guests from Glasgow's "TNT" night, Aberdeen's highly successful Glow and Jungle Nation clubs and Edinburgh Scratch residents Richie Ruftone and Lyley. The night was rammed. Needless to ask the question: Could this represent the changing of Edinburgh student’s habits? Your taste, Our taste - Good taste (The Future) The Fresh Air story has always been one of intermittent periods of excitement centred around RSL broadcasts and events. Profile has always slipped until the next advertising campaign starts. In order to address this issue, the Fresh Air clubs team took positive action by securing a monthly residency at the recently relocated Honeycomb. Following the Tenth Birthday party, “Fresh Air Fat” brang the cream of DJing talent from across the world to perform for a club full of musically intelligent alternative music fans. The music policy didn’t centre on any one style, instead offering an entirely eclectic selection, so there will always be something for everyone. Whatever your taste, our taste, providing good taste.