On air…Bobbi Naylor, presenter and Duncan Chisholm, musician

Community radio station Isles FM plans to 'up their game' ahead of their 25th anniversary year in 2019, and they're asking for the support of listeners and supporters both in the Western Isles and worldwide because the station has listed for a cash award from Aviva's Community Fund, with a public vote.

The volunteer-run station broadcasts to Lewis and Harris (and online to the world) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now they plan to maximise what they can offer the community with the appointment of a new station manager.

The idea has attracted Aviva's attention, and been listed as one of the Western Isles community projects now open for public votes online at https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/17-6507  Every voter has ten votes to allocate as they wish – whether for one project or spread between two or more. The closing date for entries is noon, 21st November 2017.

There are currently no paid employees at Isles FM, and the service is provided by a small army of volunteers – many of whom also have full-time jobs either on and off the islands. 

Managing Director David Morrison said: "Isles FM is the information lifeblood of the islands and a focal point for community information, especially for people who don't have easy access to social media. It also provides daily companionship for many people, playing the music they like and chatting to them about what's going on locally."

So effective has the service been for many years, that many listeners aren't even aware that it's done for nothing. David said: "That can lead to its own problems, as we are sometimes judged by comparison to well-funded public license broadcasters. We are unique in what we do, in that we are seen as a local radio station, but in fact do not have any full-time staff.

"Isles FM has survived due to the dedication of a core group of volunteers, most of whom have been with us for at least ten years.  We need to plan for the future, expand, recruit and make sure we can continue providing the service we do. This application is aimed at driving that ambition and to develop the station fully."

The Aviva community fund application is one part of a package that will help Isles FM recruit a station manager for a three-year period. The manager's job would include finding and training new volunteers, office management, closer work with statutory and volunteer organisations to help deliver supported opportunities and media training for community representatives, from councillors to fundraising groups.

A manager would also help broaden the use of the building in general, especially encouraging community use of the studio and desk space, and bringing in young people to develop their skills.

David Morrison said: "In 2019 our small radio station will celebrate its 25th anniversary. This is a great achievement for a volunteer organisation which has no paid staff…providing a service that reaches those most isolated in our society.

"There are some other great Western Isles projects listed in the Aviva Community Fund public vote, and we encourage every islander, and every Isles FM supporter, to look at all of us, and to support us with as many of their votes as they can".

Presenters Calum Macdonald and Tristan Horncastle with a HebCelt visitor