By Helen Riddell
A COMMUNITY radio station based on Bere Island and run by a team of volunteers has been providing a feelgood boost for locals and the diaspora alike.
And it has also been broadcasting health information in seven languages, to cater for the international fishing industry based in the nearby port.
Bere Island Community Radio has stepped up to support the local community in recent weeks, broadcasting locally and also reaching out online to Beara folk in 19 countries across the world.
The station was set up by Bere Island Project Group in 2018 as part of the Grassroots Wavelengths project, an EU-funded project which aims to bring community radio stations to rural areas across Europe, and empower local communities to tell their own stories, generated by their own needs.
The station, which has a regular programme from 12pm to 2pm on Sundays, now broadcasts Sunday Mass from the home of Fr Noel Spring, parish priest in Castletownbere.
Since the closure of the schools, it also broadcasts the school assembly from Scoil Phobhail Bheara every weekday morning.
John Walsh of Bere Island Projects Group, who is also one of the station’s presenters, said they are working to help the local community during the Covid-19 crisis.
‘During the last few weeks, since the health crisis started, our radio station has been helping people to get through the lockdown by providing a platform for local voices that people know, and to give factual information that people can trust. We have a weekly slot with a Beara GP to update everyone on the latest advice, and we’ve interviewed Tánaiste Simon Coveney. We’ve also spoken to Beara people living in Italy, China and Germany, to find out what was happening in those countries during the lockdown.’
School principal Pauline Hurley said the idea for the school to link with the radio station came about following the schools’ closure on March 12th.
‘The actual closure was fairly abrupt with the speed that it happened,’ explained Pauline.
‘Liz O’Leary, chair of the parents association, contacted me and wondered if there was a way the school could link with the radio station.
‘I contacted them, and we took it from there. We normally have a school assembly at 8.55am, so we felt that by continuing with this on the radio, it was a way of bringing the school together at this time.’
When school reopens, she hopes the association with the radio station will continue. ‘We would hope that we can be involved in the regular Sunday programme. It’s a good way to let everyone know the latest news from the school and the projects we’re involved in.’
John Walsh outlined how the radio station has also been trialling new text-to-speech software, through it’s involvement with the Grassroots Project.
‘We have been able to provide health announcements using this technology in seven different languages to support local workers, particularly in the fishing industry, with access to health advice.’
For more information on how to tune into Bere Island Community Radio and for details on the programmes scheduled, see www.bereisland.net