The very first Uckfield FM broadcast took place in the Summer of 2003.
It was actually during the 2002 Uckfield Festival that original founders Alan French, Mike Skinner, Gary King and Paddy Rea first came up with the idea.
They decided that the Uckfield Festival, and community as a whole would benefit from having a dedicated radio station.
We started life by borrowing some space above The Picture House Cinema in Uckfield High Street. Our studio was put together in a very small room (but it did have a window).
We needed a logo, so set a challenge to students at Uckfield Community College. The winning entry was from Katie Connor, then a Year 10 student. Katie’s logo design has been in use ever since the first broadcast.
Uckfield FM took to the air for the very first time at 8:00am on Monday 7th July 2003. Gary King was the very first voice on the station counting down a top 10 of all time voted for by local residents and supporters via our website.
The very first schedule included a number of names who are still regularly on air today: Mike Ziolek, Tony Williams, Gary King, Mike Skinner and Martyn Grenfell.
Natalie Booker from BBC South East Today cut the cake in the foyer of the cinema, as members of the team celebrated our launch in the July sunshine. Before we knew it, 6:00pm on Sunday 3rd August had come around and our very first broadcast was over.
We couldn’t stay on air full time from the beginning, instead we were granted a Restricted Service Licence (RSL) for a four week period. Even this took a lot of planning and needed a great deal of support through advertising and sponsorship from local businesses and organisations.
We were back on air just under 12 months later, on Monday 28th June 2004.
Once again we were broadcasting live programmes for 24 hours a day and also spending time out in the community. Our second RSL broadcast ended at 6:00pm on Sunday 25th July 2004.
Although we were only broadcasting live for four weeks of the year, we also kept our profile alive in the community by attending various events even when we were not broadcasting.
We are always a part of the annual Uckfield Carnival procession on the first Saturday of each September. During the Carnival in 2004, Eugene Sully (runner up in Big Brother that year) joined us on the Uckfield FM float, to the delight of the crowds gathered in the High Street.
Summer 2005 and we were back for another four weeks. We actually launched this year with an outside broadcast, from outside of Pizza Express in the High Street. Various people from the community joined Mike Ziolek as he presented the first Good Morning Uckfield programme of 2005 from the patio.
The 28 day broadcast in 2006 was to be our last from The Picture House. The business that kindly lent us space for four weeks of the year was expanding and required the area for their own needs all year round. Also, as Uckfield FM was becoming an anticipated entry in the community’s calendar, we needed a more permanent home.
There were also rumours surfacing that the coming years could see the possibility of a licence being available to broadcast to the area on a full time basis.
As soon as RSL broadcast number four was over, we had a challenge to find new premises and have these ready for our return in 2007. We had made do with building a makeshift studio and office, but it was likely that somewhere more permanent would require a bit of preparation work before we were ready to broadcast again.
After spending much of late 2006 and early 2007 searching, we eventually located a new place to call home at Bird In Eye Farm, to the South East of Uckfield town centre in the direction of Framfield.
Before our Summer 2007 broadcast, it became necessary for a limited company to be formed. Original founders Mike and Gary became the Directors of Uckfield Community Radio Limited. In more recent times, Mike Ziolek has joined the board as Managing Director, Ian Rennison is now our IT Director and Phil Moon looks after the finance side of things.
During this broadcast, it was announced that we would be returning earlier than usual, with a 3 week Christmas broadcast, during December 2007. As we had been supporting the Uckfield Festival for a number of years, we thought it important to be back in the community more often and also to support another big event: The Christmas Late Night Shopping.
Founder Paddy Rea sadly passed away in October 2007, with all further broadcasts continuing in his honour.
As this would be the first time we were on air at Christmas, it gave an opportunity for performances of Christmas Carols to be recorded from local schools and broadcast on air.
We also made copies available for free download from our website. We were back in the air for our normal four weeks in the Summer of 2008, and we love being out in the community so much (even in December) that we returned during December again as well!
What would turn out to be our final RSL broadcast took place in the Summer of 2009 as we were soon to get some great news (we had actually already submitted an application for a full time licence to OFCOM the previous November).
We actually found out that we had been awarded a full time licence in July 2009, just a week or so after we had finished that final temporary broadcast. The licence was valid for an initial five year period.
A great deal of work was now required, full time broadcasting was planned to begin the following year – during the time where we had been presenting temporary broadcasts for the past six years.
Due to the licensing arrangements and the fact that we had a lot of preparation work to get us ready to broadcast full time, we were unable to broadcast during Christmas 2009. To make up for this, members of the team appeared at the Uckfield Carnival in September and at Late Night Shopping in December to spread the message that we would be ‘Back for Good’ in 2010.
Not being on air that Winter did give the opportunity to do some work at the studios, including some updates to our on air studio.
Our new, full time frequency would be 105.0 FM, and 105 Uckfield FM was almost ready to broadcast full time.
We were back on air at 1.05pm on Thursday 1st July 2010 with Mike Skinner and Gary King. They were joined in the studio by Uckfield town mayor Cllr Jim Carvey who officially launched the station.
We were back supporting the Uckfield Festival for the 7th time, although this time we wouldn’t have to say goodbye after four weeks!
In September 2010 another first, we were now on air during the Uckfield Carnival which meant we could be out, in Uckfield High Street and broadcast it at the same time. Gary King and Tina Murphy presented live from the town. A tradition that has continued each September since.
In May 2011, our second studio (Studio 1) was completed in our previous ‘Green Room’ area – looking out over the farm back towards the town.
Many guests have visited Uckfield FM since July 2010. These include two Miss Great Britain finalists, Dame Beryl Grey, legendary cricket commentator Henry Blofeld, Carlo Curley, Frank Ifield, David Hamilton, John Wheeler, Chloe Paige and Kerry Katona. Local resident and station supporter John ‘Boggy’ Marsh from Radio 2.
These, of course, are alongside the many local people who have visited us over the years and continue to join us pretty much every weekday to speak about their work in the community. Alongside a dedicated team of volunteers, all of these people make Uckfield FM what it is today!
In 2013, we celebrated our 10th anniversary and both members of our team and colleagues from local businesses celebrated in September at East Sussex National Resort.
On the 1st July 2018 we celebrated our 8th birthday of full time radio and this year we have asked OFCOM if we could be considered to cover Crowborough and Heathfield.
Also, this year we were nominated for the Queens Award for Voluntary Service but on this occasion unsuccessful. In a letter to the Chairman the awards office commented ‘The nomination in 2017 represents a tremendous achievement for your organisation. Everyone involved, and particularly your volunteers, should feel immensely proud of the recognition that a nomination for this award represents’.
Our initial five year licence ended in July 2015, OFCOM had accepted our application for a further five years the previous November meaning we’ll be here until at least 2020.
In 2018 the board of Uckfield FM took the decision to declare an ‘Expression of Interest’ to extend the power of the transmitter to provide better cover and to be considered for DAB in this part of East Sussex.
In May 2019 Chairman Mike Skinner retired after 16 years and handed over to Ian Smith, former Mayor and Town Councillor in Uckfield.