The idea behind Sheffield Live! began as a local radio project for a neighbourhood festival in 2000. By 2007, it had evolved into a full-time community radio that aimed to give Sheffield’s locals a voice, allowing them to share their talents and interests. Now, hundreds of volunteers create over 100 hours of community radio every week and a community reporting group delivers six days of local news.
Successful productions supported by Sheffield Live! include the African Voices project (made by a group of Sheffield residents with African heritage), which has been able to access grants to fund its weekly TV show thanks to Sheffield Live!’s support.
To achieve its aim of setting up a local TV channel, Sheffield Community Media (SCM) was established – a community benefit society with 114 stakeholders that would act as the trading arm behind a local TV project. To date, it has raised more than £200,000 through community shares and social investment loans, which has allowed SCM to fund the start up of its operating subsidiary, Sheffield Local Television Limited (SLTV) and launch local TV programming.
Power to Change’s grant of £200,943 helped Sheffield Live! develop its community hub and digital media centre, which serves a diverse range of communities in inner-city Sheffield. It was also able to upgrade equipment, install new computers and revamp studios. But perhaps most importantly, the grant gave Sheffield Live! access to critical revenue at a time of potential financial difficulty, catapulting it into a period of growth instead.
Supporting other community organisations
In addition to elevating community voices and acting as a trusted news provider, Sheffield Live! has been able to offer social enterprise support to other community organisations. It has played its part in what will be a seven-year project that’s set to deliver more than £5million of support to help social enterprises across the region grow and develop.
Over the past two years, in partnership with specialist trainers, Sheffield Live! has delivered business support workshops to over 200 start-up clients. It has helped them move their ideas from inception to set up and access grants to fund their community-focused work.
Adapting to Covid-19 challenges
As many of its volunteers are vulnerable, Sheffield Live! quickly adapted so that they could continue making programmes and broadcasting from home. A core team of tech staff and journalists remained in the offices so it could continue delivering vital news. It also added new services, such as live broadcasts of important local council meetings and regular interviews with the local public health chief, to keep the community in the loop.
SLTV joined forces with other local TV channels to produce a 24-part series, ‘Covering Covid-19′, to highlight local stories related to the pandemic.
Sheffield Live! has adapted its business support in a number of ways too. For example, it has been able to run four half-day business support workshops in place of intensive weekend courses, delivered online in a Covid-compliant way.
The future for Sheffield Live!
In addition to its existing broadcasting channels, Sheffield Live will soon be expanding the scope of its community media services. It has formed a consortium of local radio stations under Shefcast Digital Limited and successfully bid for the license to operate 25 Small Scale Digital Audio Broadcasting channels across Rotherham and Sheffield.
Launching in spring 2021, it will prioritise community-based radio stations (11 are already lined up) and sell spare broadcasting capacity to commercial radio companies to pay for operating costs. The aim is to make Shefcast Digital Limited self-sufficient and to generate additional cash to put back into local journalism.