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Speaking Up For A Change – Series 2

New series of Speaking Up For A Change starts this Thursday at 6.30pm on CRY104fm. Nearly 300 older people across the country raise their voices for change! Through the ground-breaking Speaking Up For A Change project 296 older people all across Ireland have worked in teams to produce 27 hour-long community radio programmes advocating for the changes they would like to see in the world around them. Older people’s voices and perspectives are often missing from our airwaves, their views and vision not taken into account when the national conversation turns to the issues that affect them and, indeed, the issues that affect all of our lives. As one of the Speaking Up For A Change participants, Michael Maher from Dublin, pointed out “The biggest challenge for older people getting involved in the media is the lack of recognition that their voice counts” The ground-breaking Speaking Up For A Change project, spear-headed by Craol – The Community Radio Forum of Ireland and funded by The Community Foundation For Ireland, seeks to remove the obstacles that prevent older people’s voices from reaching the airwaves on the issues that concern them. The project, designed and coordinated by the team at Grey Heron Media, has facilitated the training of nearly 300, from 55 to 89 years old, to become advocates and media-producers. These new community radio makers have gone on to produce 27 hours of radio that tackles the issues concerning older people today. Tina Roche, CEO of The Community Foundation for Ireland says, ” The Community Foundation believes that strong communities ensure that all voices within our communities are heard and listened to when making decisions. Older voices are particularly significant as their contribution is based on longer lived experiences and therefore have a lot to offer in driving social change to make lives generally more positive and fulfilled. We want to hear older voices on our airwaves and approached Craol to see if this was possible and Craol told us it was. ” At the core of the project, the team at Grey Heron have created a specially tailored QQI accredited Level 3 course in media expression and advocacy that has been rolled out across the country by Craol’s network of registered trainers. After more than 800 hours of training delivered over the past 12 months at 27 local community radio stations, the Speaking Up For A Change participants have made radio programmes exploring issues as diverse as home care packages, anti-social behaviour, positive ageing, social isolation, sustainable living, homelessness, end-of-life care and rural crime. There older producers have put their views to ministers and councillors, met representative organisations and public bodies, interviewed people on the streets, in their homes, and at community gatherings. They have brought 1000s of voices to the airwaves, reaching out into their peer group to interview people in nursing homes, older people living in rural areas, people isolated through fear of crime or mobility issues. They have tackled a wide range of topics in creative ways, bringing in poets to comment on politicians’ rhetoric, going on location to investigate solutions to joy-riding, putting public representatives before panels of citizen journalists and creating their own awareness-raising campaigns. The participants have spoken of many challenges that face older people trying to get their voices heard through the media. From having the courage to participate in something new to feeling that their opinions aren’t valued or don’t count. Peggy Butler was a participant on the course in Claremorris Co Mayo. According to Peggy, “The biggest challenge for older people getting involved in the media is having the confidence to take the first step” Following the course, participants like Paul Vollans, in Erris, have spoken of a new “confidence in approaching people in positions of power”. For Betty Byrne from Co Mayo the most exciting part was “the feeling that one might bring change to an issue”. Joan Browne in Cork City reflected on the sense of achievement, saying “I am proud to note that my role in the radio production was to contact and interview a politician. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined myself doing this! This has been a journey I will never forget!” Two nationally syndicated radio series have also been produced by the project coordination team at Grey Heron Media. These two series, also called Speaking Up For A Change, distil down the messages, concerns and issues from the 27 local programmes into two five-part series, which are being broadcast across the network of community radio stations. The second national series was launched on the 22nd September in Dublin and will be broadcast across the community radio network (with a listenership yesterday of 234,000 (RedC)) and available to download at www.SpeakingUpForAChange.org. Both Craol and The Community Foundation For Ireland are clear on the legacy of the project. For Jack Byrne, Chairperson of Craol, the project’s success is evident. “This series epitomises the core ethos of community media. The skills learnt will stay with the participants. This CFI funded project not only gives people the skills to communicate, it gives them the confidence to express themselves through media and to become active in their locality, challenging the structures of power, developing synergies that empower all the local citizens. They have learned to communicate to develop their community, to use media to propose that we put the last first as a means of empowerment. ” Summing up the project’s impact, Tina Roche says “This project and series has produced much more than we expected and has been a real success story.” You can find out more about the project and hear all 27 local programmes, along with both National Series at www.SpeakingUpForAChange.Org .