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Interview with Georgina Sammut, longtime volunteer of Radio Cardiff.

Interview at Radio Cardiff, VCS Cymru Media Studios on 7 April 2017.


The Chronicle Project is a community heritage project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by VCS Cymru with the aims to document the history of volunteering in Cardiff, from 1914 to 2014.

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We will now begin recording the interview with Georgina Sammut. The recording takes place on the 7th of April, 2017 and at Radio Cardiff. The volunteers present are Kayleigh Williams and Lara Taffer and this recording is being collected as an Oral History and will be part of the Chronicle Project. A project led by VCS Cymru and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

KW = Kayleigh Williams (interviewer), LT = volunteer, GS = Georgina Sammut

KW: Georgina, would you introduce yourself, please?
[Georgina Sammut, presenter of the No Frills breakfast show on Radio Cardiff – 00:29 to 02:01]
GS: Hello, I'm Georgina Sammut, I present the No Frills breakfast show on Radio Cardiff 98.7 FM. I expect you can hear I haven’t got a very strong Welsh accent. That’s because I'm English. I come from Birmingham, but I've lived in Wales for the past 46 years or so, firstly in Barmouth, in mid-Wales and latterly in Cardiff since 1972. I've lived in Penarth and Dinas Powys as well as Aberdare and Canton and Riverside. I'm currently living in Riverside, but I do voluntary work here at Radio Cardiff.
KW: Would you mind telling us what you do here at Radio Cardiff?
GS: Well, besides causing trouble at Radio Cardiff, I also present the No Frills breakfast show, which is a daily weekday show, from 7 o'clock in the morning till 9 o’clock, every week, Monday to Friday. And this show is mainly based on Reggae music, Ska music, Soul, Motown, music of black origin predominantly, sung by black artists usually or written by them. But I do pop in the odd classic from white bands from England, usually. And I play a lot of local artists: Leighton Jones, Sam Jones, Black Jam Circus; loads of groups – The Navarones and the 2-tones, all kinds of groups that are based in Cardiff.
KW: And how did you get involved at Radio Cardiff?
[Receiving funding to set up the Butetown Priority Estate project in 1981; incipient collaboration with John Lenney, founder of Radio Cardiff; 150 years of Cardiff history – 02:04 to 05:59]
GS: Well, I've been involved with Radio Cardiff for at least 23 years, probably 24. I think in about 1981, I met John Lenney who is the original founder of what was then Tiger Bay Radio, and then he changed it from Tiger Bay Radio to Dock of the Bay Radio, and then from Dock of the Bay Radio to Bay FM and then from Bay FM to Beats FM and finally ended up as Radio Cardiff. But I've been with them all. I've been with them since the inception of community radio, which was developed when Cardiff Bay Development Corporation was in control of this area and Sir Geoffrey Inkin gave us some funding to start off the community radio station. If you think back to the 80s we had a lot of riots in areas with lots of poor housing conditions, we had Broadwater Farm estates and their riots when PC Keith Blakelock was murdered, decapitated [PC Keith Blakelock of the London Metropolitan Police was actually stabbed, not decapitated, on the 6th of Oct, 1985]; we had riots in Notting Hill [London], Toxteth [Liverpool]. And in order to prevent what they thought might be another flash point in the docks here in Cardiff they were prepared to pump money into the area. So I was working for the Cardiff City Council at the time as a Special Projects Officer and I thought ‘well, let’s get some money from the Welsh Office, to try and improve Butetown,’ which might ameliorate any problems that might be occurring in the area. So I set up the Butetown Priority Estate project in 1981 and it was during that time that I met John Lenney. And I used the reports that I wrote for the Welsh Office - let John have a copy to use to support his application for funding from Sir Geoffrey Inkin at the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation and subsequent bits of funding off various other people since then. So I was right there at the very beginning. At first, my practical involvement, besides being a supporter of them through my own project, which was the Butetown Priority Estate project, I also became involved with them on the news level, and I used to do local news. I had a two-hour show called The Lunch Break at the beginning of Bay FM, where I used to do two hours of fun and interviews, which then became a shortened version to a half-hour show later on, in the development of Radio Cardiff. When Cardiff was 150 years old, on my CD for Radio Cardiff that was called 150 years of Cardiff history I interviewed loads of people – 22 people, from politicians to the man who manages Cardiff Castle, to local personalities, Frank Hennessy – all sorts of people who were all involved with Cardiff and that CD is still available in our archives of Radio Cardiff. I was the only woman on it, as usual and Paul Lyons did the backing track, which was put on after I had done all the interviews. Also a man called, I can’t think of his name now – he did a couple of interviews on it – a younger man from Grangetown, but I can’t remember his name now! His sister works here – Nefertiti Delgado. I also was helped on the production of 150 years of Cardiff history by Nicky Delgado from Grangetown.
