The Radio Festival: A celebration of sound and storytelling


The airwaves are buzzing with excitement as the seventh edition of The Radio Festival, a unique event hailed by both the United Nations and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, approaches. Set to take place at the India Interntional Centre on the 13th of February, this festival promises a day brimming with enthusiasm, connection, and […]

The airwaves are buzzing with excitement as the seventh edition of The Radio Festival, a unique event hailed by both the United Nations and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, approaches. Set to take place at the India Interntional Centre on the 13th of February, this festival promises a day brimming with enthusiasm, connection, and a dash of eccentricity, drawing radio and audio aficionados from every corner of the country, including regions as remote as the North East and Jammu and Kashmir. At the helm of this extraordinary gathering is Archana Kapoor, the visionary organizer and founder of Radio Mewat, who shared her insights into the event’s essence and its profound impact on elevating the status of Radio and building synergies across all categories of radio.

With a background spanning social work, filmmaking, and broadcasting, Kapoor’s foray into community radio was a natural progression in her quest for meaningful engagement with diverse communities, particularly those in rural areas. “My past experiences often involved addressing specific issues within communities, but I felt a need for a medium that could foster sustained connection beyond project timelines,” she explained. It was this realization that led to the establishment of Radio Mewat in 2010 in Nuh formerly Mewat in Haryana.

“As I joined the community radio network, I discovered that we were working in silos, and that there was an unsaid segregation with community radio coming at the end of the radio spectrum, overshadowed by the dominance of government-owned AIR stations and commercially-driven FM channels,” Kapoor revealed. “Despite our significant mandate of development and behavioural change CRs were frequently relegated to the sidelines and looked upon as strugglers surrounded by hardships,” she added while describing community radios as the “poorest radio cousin with the largest not for profit mandate”.

It was against this backdrop of underrepresentation that the idea for The Radio Festival took root—an ambitious vision to celebrate the transformative power of audio and foster unity among radio enthusiasts across diverse platforms. “We realized that while literary, dance, and music festivals thrived, there was a notable absence of a festival dedicated to celebrating the medium of audio,’ Kapoor remarked. “We sought to change that.”

The significance of the festival’s timing on the 13th of February, World Radio Day, cannot be overstated. Kapoor reminisces about past observations of the day , where a small group of community radio broadcasters would convene in closed halls, discussing familiar topics with limited engagement at a UN office, usually UNIC. “We envisioned transforming the way World Radio Day was commemorated,” Kapoor explained. “Our goal was to break free from the constraints of traditional observances and create a vibrant, multi-stakeholder platform for networking and shared learning.”

Commenting on the enduring relevance of radio as a people’s medium she says, “Despite the prevalence of smartphones and LED TVs, millions of people still rely on radio as their sole companion and source of entertainment. In a country like India, where socioeconomic disparities abound, radio remains a powerful force, bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

Kapoor fervently dispels the misconception that radio is a dying platform, drawing parallels to the resilience of traditional mediums in the face of technological advancements. “Just as doubts emerged with the advent of television and social media, traditional platforms like newspapers not only endured but thrived,” she affirmed. “In today’s interconnected world, there’s ample room for various forms of communication to coexist and collaborate.”

For community radio representatives and radio jockeys, in particular, the festival offers a unique opportunity for growth, learning, and connection. “We prioritize allocating resources to ensure fellow community radios can participate in the event,” Kapoor explained. “It’s a chance for them to mingle with industry veterans, celebrity RJs, and AIR producers, gaining invaluable insights and refining their programming skills.”

Beyond skill enhancement, Kapoor highlights the festival’s transformative impact on participants’ morale and sense of purpose. “Amidst the daily grind, doubts may creep in about whether we’re on the right track. But attending this festival is like a shot of confidence—it reaffirms our commitment and invigorates our passion for our shared love”

Moreover, Kapoor emphasized the festival’s significance in regions like Jammu and Kashmir and the North East, where anticipation runs high among aspiring RJs eager for exposure and networking opportunities. “For them, it’s a whole new experience—a chance to connect with peers, exchange ideas, and elevate their craft,” she noted. “It’s like a big networking extravaganza, fueling their enthusiasm and reinforcing the sense of community within the radio fraternity.”

Speaking about the constraints of scaling up the event she says, “It’s been a bit of a challenge, to be honest,” Kapoor admits when asked about the festival’s success in fostering synergy across various radio categories. “While we’ve made strides, I wouldn’t say we’ve fully realized our goal.” Kapoor attributes part of the challenge to resource constraints, noting the disparity between the festival’s capabilities and those of larger private radio channels. “Imagine if a major private radio channel spearheaded the festival—things would likely look quite different given their financial prowess, industry connections, and celebrity reach,” she muses.

Despite these challenges, Kapoor remains steadfast in her commitment to inclusivity and collaboration. “While we’ve received support, particularly from private FM channels sending top-tier RJs, it often feels like a one-off contribution rather than ongoing engagement,” she explains. “We do not want The Radio Festival to be reduced to mere tokenism.”

In pursuit of broader inclusivity, Kapoor reveals plans to extend invitations to podcasters, radio enthusiasts, and professionals from related fields such as theater and music. “Our ultimate aim remains creating a platform where all facets of the audio realm converge,” she emphasizes. “Maybe this will take more time. We are in the seventh edition. Who knows where we’ll be by the 10th edition?”

When asked about the support received from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Kapoor expresses gratitude for their unwavering assistance. “The ministry has been very, very helpful because that’s our Nodal Agency,” she explains. “They have been very supportive, not only by their presence at the inaugural but also by providing us with some financial support.”

Offering a glimpse into the theme of this year she said, “This year’s theme, commemorating 100 years of radio and 20 years of community radio, carries profound significance,” Kapoor begins. “It’s not just about celebrating milestones; it’s about reflecting on the journey we’ve had and the voices that have shaped it. The festival serves as a celebration of the past, present, and future of this timeless medium.”

Kapoor shares her heartfelt desire to include some of the oldest and most iconic voices in radio on the festival’s panels. “I would have loved to have luminaries like Devaki Nandan Pandey and Amin Sayani on our panel,” she confesses. “The whole process of putting the event together has been very emotional for me, knowing that many of these esteemed individuals are either no longer with us or are grappling with limitations due to age-related ailments.”

As the festival also marks 20 years of Community Radio, Kapoor reflects on the successes and contemplates on the path ahead. “Why do we still only have 475 community radio stations nationwide?” she ponders.

For those eager to participate, individuals can join online on TRF’s Facebook page where all the panel discussions will be live-streamed. “We believe in making the event accessible to everyone, reflecting the ethos of radio as an inexpensive or even no-cost platform.”

For those preferring an in-person experience, Kapoor extends a warm invitation to join the celebration at the India International Centre, the festival’s venue partner. “We have a seating capacity of approximately 250-300 people,” she notes.

The festival is set to take place on February 13th, commencing at 9 am and concluding at 6:30 pm at the India International Centre.