Why 60,000 listeners tune in to Bognor’s Radio Respect

Radio Respect founder Chris Collins and DJ Tony Lock doing their Friday night show
Radio Respect founder Chris Collins and DJ Tony Lock doing their Friday night show

Many in Bognor won’t have heard of Radio Respect, despite it broadcasting from the town centre.

But to its 60,000 daily listeners the team are a lifeline as well great entertainment.

DJs Chris (middle) and (back, from L to R) David Willis, Tony and Izzy Russell

DJs Chris (middle) and (back, from L to R) David Willis, Tony and Izzy Russell

People from across the world – Dubai, America, South Korea – tune in to hear Chris Collins and his team each night, playing music and chatting about mental health.

“Everyone who volunteers on Radio Respect suffers some sort of mental health issue or works in mental health,” said founder and DJ Chris.

“We have people who struggled to leave their front door but put them on the radio and you can’t shut them up, it’s amazing.”

Chris works for United Response at House 48 in Sudley Road and started Radio Respect in 2012, initially to broadcast to the service users who didn’t have support when the house closed at 4.15pm.

“I started in my shed and the first broadcast I had five listeners, one was my wife Caroline,” Chris said.

“But now it’s just blown out of all proportion to 60,000 listeners each evening.”

Since he moved in to a tiny studio above Dominos in Station Road in 2015 it’s ‘grown and grown’, with 15 volunteers and many he has to turn away because of a lack of space.

They include DJs Izzy Russell and David Willis, who both say the experience is as cathartic for them as it is vital for their loyal listeners.

David said: “We’re not just here for people with mental health, we’re here to be inclusive and bridge a gap.

“We want to fight the stigma. If you beat cancer you’re a hero, if you beat mental health you’re still treated suspiciously.”

In between the DJ sets, a computer automatically selects songs so Radio Respect can internet broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Trilby-wearing cockney Tony Lock mostly plays Blues and Mowtown. “Sometimes when I can’t sleep I just come down to the studio on my own, take over from the computer and play my music.”

They get constant song requests from listeners whose texts are read out on air.

Izzy said: “We’re all different and diverse as presenters and I think that’s what works.”

It became a Community Interest Company in June but Chris says not being able to get funding makes the future uncertain.“We genuinely care about people’s health and wellbeing, that’s why people listen in,” Chris added.

Listen on phone, tablet and computer at radio http://www.radiorespect.org.uk/