Phonic Takeover – Celebrating Ten Years of Phonic FM at Exeter Phoenix

Phonic Takeover – Celebrating Ten Years of Phonic FM at Exeter Phoenix

Photos by Alan Levine & Paul Sturgess

On Saturday 9 June, Phonic FM will take over Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre all day and evening with a giant FREE community event including:

  • Live music in the auditorium from 12noon until 11pm
  • Live music in the upstairs Voodoo Lounge from 12noon until 11pm
  • DJs on the outdoor terrace from 12noon until midnight
  • Storytelling and theatre in the workshop space from12noon until 6pm
  • DJs in the workshop space from 8pm until midnight
  • Phonic FM broadcasting live from the café-bar in the afternoon
  • Films in the Studio 74 cinema in the evening
  • A photo exhibition in the Phoenix Walkway Gallery
  • 19 live bands and musicians
  • 15 DJs
  • 2 theatre companies
  • 3 world class storytellers
  • 2 film screenings
  • And more!

Phonic FM is Exeter’s ‘sound alternative’ community radio station broadcasting from the basement of Exeter phoenix on 106.8FM in the Exeter area and online worldwide at

The station was formed ten years ago, in February 2008, after a group of arts activists cut their broadcasting teeth during an annual month on air as part of the Vibraphonic Festival. With initial set-up costs covered by a range of grants, a committed group of around 80 people with a passion for broadcasting have kept the station on every day for the last decade by paying an annual membership fee and undertaking ongoing fundraising.

Phonic’s great strength it it’s independent free spirit: a true breath of fresh air in an increasingly formulaic world. Not only are there not annoying adverts to interrupt shows, there are absolutely no station playlists either! That means that every show’s content is determined only by the passion and interest of the presenter. This results in diverse broadcasting you would be hard-pressed to hear anywhere else, especially on FM radio.

In terms of music, most bases get covered, including pop, rock, soul, funk, jazz, metal, hiphop, world music, folk, electronica, experimental music and classical, but it’s the way we do it which makes Phonic special. Having no playlists or commercial obligations means presenters can unearth obscure tracks which are rarely aired elsewhere, play long tracks other stations simply can’t fit in and feature a raft of local or unsigned music, including live sessions.

Our greatest weapon is our passion, pure and simple. Our presenters go out of their way to play things they think listeners won’t have heard before simply because they love the music so much they want others to hear it too!

In terms of spoken word, we have featured theatrical storytelling, dementia awareness, the city’s arts scene, teenage health issues, disability awareness, and debates about technology, sustainability and out city’s future. We have aired plays by local schools and projects by students and captured part of Exeter’s spoken heritage in our Phonic Voices historical archive project. The ultimate jewel in our broadcasting crown was enabling a presenter paralysed by ‘locked-in syndrome’ who could only use his eyes to produce a series of shows known as ‘Eye Life’.




Phonic FM is often at the heart of the city’s community and cultural and community events. We ran workshops as part of the Radio One Big Weekender in conjunction with the Radio One Academy, we commissioned shows which gave an alternative perspective on the Rugby World Cup, we staged a live broadcast and workshops during the Lost Weekend festival and we have a Saturday morning show to celebrate diversity as part of Exeter Respect festival.

Initial grants from Exeter City Council, Arts Council England and Ofcom were used to establish the station and set up our studio in the basement of Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre. Since then, most station income has come from two sources: the annual fees paid by our members, covering most of our broadcasting costs, plus a constant found of fundraising events run by our members, ranging from intimate theatrical and music evenings to bigger names such as rock legends The Blockheads or acclaimed poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. We do, of course, also accept public donations and often have a bucket brimming with donations at the end of our event nights.

Paul Giblin, one of funding directors of Phonic FM said:

“Ten years ago a committed group of people active in the city’s arts, culture and music scene created something very special which we have managed to sustain and grow over the last decade. In an increasingly formulaic, corporate world Phonic FM’s playlist-free, advertising-free broadcasting really does provide a sound alternative.”



On Saturday 9 June Phonic FM takes over Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre for a day packed with diverse and vibrant activities from 10.30am until late that night, made possible by support from Exeter City Council…

Live Music in the Phoenix Auditorium

From 12noon until 11pm a line up of live bands from Exeter and the surrounding area will tread the boards in the Exeter Phoenix auditorium. Ranging from young talent taking the big stage for the first time to stalwarts of the local scene, our line-up spans genres from rock to funk to steam punk to reggae and ska, including Metronomic Underground, Freakbywire, Falling Stacks, Cave Mouth, Five Finger Salute, The Gaslight Troubadours, Revelation Roots and Datura.

Live Music in the Phoenix Voodoo Lounge

Likewise, upstairs in the Voodoo Lounge an equally diverse range of musicians will play all afternoon and evening. Acts performing range from up and coming talent like The Lures, Samantics and Rapha Ghetti to seasoned folk act Spin2 and the distinct African sound of Dakar Audio Club.

Storytelling and Drama afternoon in the Workshop Space

All afternoon the Workshop Space on the ground floor of Exeter Phoenix will be transformed into the bizarre interactive world of Widsith & Deor Theatrical Storytelling Company and the following guest performers: Clive Pig the Storyfella, Substance & Shadow Theatre, Susan Taylor & Simon Williams, Ros & John Wehner,and Fire Springs.

Music is Murder evening in the Workshop Space

Things take a dark twist in the downstairs Workshop Space from 8pm when the Music is Murder crew take over. Expect t a night of experimental, industrial, post-digital, non linear and improvised noise, avant soundscape and detournement from AQNI, Spectral Digit, The Bill DeBurgh Group, Lucinda Guy, Farmer Glitch , Matt Saunders, IX Tab, DJ AntiSocial Services, DJ Infected Senses and A Waste of Damnation!



Phonic FM DJs on The Terrace all day and night

From midday to midnight the outdoor Terrace will host a rota of Phonic FM DJs spinning set after set of diverse music, from soul to ska, from reggae to rock, and all bases in between…

Phonic FM Outside Broadcast in the Café-Bar

From midday until evening the Phoenix Café-Bar will be home to a Phonic FM outside broadcast as a range of station presenters host their shows in public rather than our usual basement studio. Watch live radio in action.

Radio-themed films in the Studio 74 Cinema

From late afternoon until about 11pm our event will feature two free screenings of upbeat films with a radio theme, but we can’t say which ones just yet!

Phonic photo exhibition in the Walkway Gallery

The Phoenix’s Walkway Gallery space will also feature an exhibition of portrait photographs of a dozen diverse Phonic FM presenters.

A Regional Community Radio event in Studio 74

And finally, our tenth anniversary celebration event will be accompanied by Phonic FM hosting a regional community radio conference from 10.30am until 4pm, in Studio 74, to be,opened by Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, an ex-Minister for Culture & Media.

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