It’s a rainy winter evening, and I’m in the kitchen washing the dishes for the fifth time this week. Melbourne is in its sixth lockdown, and today another extension was announced. The news sent me spinning: I spent the afternoon frozen in bed scrolling through Instagram, watching friends in far-off places enjoying themselves.

As the lockdown was extended I lay in bed scrolling through images of friends in far-off places enjoying themselves.Credit:iStock

I switch on the faux-vintage radio above our sink. It’s tuned to PBS FM 106.7, one of Melbourne’s community radio stations. The undeniably catchy sounds of vintage disco and house quickly fill the room. Slowly, the miasma of lockdown and my long separation from my family and friends in the US, my home country, begins to lift. For a moment, there’s only the music.

Melbourne has now spent more than 200 days of the last year and a half in lockdown. Our government’s hard-line strategy has undoubtedly been effective – our COVID-19 numbers have been among the lowest in the world. But psychologically, it has been brutal. Facing the hyper-contagious Delta variant, we now may be stuck inside for months, until we reach the vaccine goals set by the federal government. Right now, that future seems impossibly remote.

Against this bleak backdrop, Melbourne’s community radio stations have provided a lifeline to a world outside my home. These stations, including PBS, RRR 102.7 FM, and 3CR 855 AM, give broadcasters freedom from the prescribed playlists and commercial constraints of profit-oriented stations. I may be stuck within a 5 km radius of my apartment, but through the radio I can go to anywhere on Earth, listening to 1950s American doo-wop tunes one minute and Indian hip hop the next.

The radio community has supported each other through a deeply difficult time for the music industry, as many musicians and DJs have struggled with lost livelihoods. That community proved crucial in April, when my friend, Melbourne musician Daphne Camf, died suddenly. I was able to process my grief in part through the many radio tributes to her legacy, including the RRR show Bright Lights, which dedicated its regular Friday night slot to Daphne’s music and memory. That night, my partner and I sat together holding hands and crying as we listened to Daphne’s beautiful music and laughing through our tears at the pop songs she would have loved to hear forced on all of Melbourne.

That’s the beauty of radio – even if you’re alone, you know someone else is out there listening. I made my own DJ debut on RRR last March before the station’s COVID-19 protocols shut down their overnight graveyard shifts. In the darkest hours of the night, my friends listened online from the US, bridging a gap of more than 10 thousand miles.

I can’t wait until we can dance in person again, feel the vibrations of a packed club, or see our favourite bands. But until then, I will keep tuning in to the community radio stations in my adopted home and feel grateful for a community that transcends physical proximity.

Sophie Weiner is a Melbourne writer.

Most Viewed in National

Source: Read Full Article