The sound of community

Independent radio station CKUW kicks off annual fundraising event

CKUW program director Robin Eriksson works the boards. CKUW begins its annual Fundrive on Friday, Feb. 10. Jenna Friesen

Colin Smith has volunteered at CKUW 95.9 FM for six years and loves a job most people would try to avoid: he spends many of his hours cataloguing music.

“My inner librarian tingles at the thought of doing this work,” he said.

Smith originally intended to co-host a radio show with a friend, but when she moved away he was left wondering what to do. He stumbled across the need for organizing the stacks of CDs and other music the station receives weekly, and the match was made.

“I like cataloguing, and I like making [advertising] spots,” he said, adding that he’s enjoyed becoming an expert on music from his wide range of exposure to different artists and albums.

“There have been times when I catalogued something then ran down and bought it.”

Smith said that working for an independent station has a unique flavour.

“It’s pretty habit-forming,” he said. “Small things, out of the mainstream, are where the interesting things happen.”

Friday, Feb. 10 marks the start of CKUW’s annual Fundrive, through which the station hopes to raise its target of $53,000 that will help keep the station running.

The pledge campaign, which runs until Friday, Feb. 17, has happened annually since CKUW joined the FM dial in 1999.

Station manager Rob Schmidt said the station has always met its pledge targets. He said the fundraising was built into the station’s plans in order to “balance our funding with support from the community, because that’s a successful model.”

The amount is a third of the station’s operating budget and helps CKUW to maintain its independence from advertisers, he added.

“Because we want to remain independent, that funding from the community is really important. It allows us to keep growing and continue being independent,” Schmidt said.

Also, if community members are donating money, they’re more likely to be invested in the radio station, he said.

“It sort of builds a better relationship with our listeners.”

And having people listen to and actively participate in the programming is CKUW’s aim.

“That’s the idea of a community station,” Schmidt said.

Each year, show hosts bring on special guests and live music, prizes are awarded for different pledge amounts, and there are several live events throughout the week.

“We try and make the week special,” he said. “Almost a celebration of the radio station and our independence and all the great things we have in Winnipeg.”

Smith sees the annual Fundrive week as an opportunity for the community to become involved with the station.

“It not only keeps us on our toes,” he said. “It keeps us in touch, and I think we’re better for it.”

Schmidt said that CKUbreW, the Fundrive week beer from 2011, will make another appearance this year at the Lo Pub, where many of the Fundrive events are taking place.

Chris Young, who works at Half Pints, said there was enough demand to make an entire batch of CKUbreW.

“Last year it sold out and that’s really the point of it all,” he said. “Last year it sold out pretty quickly.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 8, 2012)

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