Choice FM: Iconic black radio station receives blue heritage plaque

Choice FM: Iconic black radio station receives blue heritage plaque

Choice FM: Iconic black radio station receives blue heritage plaque

Choice FM: Iconic black radio station receives blue heritage plaque

Choice FM, the UK’s first and only black licensed radio station, today received a blue heritage plaque in commemoration of its history, The Independent can reveal.

This marked the 31st anniversary since a group of pioneering entrepreneurs and presenters delivered the opening broadcast on the famous 96.9FM frequency in 1990.

Lambeth Mayor Councillor Philip Normal and Councillor Sonia Winifred unveiled the ornament on the outside wall of station’s original headquarters: 16-18 Trinity Gardens in Brixton, south London.

It was arranged by the Nubian Jak Community Trust which is one of three commemorative plaque schemes publicly endorsed by English Heritage.

Councillor Sonia Winifred, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Culture, said “Choice FM will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Lambeth community particularly in Brixton where it was launched in 1990 at Trinity Gardens.

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“The first licenced independent black music radio station gave us all a sense of pride and belonging.  There has been no other to replace it and we owe a great deal to its co-founders Patrick Berry and  Neil Kenlock when it started broadcasting 31 years ago, on 31 March 1990.”

During its two-decade year tenure up until its rebrand, the station championed black music of all genres and helped break acts from around the world. Choice FM was awarded a number of accolades including MOBO and Sony Radio Academy Awards. 

In 2004, the station was bought by the Capital Radio broadcasting group, now Global Media, and on 7 October, 2013, it was rebranded – without warning – to Capital Xtra. 

Specialist shows – covering gospel and soca – were removed from the schedule and original traces of Choice FM disappeared, seen by some as a deliberate erasure of an important part of Black British history.

“Through what they did to Choice, with no warning and homage since then, Global erased an important part of Black British history,” broadcaster Daddy Ernie, real name Ernie Harriott, has previously said.

Co-founder Neil Kenlock said: “Since Choice FM there has never been another black-owned, commercial licenced station that broadcasts across London. Therefore, celebrating the anniversary is important, touching those who remember it and educating those who are not aware of this British history.

“The blue plaque will highlight the work of Windrush descendants and our huge impact on the radio and music industry in the UK. I’d like to thank everyone, including Lambeth Council for their support for this project.”

Wayne Turney (former Choice FM sales manager), Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE (former Choice FM director), Mayor Councillor Philip Normal of Lambeth, DJ Daddy Ernie (plaque campaigner and former Choice FM DJ) and Neil Kenlock (co-founder and photographer)  

(Lewis Patrick)

Harriott, who’s also a former Choice FM DJ, said: “Choice FM came from humble beginnings at Trinity Gardens and was the sound the community was longing for.

“It played the type of music that mainstream radio didn’t play, making global stars from R&B, reggae, dancehall and soca artists. Now we pay homage and unveil a symbol to mark where it all started.”

Smooth FM Radio presenter and former Choice FM DJ Angie Greaves added: “Choice FM completely changed the way that the 15 to 24 demographic listened to radio alongside mature lovers of 90s R&B, soul, reggae and soca. It created connections between cultures through the music. Those continuous jams will always be a part of my soul and will also be part of the huge platform of my radio career.”

The plaque has been funded by the Choice FM Blue Plaque Group and other members of the black community who made donations through a Go Fund Me campaign.

The donation page was set up to give people the opportunity to support the campaign for the plaque and raise awareness of the history.

Funds raised will also be donated to The African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT).


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