Occupy the Airwaves 2023

For the eighth year running, women from Devon, across the South West and guests from around the world have occupied the airwaves all day to celebrate International Women’s Day, 8th March.

Occupy the Airwaves is a collaboration between Dreadnought South West, Phonic FM, Exeter’s Community Radio Station, Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre, CoLab Exeter’s Resilient Women Project, Stellaria Media and Mothers Who Make; through a new collaboration Mothers On The Air.

Occupy the Airwaves 2023 is funded by Awards for All National Lottery Community Fund @TNLUK , massive thanks to National Lottery Players for supporting women to take part in community radio. It has also been funded by Devon County Council Locality Budgets.

It is supported by Dreadnought's wider work, which is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund, many thanks to them and National Lottery Players supporting the discovery and telling of great stories about women's heritage.

This year we ‘dialled it up' from our previous years' format where we produced hourly programmes. In our anniversary year we are challenging some of  the constraints of patriarchal broadcasting models, so be prepared to be surprised as we mix pre-recorded subject matter with live guests who might not usually meet on the radio, to bring you some entertaining and vibrant broadcasting across the 16 hours. 

The broadcasts can be accessed in two 8-hour sections.  You can scroll/or fast forward  through if you want to find a particular section.  Or.  You can play for as long as you like and then return to the point you left off! That way you get to hear all the marvellous broadcasts you missed on the day!

Below is a small summary of just a few of the contributions in ‘chronological’ order:

8am to the middle of the day
A good morning welcome from Josie Sutcliffe, Natalie McGrath and Kerrie Seymour, who will be joined by, amongst others, Poppy Newton-Clare and others from CoLab Exeter's Resilient Women Project. There will be packages from Hazel Ackland about their project, The Nest;

 Promoting Choice (also a Colab Exeter project); Poetry ‘Now Is A Perfect Time For Screaming’ (self-care in times of crisis), by Caroline Bergvall was also premiered here and played across the day as energy release poetry. 

Chloe Whipple ran our very first dance class live on air in this morning session, inspired by her venture ‘Do Your Dance Club’. 

Next up, Lizzy Humber and Mothers Who Make, presented short podcasts from a new collaboration with Dreadnought – Mothers On the Air, and later welcomed several live guests

Access All Aerials from CEDA’s Georgie and Lucy, was  live streamed from the centre of Exeter from approx. 11.35am.  Another first for OTA!

Midday to tea-time
Gillian Taylor took over the hosting chair, to welcome Amina Yaquin, live in the studio to talk about translating feminist Urdu poetry with Josie Sutcliffe. After this there were packages by composer Laura Reid, a live phone-in interview with artist, Amanda Lynch, and pre-recorded interviews with a range of women including Camilla Hampshire from RAMM, and CEDA’s Rona O’Donnell talking with actor Cherylee Houston.

Cathy Towers then joined us to host the studio with guests Claire and Ruby Ingleheart from Cornwall, who sang live, and talked about all female shanty group, Femmes de la Mer, as well as Claire’s work on Oxygen for Dreadnought.

 After this, Cathy was joined by Maisie Jepson and Laurel Miller to talk about women’s heritage and activism. There were also packages from Cathy, ‘Express Yourself’, and Promoting Women’s Choice as well.

Tea-time to 5.30ish
Here Josie hosted Sarah Campbell who talked about a series of audio pieces from poet Fiona Benson, they were joined by Paula Crutchlow.  Then an audio short play ‘Allotment’ by Lissa Carter, about the invisibility of older women. Caroline Bergvall was on air live phone-in and Poppy Newton-Clare’s ‘Jelly’ also featured.

We then welcomed Sharifa Milford-Al Hashemy to the host’s chair, to take the reins, where she hosted Ruth Mitchell and Michelle Ridings, who read extracts from Dreadnought’s two plays; The Cause and Oxygen. Josie and Natalie were in the studio with them.

Sharifa, then went on to host Catherine Cartwright and Fee Scott, an artist working closely with a social scientist and therapist, in a new collaboration.

Early evening
Kerrie Seymour took over from Sharifa to host musician and writer Mama Tokas and Sci-Fi writer and poet Susie Williamson who discussed Afrofuturist Sci-Fi.

Kerrie continues to share more audio content. This time a half hour long package from Roshani Ramass; ‘Warrior Women of the West Country’, and a package the ‘Bone Staircase” from sound artist Kerry Priest took us into the last hours of the occupation!

The final hours up to midnight 
Hosted by Nat, with Josie and Kerrie, a wild ride through some amazing music, a phone-in with poet, rapper and activist Silai Estatira, who talked about her work and latest projects. 

Key to the day of course are Josie Sutcliffe, Kerrie Seymour and Nat McGrath and Dreadnought South West’s Trustees. Chair of Trustees and Anne Barnes and Kerrie Seymour will also be running a Craftivism Workshop at the Library. There wlll be an exhibition in the Workshop Space at Exeter Phoenix, and it will also be a place to come along and listen to the programmes during the day. Wren music will be singing live in there at 11am and Bookbag will be hosting a stall of great books by women between 2 and 5pm.  

So do come and join us and see a range of artefacts from our archive, marking 10 years of Dreadnought South West! 

Throughout January Co-Directors Josie and Natalie worked in collaboration with Lizzy Humber, and sound artist Kerry Priest to support 5 local m/others to create audio packages for Occupy The Airwaves 2023. The Mothers on the Air mentoring programme has supported Amelia Adkin, Ellen Bulleid, Amy Chadney, Tina Lawton and Dr Kate Masey-Chase to develop their voices and stories for the air. These new pieces will appear throughout the day and as part of the Mothers on the Air live discussion. Lizzy is an independent community artist, producer and mother who has been running the Mothers Who Make Exeter peer support network since 2018.