CKCU wishes for funding on 30th birthday

By Andrea Simms-Karp

There is an air of hectic energy in the rooms and studios that make up CKCU FM, Ottawa’s community radio station.

Balls of string, cups of coffee and tubes of paint are strewn around the main office. Charts listing projected totals are pasted to walls; miscellaneous vinyl records hang from the ceiling. Volunteers help set up tables and plug in phones, preparing for what they hope will be a busy two weeks.

It is funding drive time at the station, only this year there is something new to be proud of. CKCU is turning 30 and it wants the city to know about it.

“We’re very excited, and we’re very old,” says Taline Jirian, the station’s sponsorship and fundraising co-ordinator. “It’s going to be a really busy and exciting time for the station.”

Five minutes earlier, Jirian was perched on a table, hanging a list of instructions for the volunteers. Five minutes later, she had whipped out a paintbrush to print the station’s phone number on a large sheet of paper. She was delegating more tasks before the paint even dried.

When she says things are busy, she is not joking.

The drive runs from Oct. 21 to Nov. 6, with the anniversary falling right at the end of the fundraiser. As well as the usual kickoff and finale events, CKCU will be holding an anniversary concert at Barrymore’s Music Hall on Nov. 14.

The station also has an ambitious new goal to meet this year. Instead of aiming to reach $93,100 as they have done in the past – the same number as their frequency, 93.1 – CKCU has decided to raise its mark to $100,000.

The new number reflects increased costs, but also increased support, says Jirian.

“We think that we’re ready, and we think that our listeners are ready,” she says. “We have been very positively supported the last few years.”

Station manager Matthew Crosier says the $100,000 goal can be met, but says predicting the drive total is like “saying that a team is going to win the Stanley Cup before the season starts.”

Regardless, he says he has every confidence in CKCU volunteers.

“I do think if people apply themselves we will succeed. If not, we will kick their asses,” he laughs.

Most often, he says volunteers go above and beyond the call of duty to help keep the station going. He points out the volunteers are usually the ones who understand that the station could actually close down if it doesn’t make its totals.

Bryan Christoff, a volunteer and host of It’s the Bryan Show!, is helping with his seventh funding drive this year. He says the anniversary is proof that the funding drive, and the station, is doing its job.

“It’s impressive,” he says. “You don’t really hear about stations celebrating their anniversaries that often because of high turnaround, or constant changes in formatting.”

“Because CKCU is volunteer- run, the anniversary is really a testament to the people that have been here for so long to keep it going,” he says.

More than 200 volunteers keep the station running year-round, with only a handful of paid staff to tie everything together. Money from the funding drive pays for rent, repairs, and helps to support a variety of community events throughout the year.

Crosier says that no matter how stressful it is beforehand, people are looking forward to celebrating the drive, and the anniversary, in the name of community radio.

“Without the past, you don’t have a present,” he says. “And we have a responsibility to pass the station on to others.”