How Foundation Fm Is Pushing To #BalanceForBetter

“We stand for something and it’s a radio station people needed“

We stand for something and it’s a radio station people needed” exclaims Frankie, one of the three founders of South London’s In only it’s fourth month, Foundation has looked to flip the narrative of regular radio stations and elevate women, from the DJs to producers, and push them to the forefront. The station has already hosted the likes of Maya Jama, Jamz Supernova and George Fitzgerald, broadcasted from the Milk Studios in New York and assembled an incredible line up of talent. To celebrate International Women’s Day and this year’s theme of #BalanceForBetter, we spoke to the people behind the scenes and sounds of Foundation.

Coming together as a trio with an intention to create a “safe creative space” for their friends, Becky Richardson, Ami Bennett and Frankie Wells took it upon themselves to create foundation – and were initially surprised by the task ahead of them. Whether it was securing a physical space, filling 60 hours of programming or building an “actual radio station”, their goal was clear and kept them going; “there has never been a moment where we wanted to give up and this further enforced our purpose. In fact, doors naturally opened” says Becky. Going live on the 5th November in 2018, Foundation hit the airwaves with a bang, putting everyone on watch and making their message clear:

Everyone is on the same page and supports the mission of putting women first… We don’t need to set anything up to create change because that’s our message in the first place.

In the first week of going live, the trio said that the DMs were stacking up, with people sharing their messages of support and wanting to be involved. While this was initially a surprise, it showed them how vital Foundation fm was in the current landscape – with ongoing conversations around gender, sex and the media. Back in 2018, Radar Radio suspended broadcasting amidst news of sexual harassment and exploitative practice and the BBC faced backlash around its lack of diversity of female hosts and talent. The very ethos and values which foundation hold dear are shown, from the founders, to the DJs, even down to the shows and output they create; “It has started conversations, that even go on outside of the station and this has been really good for our presenters because they realise they stand for something” explains Frankie when talking about their scheduling line up.

Their scheduling is one thing that stands out straight away, which looks to appeal to their listeners in unique ways. This includes replacing the standardised format of the ‘Breakfast’ show with ‘Brunch with Kamilla‘ (running from 10am-1pm) and a ‘drivetime’ show with the ‘Happy Hour with Ellie Prohan‘ (from 5-7pm). These changes were made with their community in mind; the late risers who want something to listen to at work or uni and the people who don’t drive home, but instead tune in to bless their afternoon with friendly voices. These changes have paid off and shown the founding trio that they just need a firm base to work from in order to grow, they’ve opted to take things a step at a time and not to rush into going 7 days a week [currently on air Mon-Fri] or kickstart their YouTube channel without thought.

Ellie Prohan

Looking at Foundation as a whole, what do you think makes it a unique place to work and why would you encourage others to work here?

I feel that I am a strong woman and all the women at the station are strong women and one of the strongest ethos is having everyone work together. The typical situation of having women compete doesn’t exist here and everyone is allowed to express their core values. What inspires the most in life is the word ‘freedom’ – freedom in my art, freedom to be able to perform and freedom to express my individuality and identity through my art. Foundation helps with this on a day to day basis and I enjoy coming into Foundation every day and the freedom that the girls give me [Ami, Becky and Frankie]. I have a say in what happens in my show and we all brainstorm our ideas together.  It’s like a cake and we all bring our own ingredients to the recipe.

Foundation looks to provide a safe and supportive space for all staff as a top priority. What do you think other working environments can learn from Foundation to help bring about a better change in their workplaces?

Other stations can be scared of a DJ’s personality and try to reign you in but Foundation support my growth and allow me to be wild. I was already growing and developing but the girls have sprinkled that little extra to help facilitate an even bigger growth. There is an element of 90’s radio with regards to connecting to your audience that has been lost with social media, because it is JUST social media. The format of connecting with listeners has been forgotten and what foundation does is connect their artists and DJs back to their community. I aim to get people back involved through my questions which I post and we get to speak about them on my show.

After being given the responsibility of the Happy Hour show, what did you want to ensure you bring to the show and are you proud with how its gone so far?