KW: And do you have any fond or favourite memories of your time there?
[Georgina’s broadcasting, media-oriented family, her son Gethin and her daughter Samantha – 06:05 to 07:20]
GS: Well, I had so many years here. My whole life’s been here really. I mean, 45 years of my life here in Cardiff basically. My fun memories are – getting married twice, 3 times, in Cardiff, at the registry office. They were good memories, nice parties afterwards, lots of cake, I love cake! I've enjoyed having my daughter here with me and my son Gethin who now lives in Australia, which is a bit sad. But he went to Fitzalan High School, did his O-levels and A-levels and went to Liverpool University and then went on a backpacking trip in his 20s to Australia and never came back. I love him very much, he’s 40 now, but I do miss him terribly. But I had a great life with him when he was here. And my daughter, Samantha, is also a presenter at Radio Cardiff, so she’s sort of following in her mother’s footsteps really. And she does a wicked show on a Wednesday so it’s kind of keeping it in the family. We're all broadcasters. My son makes movies in Australia, he’s a film producer. So we’re all in the media world.
KW: How lovely! And since you’ve been involved in Radio Cardiff, or even back in the Bay, in Butetown, have you met anybody that has inspired you in your volunteering?
[Inspirational people – 07:33 to 07:59]
GS: John Lenney, the founding member, of course! He inspired me! And Lyndon Cumberbatch, who is colloquially known as Tubby C – he’s always supported me, and he’s used to my boshy ways. A bit of a feminist and I don’t take men belittling women very lightly, and I do tend to speak my mind so I've got friends and enemies within the organisation, but mainly friends!

KW: That’s good! And what initially motivated you to get involved with radio?
[Being involved in the local community through radio – 08:05 t0 08:46]
GS: I like communicating with people, I like talking, as you can tell! It’s hard to shut me up once I get going, I'm very involved in the local community of Riverside, where I live. But because of my involvement with Butetown in the 80s, this is where my heart is in Cardiff: it’s in the docks! My soul is [there], even though I physically live in Riverside, I spend a lot of my time down here – 5 days a week, I'm always in the docks. So I know an awful lot of people from the area. And I love them basically. There aren’t many people who I don’t like, who live in Butetown, or Riverside or Grangetown. And I know an awful lot of people.
KW: And what impact do you think this community radio has had on the community on the whole?
[Promoting community cohesion and black music nationally and internationally – 08:54 to 10:26]
GS: Oh it’s promoting community cohesion! Definitely! Because you don’t get the music we play here on Radio Cardiff on any other radio station. You won’t hear 11 minute long tracks of Reggae. You know, we play – how many other stations play obscure Bob Marley tracks? We do represent the black peoples’ music right here in Cardiff Bay! And we listen to – not just here – because of the position of our transmitter, the people in Bristol and the black community in Bristol listen to Radio Cardiff as well, so our music is spreading across the water to England. And of course now with the tuning apps, not just the FM radio, we have a worldwide listenership. I have listeners – and my daughter does – from Kenya, Canada, America. We got them in Austria. I got a fellow DJ who works in Sweden and we communicate a lot. I've got two [unintelligible] in Perth, in Australia, who regularly come on my show by telephone link. So we link to the whole world now, through the various forms of social media. Which I think is divine! And spreads the music that we like playing here on Radio Cardiff – which is unique in Wales , there is no other black radio station, or black music radio station in Wales so I'm very proud to be part of that.
