As the Radio Manager of Saint FM, Tammy Williams is at the heart of island news, updates and radio entertainment on St Helena. Here we ask her a few questions about Saint FM, herself and their new benefactor, Lord Ashcroft.
What do you feel is the importance of radio to the island?
I would say the absolute main way of communication for St Helena is radio. I still think it’s the number one way of connecting locals and Saints around the world. We broadcast live on our website for our international listeners because it is important for our Saints abroad to feel connected to the island as well as potential visitors.
What’s great about this radio station is that it is a community radio station, and we have a very diverse range of radio presenters made up of Saints and South African expats, Americans and British. From these presenters we have a range of different people, cultures and music.
What is the radio station’s remit?
We run regular daily shows on Saint FM, which includes the weekend. We aim to be entertaining, educating and informing people. But it’s that and more because Saint FM is an independent media radio station, which we believe represents the voice of the people.
What are the most popular programmes?
In every job I think it is important to have fun, so a lot of what we do in terms of radio presenting is engaging with our listeners; and we do this through a variety of shows like music shows, chat shows, discussion forums, local news and radio quizzes. This is done in partnership with local businesses which give us sponsorship, and are very supportive of what we do. How we operate is dictated by the listeners who offer suggestions, because it is important to cover all ages and all interests, and as I said the important thing is to have fun doing it.
Any plans to change the programming once more tourists arrive and there is potentially a new audience?
I think that Saint FM is always evolving and changing. If we refer to the recent stats for Saint FM, we have listeners in over 105 countries. The UK makes up 74%, USA 18% and the rest is spread around the world like Brazil, Norway, Germany, India, Indonesia, Australia and of course the Falkland Islands; just to name a few. These statistics give us a very good idea of Saint FM’s reach around the world. And that is our audience, some of which are already potential visitors.
Tell us more about yourself and the history of Saint FM
I came into radio 10 years ago as a voluntary presenter and although I have worked in different areas, I knew that radio is where I want and love to be! This is where it is all happening and every day is different, from breaking news to interviews and politics.
The slogan for our station is “The Heartbeat of St Helena”, and this is very important. It first started in 2003/04, headed up by Mike Olsson who is still there in the background today as our Head Director. Although the station has gone through different management he’s always been there. We have the support of a great Board of Directors, staff and voluntary presenters and this is what makes up Saint FM.
What is the relationship with Lord Ashcroft and Saint FM?
Lord Ashcroft is a friend of St Helena and a friend of Saint FM. He is well known around the world for being a philanthropist. When he said ‘yes’ to me in fact he was saying yes to the island. What Lord Ashcroft’s financial contribution to Saint FM does is maintain an independent radio station and independence for the people. It is important for the island to have a station that can challenge, educate, inform and entertain the community.
Lord Ashcroft’s financial support is confirmed for the next three years, and after that we’ll see what happens. It was important that our wings were never clipped; in fact he said to me it was essential that we continue doing what we have been doing. With his financial help we can continue to challenge the government, but at the same time offer them a platform to have their say, offering a very fair and balanced radio station.
So can you tell us which have been some of your favourite interviews?
My favourite interviews, believe it or not, are always with the local people, particularly the elderly people, as they have stories to tell and lots of experiences with the island’s heritage and culture, which is really important. Of course we had an exclusive interview with Lord Ashcroft when he arrived and that was one of my absolute favourites.