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Interview with alto radio: The New Studio Space in Leeds

There's nothing that we love to see more than new and exciting creative projects coming to life in Leeds. The city has always had a strong radio presence, from the longstanding Kmah Radio, to Leeds' first exclusively electronic FM station LDC radio, to Corn Exchange-based project Narr Radio. We've never been short of new and exciting sounds and sources to get them from.

You can imagine our enthusiasm when we heard that, as of this year, previously remotely-run Leeds station alto radio were acquiring their own studio space right here in the city centre. Slotting into the landscape amongst iconic nearby venues like Sheaf Street, the Tetley, and soon to be active Testbed, Alto Radio's new space provides the perfect opportunity for local artists to showcase their talent live on air.

We wanted to have a chat with Alto to find out a little bit more about how the project started, how it's been going, and what we can expect. Here's what they had to say.

In a nutshell, what's Alto all about?

alto radio is a space for DJs from Leeds and beyond to share their music and thoughts over the digital airwaves. Our policy is that no experience is necessary - in one evening, listeners can hear a DJ with 40 years of selecting under their belt, followed by someone who picked up DJing as a hobby in lockdown. We want alto to be an open and welcoming place for people with a shared interest to meet and collaborate in an easygoing and supportive atmosphere.

How did you first form?

We initially formed in October of 2020, running the station entirely remotely - the idea for alto was formed some time before that. In 2018, we worked together in an office in town, and through a shared love for similar music, we began DJing together under the title of 'Loose Sounds'. This never really went anywhere, but we feel it had to happen so that alto could eventually take shape. In June 2020, we put our ideas of starting a radio station into serious consideration and put out a public call-out so see if anyone would be interested. We got some great responses from friends as well as people we'd never met who were looking to get involved. The station was formed using free-to-use software and an old laptop that Tom had laying around. After a little while we decided to start looking for a studio space so that our hosts could broadcast live from. We were lucky enough to be gifted a space by Testbed, a new venture by The Wunderkind Group, behind Sheaf St, Duke Studios, Duke Makes and In Good Company. Since then, we have been doing our best to raise money to turn that space into a fully functioning studio. We had loads of support via our crowdfunding campaign and we got some help from friends and family who offered their skills wherever possible - for this we are endlessly grateful, the station would not have opened without these people.

How have you found things since the studio has opened up?

It's been so rewarding to see people using and getting something out of the space. With us starting in lockdown, we hadn't actually met the majority of the DJs involved with alto until the studio opened. We really feel there is a lovely community beginning to form surrounding the station and those that are involved with it. It has been so great to meet every DJ coming through and we feel very grateful for the opportunity to be at the heart of this exciting thing that is happening.

What are your creative plans for Alto, and how can new contributors help achieve them?

With the studio being a very new thing for us, we still have lots to figure out and grow on. We are planning some events this year, the next one being at wharf chambers on sat 14th May, and we can't wait to party with everyone properly! Having a physical space opens up so many opportunities for collaboration which is very exciting. We are planning on looking into workshops and group activities once we are properly established. With our space being located in Testbed, this is another exciting prospect and we are looking forward to seeing what the plans are there and growing alongside what should be a great new venue for leeds.


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