Listen Up, London; Tune in to 104.4FM and You Might Hear British Folk, Indian Classical Music or Improv ? It's the Sound of the Capital's Newest Radio Station Experimenting

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Byline: SUE STEWARD

IS London ready for art radio? Does London know or even care about art radio? It is too late for conjecture: Britain's first art radio station, Resonance FM, has a 12-month licence and is already on air. If you live within a 5km radius of its Bankside transmitter and stray to the fringes of the FM waveband, you will enter a world unlike anything else on the dial; you could occasionally imagine you'd hit interference from your local minicab radio.

That's the idea, says project co-ordinator Ed Baxter, who describes the station as "a laboratory for experimentation", "an archive for the new, the undiscovered and the forgotten" and "an invisible gallery". Its menu offers "everything from British folk to Indian classical music to improv".

Trying to pin down "art radio" (a phrase of obscure origin that has only recently seeped into Britain) brings a vague response from Baxter. We are not talking about an attempt to emulate the worthiness of Radio 3. This is not a conventional station with arts content, but something of a new art form in itself.

The people involved want a station "devoid of boundaries" and with "space for experimentation".

Although there have been many precedents abroad (email congratulations have arrived from weblisteners in Chile), the conservatism surrounding radio in this country has discouraged such anarchic ventures until now. The usual view was: leave that sort of stuff to the pirates.

The starting point for Resonance FM was the experimental, 24-hour-a-day art radio station run (legally) during John Peel's 1998 Meltdown festival. The organisation behind it was a 25-year-old loose artistic assembly called the London Musicians' Collective.

When, in May 2001, the Radio Authority invited applications from community groups for 15 broadcasting licences, the LMC was in the queue with 170 other hopefuls. Eleven of these are now broadcasting, including a children's station in Leicester and a Punjabi community service in Southall. Resonance FM's "community" is the substantial audience for crossover bonanzas such as the South Bank's Meltdown and the Barbican's Only Connect festivals. …