KW: That’s definitely something to be proud of! So, bearing in mind that you’ve been involved with the radio since the 1980s, how would you say this community radio has changed over the years?
[More community based programmes and different DJs and presenters on Radio Cardiff; running Radio Cardiff purely voluntarily – 10:40 to 11:46]
GS: Well it’s changed in a lot of ways. Now we have many more community based programmes like the Chronicle and The Art of Being Well. Those programmes that come on, The Race Equality First programmes, and the ones between half past one and 3 o’clock, the BRG [Butetown, Riverside, and Grangetown], shows produced and directed by my daughter, Samantha, these are all quite new initiatives that VCS have brought into the station which kind of makes it a little bit different. The sad things to me are the people who’ve left. The DJs and presenters who were with us in the past have moved on. Some of them have gone to the BBC, some of them are working, which is good, because you are not able to get jobs and work. But I mainly love Radio Cardiff because we’re all volunteers. None of us, not a single one of us gets paid, and we all do what we do for nothing. I'm very proud to be part of an organisation that is purely run by volunteers, and that’s what Radio Cardiff is.
KW: Are you still in contact with any of the people that have moved on to employment and things like that?
[Supporting local artists and their careers through Radio Cardiff – 11:54 to 13:55]
GS: Yes, people in the street give me a big hug. The people I promote as well, the local singers and the local talent, they just love Radio Cardiff. Leighton Jones who was on The Voice, he didn’t get through, but Will.I.Am thought he was the best singer on the show. Well, I play his music regularly. And also, Sam Jones is another local singer. Faith Nelson, she was on The Voice as well. They come in to promote their tunes and to let the people know that, despite not winning The Voice, they’re still out there and they’re still producing beautiful songs. And my current favourite band is the Black Jam Circus, which is a big sounding Reggae-Funk-Ska band, which is unique. And their new album to me is the best thing I heard since Sergeant Pepper [Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles]– it’s so eclectic, it’s so different, every track is different. So meeting those people, and trying to help them with their careers, which I find really lovely. There’s some more, I can drop names: Reuel Elijah, whom I met when he was 14, with Jukebox Juniors and I met him – a little boy and he came in and he started singing Marvin Gaye songs and I’m gobsmacked – ‘Wow, this kid’s got a voice!’ And now he’s 18-19 and he’s making a career for himself. Lucas Jayro [spelling unsure] is another one. There are so many young people! Liara [Barussi], the woman who runs Jukebox Juniors, which do a lot of Hip-Hop dancing and street dancing, throughout Britain now they’ve won competitions. She’s been on my show, and I love her, I love her dad, who is another record producer, he lives in Ely. I know an awful lot of people, they're in showbiz and the media and I'm proud to be part of their careers as well as being part of Radio Cardiff.
KW: So being at Radio Cardiff, is there a social life behind the scenes?
