INTERVIEW: Star & Shadow Radio | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As I sit down to speak to Star & Shadow Radio’s Jona Aal, he is busy putting together the track listing for his Saturday show, Way Out In The Sticks. “It’s quite a commitment,” he tells me. ‘It becomes almost like an obsession planning what you are going to play.” It’s quite a change from his normal job setting up the PA and rigging the lighting at the Star and Shadow Cinema, but with all performances on hold for the moment, he’s had to find other ways to occupy his time.

The Star & Shadow Cinema prides itself on a volunteer-run collaborative programme and, as is the case with the physical space, their recently launched Mixlr radio station continues to fly the flag for Newcastle’s inventive artistic community.

Being forced to temporarily close has hit the cinema hard; it’s not just a building but a community of people, who all rely on it as a place to socialise and get creative. Tapping into the same DIY spirit that got the venue up and running in the first place, the Star & Shadow volunteers came up with the idea of creating a radio station as a way of keeping in touch through the lockdown. “We’re quite removed from the Star & Shadow,” Jona explains. “The radio seems a nice way of us sending something back. For the listeners, it’s a way for them to feel connected with the people they used to hang out with at the cinema.”

even in these challenging times we’re able to come together and make something creative

The programming is a real mish-mash of eclectic shows and personalities. Expect to hear anything from Dawn Bothwell’s arts and culture show Chip-Chat, musician and artist Graeme Hopper’s exploration of exciting contemporary sounds on The Ideal Retreat, to Una’s (aged 9) Roller Cola Radiola where she talks riddles and roller skates. Perhaps the most unusual is Read Me The Riot Act, a show which Jona describes as an “antidote to the Today Show and the constant news cycle about COVID-19.” It’s certainly not what I expected – after a brief introduction, presenter Harriet Plewis literally reads, in full, a notable act of Parliament. The rhythms and repetitions of the legalese are strangely soothing and I found the whole experience oddly meditative.

So far the feedback has been really positive. They’ve had the odd ‘John Peel moment’ that comes from broadcasting live, but all in all it seems to be going well. “We just do it until it goes wrong and then we fix it,” says Jona. “There’s a big element of trust involved.” Certainly the 10,000 listeners they’ve had so far can’t be wrong. “We’ve got at least one programme everyday and we’re already planning more, he says. He tells me about a new two-part show with Sneha Solanki where she looks back through her dad’s collection of Indian cinema soundtracks. As Jona explains: “That we’re able to do this kind of thing really proves that the model works, even in these challenging times we’re able to come together and make something creative.”

It’s great to hear that in these days of shadow, a star still shines bright.

Listen to Star & Shadow Radio online at Mixlr. Donate the price of a beer, coffee or cinema ticket to help them with their running costs at

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