I call myself the Persian Power and culturally, we are mad, energetic and inventive. I wanted to showcase this on my show, alongside interactive games and my DJ’ing skills as well. I’ve also had a guest on my show nearly every day for the past 3 months which is pretty much unheard of. What I wanted to bring was a variety to cater to lots of different tastes. I have even had artists running round Peckham Levels hustling stuff and then we have gone out and given them out to homeless people in the local community. I want the show to have purpose and I want it to be the ‘happy’ hour so when you listen to it, I want you to smile.

You are holding an event for IWD which will broadcast live on Foundation. What can they expect it from the event and are you hoping to make it a regular thing?

Last year, I launched a night called GLo which was a LGBTQIA night for people who aren’t stereotyped by their sexuality. I get told all the time that I don’t look gay but I don’t know what gay looks like so I wanted to throw a night to show what gay looks like – it doesn’t look like any particular thing! This year, we wanted to throw a night called ‘Ellie & Friends’ where we can bring everyone together and the first one will be in collaboration with We have got a sick line-up of women and while last year, there were so many issues with women being represented at festivals, we wanted to flip that narrative. For this particular one, its all women but moving forward, there will be men involved as well. But the women will always be the focus.

A main theme around IWD is also about promoting the idea of balance to younger generations – what do you hope to teach through Foundation and the way it treats females in the industry?

When I was a girl, I used to dream all the time and there was a lack of real female role models. When I was young, I used to look up to Jay-Z and the strength always seemed to be with the men and my ideals of success were associated with men. I think now, young women need to learn 1) that they can accept who they are, 2) they can do whatever they want to do, 3) they are just as good as the boys and 4) to love themselves. Girls need to stick together to be able to achieve and stop letting insecurities and ego get in the way. I don’t necessarily want to do the same as everyone else, I want to do my own thing and foundation helps to support my uniqueness. Foundation creates an open forum and a safe place for young people to explore their own path and career and get them to set their own expectations for success.

Another thing that is abundantly clear is the support that they offer to their staff. Ami explains that every show has a producer, and that everyone that has been involved brings with them their own experience, “We think that is really key to have and the difference it can make. This also includes matching up the right producer with the right DJ“. In it’s creation, Foundation wanted to create a team of individuals, not all of whom had been trained in radio or even had any experience at all, but who were all on the same level. Frankie adds that by creating an environment where people can ask questions, look for assistance and support, everyone develops and can feel like they are part of the team. With some DJs coming from other stations, it also became clear that certain habits needed to be addressed; The only time is when DJs are coming from a heavily male-dominated work environment and they have the notion that they can’t do something because they’re a woman and they have preconceived ideas of what they can and can’t achieve. And it’s been really nice to be able to throw that out the window! They may have preconceived notions of doubt which is obviously natural but I also think can be bred in environments that are not as creatively safe as the one we have made here“.

I think we have also created a space where we can talk, especially if we think something isn’t going right.

By offering a safe and creative space, foundation has proved how easy it can be to do things right. By striving to be the best at everything, that has folded into the show and working with the presenters to make sure they are the most comfortable to get the most of themselves and their guests. When talking about support, I asked the trio how they best support each other and Becky says it is all about learning about each other: “We all took a minute [at the beginning] to figure out what our roles were. It all happened in such a short space of time and we were all doing everything so we had to stop and evaluate what everyone was best placed to do“. Ami adds that the fact that they had a friendship before all of this and respected one another’s skills, strengths and weaknesses also kept them focused.

Their dedication is young people is another thing that Foundation are taking a lead on – whether that be engaging with local young people in Peckham, taking on interns with a desire to learn and gain experience or putting young people at the forefront of on air conversations; “I think it would be a discredit if we had set a radio station that looked to champion young people and then limit what they could speak about. I love learning from young people and what they have to say” remarks Frankie. All three are aware of where they are in their careers, understanding that at one time, someone opened a door and offered them a helping hand and in turn, they wish to return the favour to the next generation.

This awareness also stretches to how they push their message, from their presenters, to the shows they help create, to the guests they get involved. With the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day being #BalanceForBetter and striving for a more balanced workplace and conversations around sex, gender and equality taking a front seat, foundation are doing everything they can, while understanding their role within it; I think everyone should take responsibility in taking those issues forward and one thing I think about is the people who come in and have a lot more experience in talking about those issues than us. So we need to be as good at listening and understanding the privilege with our platform and ensuring people who may not have had a chance previously, are being given a chance“.