[The Radio Cardiff Awards and the Coal Exchange as a music venue – 14:04 to 16:41]
GS: Because I'm a DJ as well as a presenter, I tend to be ‘the act’. Other people enjoy themselves when I do gigs in the community. And as I'm getting a bit older, I tend to do a lot of funerals these days, and be the DJ at local wakes. Because we celebrate life in Butetown rather than death. And there are really joyful events, where they have a DJ and they have dancing, a jolly good drink, so I do a lot of those kinds of events, and that’s my social life rolled up into the same thing. We also used to have, but we haven’t done them in a few years now – it was a great social event for all the presenters and DJs here at Radio Cardiff, it was called the Radio Cardiff Awards. We had Gwen McCrae, Wishing on a Star lady, she came down and sang. And we had famous bands, we had The Real Thing, I don’t know if you remember them, probably a little bit before your time, from the 70s, a big Liverpool band. They’d come down and be the live act. Dretonio [unsure about name], another guy from Ely, he used to perform. Darren Tyson, local lad from Llanedeyrn, he would perform at Radio Cardiff Awards. And then we’d get – it would be just like the Oscars of Radio Cardiff. People going over ‘And the nominations are’ and we’d have all the pictures of the people on the big screen behind the presenter, who was hosting the show. And you’d see every band, and we’d have house DJs, and all kinds of people winning awards, young DJs, new people, so it was a wonderful social event. We used to have the Coal Exchange which was derelict, not after we finished doing the awards there! Once it stopped being used, it deteriorated. And they had those awful plants growing within the structure of the Coal Exchange. So it became too dangerous for people to have events. Fortunately, Mike, who is the owner of the Coal Exchange now, he wants to bring it back to life and some of it is going to be a hotel, it’s going to be studios and things like that. So we’re hoping to bring the Coal Exchange back to a music venue again. A plan for another Radio Cardiff Event at the Coal Exchange, featuring a lot of the artists I’ve mentioned earlier in this interview.
[The Riverside Festival – 16:42 to 18:53]
Because we’re in showbiz, us presenters and DJs, we tend to have a big life out of Radio Cardiff. I'm early in the morning so I don’t do too many gigs late at night; I do afternoon and early evening gigs, or be a support act for somebody. Or, like the Riverside Festival, which is where I live and it’s a local festival. This year it’s occurring on August the 19th, in Despenser Gardens and Clare Gardens in Riverside. Come along if you can. You’ll see lots of the local people there. We started organising it, and our first meeting this week, on Tuesday this week. However, we plan these things, we have a group of people who plan it thoroughly, we have to get the all correct permissions, get the police organised, get the stage ready and the sound systems booked and acts booked. It’s not just music at that festival, there are lots of stalls there, and the petting zoo comes down and brings rabbits and goats and things like that. Because we live in the inner city, a lot of the children around here are of lower income families, and they don’t get to the country very often, and part of them have never seen a cow or a goat or a chicken, even a rabbit. So those kinds of things are brought to Despenser Gardens and Clare Gardens for the children to have a petting zoo within the community, which I find is lovely. We have owls coming, a man with lots of owls and hunting birds, hawks and eagles, he comes down regularly as well. Where else in Riverside can you see an eagle, except in the gardens of Cardiff Castle? But we have them right in Riverside. It’s lovely, because it scares the pigeons away, which we don’t like in Riverside. [...]
[Being politically involved in the community and doing political interviews on the radio – 19:02 to 20:33]
As well as the Riverside festival, I tend to be involved in a political way in the area. I’ve been the chair person of the local Tenants and Residents Group for several years and now I'm just a committee member, because a younger person took over. We change the chairperson every year – it tends to be women, funnily enough, on the committee. I don’t know why it is, but the women seem to live longer in Riverside than the men. I don’t know whether that is the same nationwide, but that the way it is. So I'm involved in that. I'm a very political person inasmuch as I like to do political interviews: I’ve had liberal democrats, Rodney Berman; I’ve had Rhodri Morgan, who is the head of everything in Wales – the Assembly at one time; Alun Michael, who is now the Police Commissioner, I've interviewed him several times; Kevin Brennan, the Education minister, I had him on my show. I love doing political interviews. Andrew R. T. Davies, who is a big farmer, a Tory – I've really enjoyed talking to him, because he reminds me of Winston Churchill, so I like interviewing him. Neil McEvoy, from Plaid Cymru and the lady who is in charge of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
[Georgina’s three careers – 20:33 to 22:51]
I used to work with Leanne Wood when I worked in Probation Service. So my career as a person – before I was a presenter and a volunteer, I had two careers, or maybe I had three careers. Because after I went to university in Cardiff, pre-grants, when you had full-grants, especially if you had children; I was able to go and get a degree at Cardiff University in 1978 to 81, those were my degree years. And then from there I started a career in the Housing Department, and after I finished in Housing, I transferred over to Probation Service in Wood Street, and from then I went to be back and do a course in Teaching, and I became a Teaching Assistant in Kitchener Primary School and then I developed my art skills much more fully, and I did a lot of art work and baking. In those days, when I was working in Kitchener Primary school, that was my last career, I had three careers, that lasted about 11 years in Kitchener. I was teaching the children how to make bread for Harvest Festival, we were doing cooking, we built the first garden school – classroom in the garden. We were a project that was funded by the Welsh Assembly , Welsh Office – it was the Welsh Office in those days. They funded us to start a new outdoor school, and we built a little den in the trees around the school, and had classes around a camp fire and everything. Things that you would think “oh, health and safety!” – but we pushed the boundaries and it was when the Foundation phase, that is now common throughout Wales, was quite common around school, where I worked as a teacher assistant, with Fran Gluck who was the teacher who started off the Foundation course, which is now everywhere throughout Wales. So I've been involved with initiatives. And innovative initiative, I've been involved in quite a lot, because I tend to think outside the box. That is what I like to do. So I might be a nonconformist.
