Freddy Logan, Junior PR and Marketing Executive

  • COVID-19 amplifying feelings of loneliness
  • Local radio as a source of great positivity
  • Heightened interest in local radio over the last 12 months

We currently find ourselves in the middle of a loneliness crisis.

Dark winter days, a national lockdown and the prevalence of social distancing rules as well as stay-at-home orders have sadly done little to stop a rapid decline in many people’s mental health.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics tell a damning story. At the start of November and with the introduction of a second national lockdown, 8% of UK adults – 4.2 million people – were found to be “always or often lonely”. This figure marks a steep rise from pre-pandemic levels where 5% or 2.6 million people identified themselves in this way.

A survey from the Mental Health Foundation in November also found that the prevalence of loneliness was higher in younger age groups, especially among those between the ages of 18-24 and 25-34. 61% of people, however, attributed acts of kindness – whether receiving or giving them – as having a positive impact on their mental health.

In an attempt to tackle feelings of loneliness, people have been forced to think of different and innovative ways to keep people feeling connected and together in spirit, when physical interaction has not been an option.

This year, Saturday 13 February marks World Radio Day, which offers a cause for celebration.

Over the past 12 months, local community radio stations around the country have stepped up to the plate; delivering much needed positivity, entertainment and camaraderie in the face of adverse circumstances.

In response to the most recent January lockdown, for example, local BBC community radio stations have been temporarily set up in Wolverhampton and Sunderland to provide a more localised and community-focused service to residents in those areas. The same was done in Bradford the previous month.

These stations have been introduced to share important local news, but also to celebrate positive and inspiring experiences and stories that continue to take place in the community, even in the most difficult of times.

For many, local community radio stations have become a welcome tonic to the loneliness that they have been feeling. Jubilant FM, an online radio station based in London, was founded in December of last year with just that in mind; aiming to provide its listeners with uplifting and joyful music. Residents around the UK – it seems – have become increasingly aware of the importance of their local community radio outlets during this time.

Local radio stations make heard the voices of those in the community that matter most. During the most recent lockdown, thanks to funding provided by Cumbria Community Foundation, the team of volunteers at Bay Trust Radio, a local station serving parts of Lancashire and Cumbria, have been able to relocate and continue to offer its entertainment services from home. This move comes on the back of the station receiving its highest ever listening figures over the last 12 months.

While the pandemic has, understandably, dominated headlines across the country with seemingly endless streams of difficult and challenging news stories for audiences to digest, the revival of local community radio stations should not be overlooked.

The strong sense of identity and affiliation connected with these outlets provides a feeling of belonging to those members of the community who most need it. Whether in times of crisis or not, long may this sense of togetherness endure.

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