Interference began as a radio project amongst some people in London and Bristol who were involved in direct action politics. Some of them also had a pirate radio pedigree. The idea was to splice together both these outlaw scenes and develop the overlap. The seeds were sown in summer 1997 following the Trafalgar Square ‘Never Mind The Ballots’ RTS and subsequent Bristol Summer Solstice RTS, but it didn’t come together until 1998, by which time equipment and personnel had been assembled.
Interference – which didn’t have a name to start out with – operated as an autonomous crew out of the J18 media group. It aimed to publicise the upcoming Carnival of Capitalism in the City of London in the run up to J18, mixing plugs with dance music. It then aimed to broadcast live on the day, with report backs, ‘eye in the sky’-style info on what the other side was up to, and more dance music. Posters and flyers for J18 had included reference to ‘bring a radio’; this was a contingency in case all sound systems were prevented from getting in on the ground.
Interference broadcast irregularly in the run up to J18 – weekdays and weekends – with a regular game of cat-and-mouse with the DTI and other pirates. Cue lots of rooftop shenanigans, lots of scouting and lots of catching kit. Some of the more colourful incidents included walking into an attempted murder investigation with a bag full of kit, sharing a lift up to the top-but-one-floor with coppers, soldering in the dark at the top of a block with a police helicopter hovering overhead, suspending a crew member upside down off a 22 storey by his belt to fix aerial cabling in nice and tidy, and breaking into a block as quietly as possible next to a south London Hells Angel meeting. The main plan for the actual J18 broadcasts involved multiple contingencies and a range of technology.
The J18 job essentially went as outlined in the Squall magazine article that can be viewed below (though there’s a glaring clanger or two in there). The upshot was the broadcast went ahead, but the main rig was lost within sight of the intended shutdown. The DTI were seen on the roof through binoculars. No personnel were nicked. The DTI didn’t hang about though; a recovery crew was on the block top within minutes – no DTI, just the remains of an angle-grinded D-lock.
There were more broadcasts in London after J18, both as Interference FM and under a sister station name. There were broadcasts for N30 (the London end of the anti-WTO protests made most famous by the ‘Battle in Seattle), and a team broadcast live from the Exodus Free The Spirit festival near Luton. This was written about in a feature in The Big Issue, complete with pictures.
By now there was a semi-autonomous Interference cell in Bristol with its own kit. The wider ‘activist community’ was invited to learn about and contribute to a Bristol pirate station, particularly for the purpose of publicising and supporting the international days of action for Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther on Death Row. The Interference team essentially operated as engineers and riggers – the activists produced content. Content included acoustic music by local artists recorded specially for the broadcasts, dub-heavy DJ sets (Enjoyment Service) and spoken word material about MAJ. The broadcasts went ahead, no personnel or rigs lost (though a dipole got left up a block too long and was swiped).
Interference FM was the London / original Bristol nomenclature, the Bristol activists preferred Radio Interference. Frequency-wise it was mostly 107.4, or around there. It was on 106.9 occasionally.
The original idea of a dance music-heavy station (with a bent towards conscious house tunes and the like) with announcements, trailers, teasers, jingles etc was not the formula favoured by the Bristol activists, who went for a mixture of explicitly political spoken word (Zapatista communiqu‚s by Subcomandante Marcos, etc…) and activisty music (ska-punk/dub/acoustic).
Subsequent broadcasts included an experimental music/spoken word show by the core Bristol Interference team (rather than the activists), the occasional rebroadcast of London Interference material, and some Mayday 2000 stuff by the activists, following training workshops and the loan of equipment. This involved more spoken word and activisty music.
Thanks to Dave Cinzano for his input on this write up.
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