KW: So, do you have any advice or words of inspiration for any aspiring volunteers?
[Volunteering as rewarding unpaid work, that brings joy to others and satisfaction to self – 23:03 to 24:50]
GS: Volunteering to me is one of the most rewarding things a person could possibly do. It’s when you’re doing things because you want to, rather than because you have to. You're not doing it for any monetary reward, you're doing it because you love doing it, so if anybody wants to get involved with all sorts of different projects in a voluntary way it’s a good grounding. It not only looks good on your CV, if you want to get work in the future, but it also makes you a better person, because you are giving up your time, especially for a specific reason. And I can only say, volunteering here at Radio Cardiff – and, as I’ve told you before, we’re all volunteers here – it just shows you how much we love the radio station , because we’ve been here for 25 years now, in one form or another and there are still some of the same people working and volunteering here, when I say ‘working’ I mean ‘volunteering’ here. But volunteering is work! It’s just unpaid work, and we bring a lot of joy to a lot of people and it’s very rewarding! I think the thing that it gives you most is job satisfaction – if you're doing something that you like, you feel happier in yourself, and it does show in your countenance, in the way you sit and present yourself, it does show that you're enjoying what you're doing. What more can you do, how better can you feel than being happy that you've done some good with your time in your life? So that’s what I would say is my idea of volunteering and what it brings to me. And the hope it would bring that feeling to other people too. It is an extraordinarily good form of job satisfaction.
LF: Can you finish the sentence ‘volunteering is ...’?
[‘Volunteering is my life’s work’ – 24:54 to 25:41]
GS: Well, volunteering is to me, my life’s work. Of all the work I've done, paid – as I said, I had 3, actually 4 careers, because I worked previously to working in the Council Housing Department, I was working in all sorts of places – but to me, the job that I've done the longest has been the volunteering on Radio Cardiff. Volunteering is a lifelong opportunity for self- aggrandisement, if you know what that means, and satisfaction in your life. It brings you joy, hopefully!
KW: We’ve asked all our questions, is there anything else that we haven’t discussed that you’d like to add?
GS: I could go on forever really, couldn’t I? That’s a good question to ask me! I think I might have liked to have been a politician, I think I would have loved to be more active in a political party, but there's never been one that’s actually fitted into my political head. I think I'm not a Labour Party person, I’m not Plaid Cymru, I’m not a Conservative, I'm not a Liberal-Democrat, I’m not a Socialist worker, I’m a Georgina and I think if we had the Georgina Party, I would be really happy in that one! That's about it!
KW: Well, there’s always time to start your own party!
LF: It’s other volunteering opportunities!
GS: Yes, Yes!
KW: Thank you!
GS: Thank you very much! I've enjoyed talking to you ladies, well done!
KW: We’ve enjoyed talking to you too!
GS: Thank you!

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