When two of York's best loved DJs met up for a pint they also came up with the idea of an ethical radio station. Now it's the fastest growing in the North. MATT CLARK discovers why.

HOW does it feel to win my silver award, Bob Harris asked Rudie Humphrey at the latest Americana UK awards. How does it feel to win my gold, Rudie replied. Cocky? Not in the least. Rudie's Horseshoe Lounge Music Session on Vale Radio is less than a year old, but already it's up there with whispering Bob as the nation's best Country show.

It's another yardstick by which to measure the north's fastest growing DAB and online broadcaster.

Founders Chris Marsden and Dougie Weeke are well known DJs in this part of the world, but the pair were concerned that despite a plethora of stations, none were giving a platform for things that didn't increase ratings or advertising revenues.

"We like to be known as North Yorkshire's local radio station, wherever you are in the county." says Chris. "That's the whole concept; bringing everything back to basics."

York Press:

Chris Marsden. Picture: Matt Clark.

Vale Radio is based in Haxby and its name is down to the village being the centre of the Vale of York in Viking times.

"The initial idea was to encompass the forgotten areas, the little villages and market towns that nobody ever spoke of," says Dougie. "Now they have a voice. If somewhere is holding a bring and buy sale to raise money for its scout hut, in radio terms it's not a big deal to some stations. But for people it's a massive deal. Unless they have that voice nothing will happen."

In case your reaction is 'they would say that wouldn't they,' think on because Vale Radio is non profit making and none of the 28 presenters, including Chris and Dougie, have been paid since the station launched.

"We do this for what we believe in and what we can offer the community," says Dougie. "That community is getting bigger all the time. We're just very poor people offering a great service."

They make money for others, though. Vale Radio funded the first York Rescue Boat through an auction and the station has raised thousands of pounds to help Haxby's Blake Knaggs who suffers from the rare Mucolipidosis II ML2.

"Two years on we have amassed £145,000 for charities across the area," says Dougie. "That's what local radio is about, helping the community."

York Press:

Dougie Weeke. Picture: Matt Clark.

As with many good ideas it all began over a drink in the local.

"We wanted to produce a radio service that is personal to people, their street and communities, but still offering everything you'd get from big stations," says Dougie.

That said, when you have no premises, equipment or presenters, where do you go from chatting over a pint to making it happen?

Fortunately others shared the vision, some even donated state of the art equipment and now the station and its programmes have been nominated for six awards.

"It started off as radio for the Vale of York," says Chris. "Now it's expanded so quickly we just can't squeeze everything in."

Not bad for an idea born on a beer mat.

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Americana UK award winner Rudie Humphrey.

A good example of this station supporting local acts will be at the forthcoming York little festival of live music in September.

"During the week coming up to the festival, every day on the afternoon programme we will have one of the acts playing live to give people a taste of what is on offer," says Dougie.

He and Chris say they'll never be tempted away from their small is beautiful ethos. But don't think that means Vale is stuck for music to play. With its growing reputation, record companies are queuing up to have their new releases aired, while Rudie's award winning show has been selected as part of the Dial-a-song network, so every week he receives a never before heard tune to play.

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Vale Radio roadshow.

"Our database holds about 35,000 tracks and we've got another quarter of a million to put in," says Dougie "Rudie alone receives more than 60 CDs a week."

So you name it, Vale plays it, from Glen Miller to Glen Tilbrook, mainstream to indie. There are also regular guest performers, many from America, and one programme has a waiting list for artists of six months.

But the station's community ethos means it's not only star names on the play list.

"We're giving local people a chance to get their stuff on the radio," says Chris. "If it's good we'll stick it on."

The tricky issue of funding is addressed by community partnerships, advertising and sponsorship. All profits are put back into the community in the form of grant schemes.

"People tell us we offer something unique," says Chris. "Advertisers like it because this is ethical radio, simple as that. In fact IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Service) chose to pay us rather than take free advertising from other radio stations. They believe in what we believe in, we have no masters controlling us."

And that allows another freedom.

"People enjoy the banter we are having because we all have passion for what we're doing and it shows," says Dougie. "It's a struggle, but we do it because people have faith in what we do."

Vale Radio broadcasts on DAB and online together with devices via a free app.

www.thevaleonline.com Vale Radio is looking for reporters in rural districts or the town where you live. The station needs volunteers to record issues and interviews for broadcast on air. Full training will be given in interview techniques and editing. This is your chance to get into broadcasting with one of the norths fastest growing radio stations.