Gateway Community Media
A former schoolboy who spent his spare time at a community radio station is now working for national stations.
Johnny Jenkins spent two weeks on a work experience placement with Gateway 97.8 at the age of 15 when his school organised the opportunity for him, despite him having no interest in media. Now, aged 22, he is not only director and editor, but also works as producer at LBC Radio and contributor at BBC Radio 5 Live, having fallen in love with the industry.
Gateway is a community-run radio station for Basildon and East Thurrock.
Every Saturday, it welcomes 11 to 18-year-olds into the studio to get involved in the making of a radio show, giving them something positive to focus on in their spare time.
An accredited examining board, the station is able to give young people the skills and qualifications they need to develop a career in the industry.
For Johnny, it was an important stepping-stone.
He said: “I fell in love with it straight away and realised the magic of radio and news. The station welcomed me as a volunteer after the fortnight placement and I came back volunteering in the school holidays. Eventually, I started interviewing people on the radio and got my own show on the station.
“I learnt all about the inner workings of radio and the importance of preparing ahead of news interviews. It was invaluable training which has prepared me for my career. I was not looking for a career in media. This inspired me to pursue my career.
“I love my job and wouldn’t want to do anything else! I wouldn’t be here without my placement at Gateway. It laid the foundations for the following seven years in radio.
“Gateway is an incredibly important organisation to young people in Basildon and East Thurrock. It prepares young people for a career in media, teaches life skills and allows them to make long-lasting friendships.”
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £12,500 to Gateway Community Media from the 2022-23 Crime Prevention Fund to fund a community engagement officer to give more young people an opportunity to get involved.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, said: “How wonderful to see young people finding their passion in life in this way.
“We are all for encouraging volunteers and community support in Essex and what better example of that than this brilliant community radio station giving so much back to residents in Basildon and East Thurrock.”
Danny Lawrence, director, said: “On Saturdays, young people come along to Radio Club and take over the airways, learning about radio and carrying out interviews. In the school holidays, we are able to offer that twice each week – a project which is oversubscribed.
“As it is so popular, we were keen for the community engagement officer to be able to work during the week, as well as at the weekends, to reach even more young people. The funding from the PFCC is enabling us to offer this club on a bigger scale.
“It is absolutely fantastic. People in the past, like Johnny, have gone on to do really well in the industry, from LBC to Heart and Radio 1Xtra. There is a pathway here for young people in the community wanting to go into media.
“For those who are sent to us as an intervention, once we hook them in their behaviours change. That is why the funding is so vital, as it means we can help people.
“It is a great feeling, seeing people turn their lives around.”