A breath of FreshAir

An alumni-funded Innovation Initiative Grant has given students a unique opportunity to provide live commentary at Edinburgh sporting events.

FreshAir radio

Each spring and autumn, students, staff as well as university clubs and societies can apply for an Innovation Initiative Grant (IIG) financed through donations to the Edinburgh Fund. IIGs are ‘start-up’ grants which support new initiatives and creative projects, enabling students to gain new skills and practical experience.

Although the funding alloted to each project is often small, the impact can be significant, frequently with long term benefits for students and the wider university community. One such project is FreshAir student radio.

Broadcasting for a quarter of a century

FreshAir has been on the scene for 25 years and, with more than 300 members, it is currently one of the biggest student societies at the University. The station has been very successful over the years, winning the "Student Radio Station of the Year" award in 2004 and three awards in 2014 at the Student Radio Awards, the most prestigious student radio awards in the UK. At present, the station broadcasts at FreshAir.org.uk with more than 10,000 listeners every month.

Hands-on experience

Conor Matchett, a fourth year philosophy student and the current head of sport at FreshAir, has been a member of the society from the day he arrived at university. Keen to improve the station's sporting coverage, Conor looked for ways which would allow FreshAir members to produce, present and commentate on live sporting events in Edinburgh and help them gain valuable hands-on experience in the sphere of media and sport broadcasting.

In October 2015 the station was awarded an IIG of £912 which has enabled it to purchase lip microphones similar to those used by the BBC and Sky for their commentaries.

With the new equipment, FreshAir has already covered last year's Scottish Varsity match at Murrayfield between Edinburgh and St Andrews. They also used it at the equivalent football event with Edinburgh Napier University.

The alumni funding was absolutely crucial. It has given us the ability to do something the station has never done before on a regular basis, and has given students the opportunity to develop broadcasting skills that are otherwise close to impossible to get.

Plans for next season

The society has huge plans for 2016/17 and are already in talks with Heart of Midlothian (Hearts) and Hibernian (Hibs), as well as Edinburgh City, to have student reporters at games. They also hope to continue to report on major university fixtures throughout the year.

We're also hoping to cover university sport week on week, something the station has never done for a full hour's show.

Preparing for a live commentary

Already accustomed to broadcasting, the challenge for Conor and the team was the need to be completely aware of the rules, history and nuances of each sport covered. It has been a steep learning curve that they have responded to with diligence, enthusiasm and lots of notes.

My preparation is based on finding out stats and facts about the game I'm going to watch, learning the major players involved (very difficult with student sport!), and, if it's a sport I don't know, learning the rules. I usually go into an event with upwards of five sheets of A4 paper, covered in notes. The actual commentary is the easy bit!

Find out more

If you are interested in supporting projects like FreshAir at the University of Edinburgh you can do so by donating to the Edinburgh Fund. Find out more about the Fund and the diverse projects and activities that enables by following the link below.

More about the Edinburgh Fund

Related links

Student Experience Grants replaced Innovation Initiative Grants (IIG) in summer 2018.

Student Experience Grants