Forty years in your ears: two special CKCU FM anniversaries

“Even through the haze of cannabis smoke and the passing of 40 soul-crushing years, I can vividly remember joining CKCU’s closed circuit….  

Four decades ago, the closed-circuit studio was a musty, dark, decrepitated hole; it was not the bright and shiny digital playground that it is today. There were some mysterious stains and burns on the carpet. The studio’s only connection to the outside world was a small square window in the door. Closed circuit used to be broadcast all over the tunnels and buildings on campus, but a fire in the late seventies reduced its broadcast range to the CKCU office, the men’s bathroom and, for some reason, the Women’s Centre down the hall.  

Closed circuit is where the records that were too worn or scratched to be played on air came to die. It is also where wannabe deejays (or announcers) came to try their hand at volunteer broadcasting. Two turntables, a cassette deck, a microphone, and all those skipping, popping records. If you had claustrophobia, you would not last long.  

I was lucky enough to volunteer for closed circuit at the same time as Steve Kirkland and Joe Reilly those many years ago. As different as our shows still are, we are all united by a love of music and training for radio together – under conditions best suited for submariners.  

Even 40 years ago, Steve Kirkland’s knowledge of music impressed me. To this day, Steve is one of the few volunteer announcers who can (and often does) fill in on a myriad of specialty music shows – jazz, folk, Celtic music, the latest releases, roots music, reggae, and more. He took over hosting British Airwaves in the 80s, and now he does the incredibly eclectic show Volume, Contrast, Brilliance – every Saturday night at 6:00 on CKCU. Steve’s knowledge and taste in music knows no bounds. 

Joe Reilly is another pillar of the station whose dedication to Canadian music and to local musicians is evident in his two shows: The Wavelength (on Monday nights at 9:00), and The Guest List (on Thursday afternoons at 5:00). The man has the gift of the gab and has had great in-depth interviews with artists both known and unknown. Because Joe plays, interviews, and promotes the bands on his show, they’re always willing to come back on, even after they have “made it.” Joe is not only a pillar of volunteerism at CKCU, but he is also a renowned Ottawa music and festival promoter.   

I take my hat off to Steve and to Joe for 40 years of uninterrupted volunteering at CKCU, and 40 years of great original programming on Ottawa’s airwaves. Thanks to these two announcers (aka disc jockeys) for 40 years in our ears -that is dedication. Thank you, both.” – Renny Godier, host of Renny’s Riot and long-time CKCU FM volunteer.

CKCU FM honours Craig Mackie

CKCU FM would like to acknowledge the life of Craig Mackie and his recent passing on November 2, 2022.  

Although Craig settled in PEI, he wasn’t always on the East Coast. In 1978, he stepped into the role of Station Manager at CKCU FM in Ottawa. The station was a young thing and so was he. He filled the management role into 1981. During his time managing 93.1 FM, Craig made many contributions, his greatest being the introduction of what is now the CKCU FM Annual Funding Drive. In 1978, the first Funding Drive took place as a means to keep the station on-air under changing circumstances. It was a full-on event that included putting up posters, going out into the community, a lot of hustling by all involved, and fun shenanigans to raise awareness and donations — the late 70s and 80s were a different time! It was a success, and to this day, it’s taken place every year since and is a crucial time for CKCU’s well-being.

Remembering the early days at CKCU, long-time station member and host of Black & Blues John Tackaberry shared “Craig was an always-present leader who was tough but also inspiring, who set the example for the station for years, and his creation of the Funding Drive was the cornerstone of the station.” 

Craig had a huge heart for CKCU FM, radio, and community. In November 2015, when CKCU celebrated its 40th anniversary, he was in attendance and made a speech. He came to Ottawa to celebrate the radio station and its community that he helped establish and shape. He saw old friends and faces, and met new ones; among them, some of the younger generations of CKCU who shared passion for community radio and would help carry it on. Through conversations, Craig shared his stories and experience with them, creating his own small connection between the past, present, and future of the CKCU community. A fitting way of sharing his radio experiences, as it is an aural medium. He reflected in his writing during his last weeks of life about wanting to attend the station’s 50th anniversary coming up in 2025, and accepting it wouldn’t be possible.  

Rest assured, Craig, that although you might not be able to be in attendance for CKCU’s 50th anniversary, you will not be forgotten, and will be greatly missed. Your time, your dedication, and the contributions you made are ingrained in CKCU FM’s fabric for years to come. We thank you for being a part of our station, community, for your contributions as a staff member, and later as a listener and supporter. You will always be part of the Mighty 93.1 FM.   

CKCU x Innovation Hub Partnership

Over the past 13 weeks, we’ve caught up with our 6 talented Carleton University students to find out about their goals, projects, and the experience working with CKCU through the Launch: Ideas program. 

Internships and co-op placements like ours are incredibly valuable for networking, gaining real-world experience, and helping students build the skills necessary to land their future dream jobs. The talented, creative minds with us have brought innovative solutions to real-world problems as we design, develop, and execute a dynamic on-demand platform for radio programming and content. 

Harry Sharma, Director at the Innovation Hub for Carleton University, is confident the students have gained valuable skills and experiences throughout the program. “The students have now had the experience of working for a real employer and working within the boundaries of constraints. They have had to deliver real projects that have impact, are of a high quality, and within a deadline. The students have finished this experience with no official grade at the end, but real-time feedback from their employer, CKCU FM. It will be a great experience from a future employer’s perspective that students now have this experience under their belts.” 

Kwende Kefentse, Executive Director at CKCU FM, adds to that idea of the student experience. “The students had a range of experiences that will shape their futures, including learning more about the charitable sector, broadcast media, client relationships, and project development. They also had some really great experience when it comes to stakeholder and professional interactions.”

However, the students aren’t the only ones on the learning and absorbing side of things. Both the Innovation Hub and program partner CKCU have gained great insight into designing, developing, and offering student experiential learning opportunities. 

“We’ve learned how to scope projects for future partnerships. We have developed mutually agreed upon final deliverables and midterm reports for interacting with students. We have implemented tools and processes that allow us to onboard new partners and students, and deliver projects that align with the clients’ vision”, says Harry. 

From CKCU FM’s perspective, this partnership was a giant step into the future. “This collaboration is a huge step forward for our organization. The research and development done by these students will help modernize community radio and is the foundation for future transformation. We look forward to continuing the great work that was started here”, adds Kwende. 

By having a chance to explore their fields, apply their classroom skills in a work environment, and develop their talents, students coming out of the Launch: Ideas program are more prepared than ever. 

Curious to find out more about interning with an innovative team like us? Stay tuned with the Innovation Hub for future placements and follow along with us at CKCU for more experiential learning opportunities.