A GROUP brought together by its love of Bollywood music has grown into Dorset’s first Asian radio show, thanks to a grant from Dorset Community Foundation.
Bollywood Music Lovers began meeting at the Russell Court Hotel in Bournemouth two years ago to share their enjoyment of the music but when the 100-strong group was forced to stay at home in the lockdown chairman Ramesh Lal looked for other ways of staying in touch.
With an ethnic community of 10,000 Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani families in Dorset, he hoped there would be an audience for a radio show so he approached digital station Hot Radio in Bournemouth which found a slot. “They have a studio but we couldn’t go into it because of Covid so we needed to build somewhere to record the show,” he said.
A £4,500 grant from the foundation’s Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund helped buy the equipment to go into a studio at newly-recruited presenter Anjali Mavi’s home and the show was born.
Bollywood Beats with Anjali began broadcasting on June 9 last year, playing its trademark ‘raga to bhangra’ selection of Indian classic and contemporary songs requested by listeners.
“It’s a link to our audience’s cultural heritage,” said Mr Lal. “It makes them feel at home if they remember a song, it brings back memories and it’s a reminder of their families.
“Their names are mentioned and that’s just as important as the music. Hearing your name read out when the request is played makes a real difference and it connects the community together.”
Each show, which goes out at 9pm on Tuesdays and is broadcast in Hindi and English, attracts 200 texts and Facebook messages.
Mr Lal said its audience of all ages and the popularity of the presenter has made it a useful platform for passing on important information. “It became a vehicle to spread Covid messages, basically stay safe, keep your distance, wear a mask, wash your hands,” he said.
The show’s community involvement also spawned Bournemouth Poole Christchurch Indian Community, a Covid response group that produced face masks for the NHS and Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant workers, delivered hot ethnic meals provided by the Russell Court Hotel to older members of the community who were shielding and ran shopping errands.
The grant from Dorset Community Foundation really gave us the confidence that we could do it on a sustainable basis so that was wonderful
The show has also passed on information about the Census and the county’s vaccination programme.
“We feel very strongly that everybody should be vaccinated so we want to promote it actively because the members of our community are at the biggest risk,” said Mr Lal.
The group worked with Dorset Healthcare to organise an ethnic community vaccination day at BIC and had its own volunteers there to reassure people concerned about being vaccinated.
“We have some doctors among our volunteers so they were able to answer questions from anyone who was perhaps hesitant and explain why it was important to have the vaccination,” said Mr Lal.
The group has arranged another vaccination day on July 25.
Meanwhile its members are looking forward to getting back to having live music events together and seeing the radio show’s audience grow. “The love of the music brought us all together but we had no idea it would grow from a social thing that was a bit of fun into this,” said Mr Lal.
“One of the ways we thought we could bring people together is through Bollywood music because people in the north of India speak a different language to the people in the south but the thing that unites them is Bollywood music. It’s a way of reaching out to everyone.”
The group would like to extend the show but needs more funds and sponsorship. Its long-term goal is its own dedicated station, like Southampton’s Unity 101, which has a wide range of ethnic programmes.
Said Mr Lal: “That is the ambition but we feel really good about what has happened. The grant from Dorset Community Foundation really gave us the confidence that we could do it on a sustainable basis so that was wonderful.”
Community foundation director Grant Robson said: “The way MLB has grown and the good work it is doing for its community is incredible. We are delighted to see them making a success on air and spreading not just the Covid message but the sheer joy of the music.”
Listen to Bollywood Beats on 102.8 FM or here.