Rose Rouse rocks around Bang FM in Harlesden

Gabriella Incalza with Rose Rouse at Bang FM (Pic credit: Jan Nevill)

Gabriella Incalza with Rose Rouse at Bang FM (Pic credit: Jan Nevill) - Credit: Archant

Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends, neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. This week, she pops down to Bang FM, Brent’s great community radio station.

Honestly, I’ve been pondering the BANG FM(103.6) banner for a couple of years now. My son listens to their gritty urban output. I just kept thinking about a radio station above Santander and the unlikelihood of the location somehow. Almost too sanitised up there, I imagined.

Ah, but Gabriella Incalza – project manager there – reassures me that it started on Stonebridge. And it was a woman, a mother, a Uguandan refugee, Jennifer Ogole who created it because there didn’t seem to be much to do for young people up there in the late 90s. She must be one hell of a woman, this Jennifer, she got it going in a big Bang way and so many brilliant connected community projects as well for young people.

I finally get there one grim wet London February morning. It is big, rooms and rooms, all very organised – 9 full time workers, 100 volunteers – two studios, radio production training rooms, offices. This is not so much a walk as a gentle roam around these rooms.

Jennifer used to be a DJ, which is how the whole Bang thang came about. “She understood what young people are interested in,” says Gabriella, “and now Bang is all about training in radio production as well as being a radio station. We go into local schools too and they love it. Everyone wants to be on the radio. We’re also involved in various schemes aimed at the young and disadvantaged. We want to make a difference here in Brent.”

Their most exciting project at the moment is the Making Men one funded by the Mayor of London mentoring scheme. “ It’s aimed at black boys between the ages of 10 and 16, they might be in trouble at school or with the police. We will be aiming to bring them back into the community in a productive way. This year I have been finding the mentors. We have 80 now between the ages of 21 and 62,” she says. What is the criteria for the mentors? “They have to have achieved something,” she says, “or be inspirational.” The twenty one year old had a very tough background, one of his best friends was stabbed six years ago when they were about 14. He died. And yet this young man is doing really well at University studying physics, he will be an incredible role model to a young boy who is about to get himself into trouble. He said on his application from – ‘it’s not where you’ve come from, it’s where you’re going that’s important’.

The 62-year-old is a musician who’s toured the world as a member of various bands, now he wants to give something back. He came from a council estate and knows it is possible to make your dreams come true.

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There are also the inspirational mothers. “One of them has three daughters so I wondered how she was going to handle a boy, “ says Gabriella, “she said she could see how aggressive girls can be to boys and she wanted to help the boys understand and know how to handle the girls.”

And the criteria for the mentees? “They might be in care, at risk of being excluded from school or already excluded, or already known the justice system,” she says with her wide wide smile. “We’ve already had some success with our young boys, one of them was spotted by QPR so we waiting to hear what happened afterwards.”

How difficult is it getting the young men to turn up? “Not hard,” she maintains, “they meet her at Bang and they like that. There might be a famous rapper passing through to be interviewed, that makes it an attractive place for them.”

Who are they? “They are good boys who need someone to expect something from them. Sometimes their teachers are missing their talents. They might have absent fathers. Making Men gives us an opportunity to give them a chance they didn’t have. I love doing it.”

As for Bang Radio. There’s been a bit of a hoohah lately because Bang decided to ban some of Beyonce’s lyrics in her new single Drunk In Love. “We took an editorial decision that she was promoting violence against women in it when she has Jay Z rapping ‘Eat Cake Anna Mae’. That line is taken from the film about Ike and Tina Turner and is his sexual misogyny towards her. We’ve always liked Beyonce and what she represents, but not in this case,” says Gabriella.

Blimey, gender politics in the High Street. And there’s more to come apparently... Rose Rouse is now looking for a publisher for her project, Not On Safari In Harlesden - over 40 walks at Please get in touch through her website if you’re interested.

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