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CJSW concludes annual funding drive, plans to improve office accessibility

By Jason Herring, November 3 2015 —

Every October, the University of Calgary’s campus and community radio station, CJSW 90.9 FM, holds their annual funding drive to raise money for station improvements. This year, the station raised just under $255,000 to fund maintenance of their in-house record collection and improve accessibility to the CJSW office.

These improvements come after years spent funding larger-scale projects, like upping the station’s wattage to 18,000 watts and launching a full website complete with archived podcasts for each show. This year, the station is focusing on a wide range of smaller-scale projects.

Station manager Myke Atkinson says one of the most important projects for CJSW is improving their physical office space on the third floor of MacHall — things like installing push-button access to station doors and recording booths. These will be the first major changes made to the space since the station moved from the MacHall basement into their new offices five years ago.

“We actually raised money through funding drive for almost seven years to build that space and that cost $1.2 million,” Atkinson said. “But we only had a certain amount of money and there’s things we decided we’d put off until another day. That day was this year, our five-year anniversary of being in this space.”

Funding drive coordinator Kendra Scanlon says improving accessibility around the station will help the community connect with CJSW.

“We have a wide demographic of staff, guests and artists coming to the office and we aren’t the most accessible place,” Scanlon says. “But with the addition of automatic doors to the main office and the studios, people with limited mobility can feel like the space is their own.”

Another in-house improvement involves maintaining CJSW’s collection of over 100,000 vinyl records.

“We actually have the only physical library left at any radio station in Calgary since CBC sold off their record collection a couple of years ago. We’ve got 100,000 albums in that library so we want to make sure it’s well-taken care of and everything there’s in tip-top shape,” Atkinson says. “We’re going to get some new shelving installed, we’re going to get a new record cleaning, we’re going to get our cassette collection online.”

The station’s fundraising goal this year was $200,000, with a stretch goal of $250,000 which was eclipsed in the last hours of the drive. Since the higher mark was met, CJSW plans to build a live on-location rig to record and broadcast live events. Atkinson expects the rig will help the station increase its community presence while creating an opportunity for more creative content on air.

“We won’t be doing any of the commercial broadcasting type things, like at your local car dealership, handing out balloons. None of that garbage,” he says. “We want to use it to push the boundaries of what can be done on the radio.”

While some changes will take years to be realized, CJSW hopes to have some of these improvements implemented in the coming months.

“With the changes we’re making this year, they’re smaller processes compared to bigger ones like the tower or website,” Atkinson explains. “Hopefully we’ll start to see these rolling out in the next couple of months and seeing improvement after improvement. And hopefully by next year’s funding drive all of the promises will be checked off one by one.”

The money donated this year surpasses CJSW’s funding drive record for a third consecutive year — in 2012, 2013 and 2014, the station raised $217,000, $227,000 and $240,000 respectively. Scanlon credits this success to community support.

“We had economic concerns coming into the funding drive, but we’ve never seen a stronger arts community in Calgary,” she says. “This year was successful because the community decided it was important and all we can say is thank you.”

Atkinson thinks Calgary listeners recognize and are willing to support the content CJSW offers.

“Earlier this year we had our friends at FFWD close down and they’ve been an important institution in this city exposing arts and culture for years. Seeing that go away might have made people realize that you’ve got to support the things that you want to be there,” Atkinson says. “You want them to exist and to thrive and to keep getting better, and that’s what the listeners at CJSW did in a big way.”

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