Rona Radio: Entertaining during lockdown

By Harvey Dryburgh, Henley Business School student

Upon reflection, during these past few weeks as a student it could have seemed difficult to find solace in anything other than textbooks and revision. These unprecedented times of isolation have left us all feeling disengaged from our daily networks, on top of fearing the devastating impacts of a global pandemic. Freddie, a good friend of mine, and myself decided to try and ease these issues, and on March 20 we performed our first live music stream on Instagram to attempt to entertain some of our close friends. It is fair to say it was a disaster! The audio was dreadful, the camera angle was misplaced and the only positive we managed to take away was that our pals would support us in any venture we proceeded into, no matter how bad it was!

What had spurred us to do this you ask? Well, I have a background in club promotions, working as an event manager for Entourage Project and Oto alongside studying for my Business and Management degree at Henley Business School. Freddie is a DJ, and also a student at the University who I met under ‘normal circumstances’ for a Reading student by sharing a pint together at Park Bar. After working at many successful events with one another, it became clear that we both had a similar taste in music, in particular the emerging Nu-Disco sphere, alongside the more commercialised house and techno genres. After my departure from Reading when teaching moved online, to return to my family home in Devon, Freddie called me and said he had conceptualised “Rona Radio” whereby he would play each evening to give our friends something to look forward to during these times of uncertainty.

Skip forward a week, and most of the teething problems had been resolved. After trawling the internet for advice, we had found a technical solution that would allow us to stream high quality music to our friends, and we had begun to entertain our small network of university chums each evening between 7-8pm. It became apparent that our channel required variance, so we reached out to our extended DJ network to ask if they too would be interested in streaming for us. We then started to see Rona Radio transmit from different areas of the country, such as Leeds, Norfolk, Nottingham and London to name a few. This proved to be great exposure and we gained a great following. We started to reach out to many famous artists, and thanks to the Dutch DJ superstar, Mason, we caught our break and he provided a stream from Amsterdam that saw Rona Radio gain its international presence. So much so, that at the time of writing we have hosted streams from the UK, Italy, The Netherlands and even Brazil! Our efforts were picked up by BBC Radio Berkshire, and we were asked to do a radio interview which will further enhance our reach.

Fundamentally, it was evident that we could use our rising popularity for a cause other than entertainment. My brother has recently graduated as a doctor, being flung into action at the Royal London Hospital to offer additional services during this time of crisis. Upon hearing of the horror stories that our health service is facing, we made it a key priority that we raise as much cash as possible for the NHS. We ordered a batch of t-shirts sporting our logo, and sold them all in no time at all, with all proceeds going to the NHS Charities Together. This provided me with the perfect opportunity to use some of the marketing and accounting skills taught to me at Henley, and from this one initiative we raised £408.14. We have since started a JustGiving page to incorporate all our donations, with our core aim being to raise £2,000 by the end of lockdown. As well as supplying your daily dosage of entertainment!

The skills we have learnt from these past few weeks of successfully growing a brand have inclined us to start our own events company this year, but for the time being, we urge you all to stay at home, stay safe and switch on Rona Radio.

Learn more about our cause via our Facebook Page:

Some media coverage of our story can be found in the Reading Chronicle.

And also on BBC Radio Berkshire.

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