But what more needs to be done? It needs reminding that is only 4 months old and the trio have already begun to think about the next steps. Whether that be expanding their soundscape through new shows and sounds, being more involved in local community events and festivals or using their space to run workshops and classes where women can come together, will always be guided and focused by their core message; to address the imbalance of gender and push women to the forefront.

Joss Meek

How did the connection to Foundation FM come about and what attracted you to the station and the show that you have created?

I’ve known Becky, one of the founders for a few years now and she approached me after hearing that I wanted to get back into radio. I had had previous shows on Hoxton Radio and Radar but hadn’t felt heard or understood at either. Immediately, I was keen to be involved – purely on the basis that it was a female-led station creating a safe space for expression – I knew I could be myself and create a show I would be proud of. I wanted to do a talk show that gave advice on how to get into the creative industry – something I wish I’d had growing up.

You have previously worked as a music journalist and currently as a music PR. Throughout your career, do you feel that there has been a shift in the perception towards women in music and how they are valued?

I think the shift has come from women realising that we don’t have to compete – there is space for us all to do what we want to do and we make more waves if we work together and help each other. There’s an amazing movement of supportive women right now – it’s become a lot less competitive.

Your show “Doyenne” has championed women in creative job roles and looks to share their stories, their struggles and their triumphs in order to inspire. Why did you decide to put the show together and do you feel that it has had the desired effect?

I think, if I’m honest, I always looked to the music industry as a place for very lucky, wealthy people to work. I thought it would be impossible for me to do it because the route in was to work for free and do internships, and I wasn’t financially able to do that. I managed to find a way to do both internships and work for free whilst working evenings, weekends, caring for my father, etc. I know my route in wasn’t the usual and I wanted to share my story as something varied from ‘the norm’ of living at home and working for free. The show came from this desire (I’m actually yet to share my story on it) to share stories from people of all backgrounds – the numerous ways you can follow your dreams and the numerous roles that are available – outside of what you’re shown at school.

You have had a great run of guests such as Lauren, Minnie and Erin. Looking forward – who else would you like to get on the show and do you have any dream guests?

I’d love to have Adwoa Aboah on the show – she’d be the dream. I’d also love to expand into larger names to break down the ‘pedastool’ complex we place on celebrities and personalities. I guess what I want to do is humanise everyone and show that anything is possible if you focus and work hard.

A main theme around IWD is also about promoting the idea of balance to younger generations – what do you hope to teach through Foundation and the way it treats females in the industry?

My show is all about teaching the younger generation about the various ways you can get into the creative industry and as a part of that we do touch on the idea of balance. It’s been almost unanimous amongst my guests so far that they feel the need to be very vocal in order to get what they want. I think this is key – ask for what you want, complain if something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to charge the same as men, don’t be afraid to speak out. I guess in the workplace, see yourself as a person – our sex shouldn’t affect how good we are at our job!

With this in mind, what would it founders hope to teach the next generation through foundation; “There will be so many people who will tell you you can’t do something and that’s just not the case. Once you get going, don’t look back, stay positive and focus on the good things” exclaims Becky, believing that nothing should be able to hold you back from what you want to do. Frankie and Ami add that while women’s issues are on the table, it shouldn’t just be a female-only conversation; We have a great spectrum of women and there is representation across the board which young women can hopefully identify with. What needs to be done further is balance the masculine/feminine line, feminine is not less than masculine and if a man wants to be feminine, that doesn’t make him any less of a man. I genuinely believe that women’s issues should be everyone’s issues“.

Every day is about women across the world for Foundation FM – while we support International Women’s Day, it is a daily issue for us.

While the impact Foundation has made would come as a surprise to many, it shouldn’t. Through hard work and dedication, Ami, Frankie and Becky have been able to create a space which unites its presenters, DJs, guests and listeners through its over-arching message, vision and mission. While its output diversifies, foundation will continue to grow and inspire more and more of its listeners, widen its community and make more people feel accepted and understood. While Ami says encourages people to “slide into the DMs” with ideas and pitches, it’s the very notion that people can get involved, be responded to and join the movement.

Tune into every Monday-Friday from 10am-10pm and look out for them this Summer as they will be collaborating with events and festivals throughout 2019.