Burst turns 25

This year, the University of Bristol’s radio station, Burst, celebrates its 25th anniversary. Here, Head of Production, Xander Brett, catches up with Burst’s founder and looks at why student radio is now more important than ever…

At the studios of Burst Radio, there’s a constant stream of presenters. With over 75 live radio hosts, and even more recording podcasts, the station (during term time) is on air 24 hours a day, broadcasting its own schedule from 10am-10pm before joining the award-winning community station, BCfm, overnight. Burst itself is award-winning, receiving prizes from the Student Radio Awards and attracting the attention of national presenters including Jeremy Vine, Jo Whiley, Steve Lamacq, Scott Mills, Cerys Matthews and Phill Jupitus.

This year, Burst turns 25. To celebrate its anniversary, we caught up with founder Paris Troy, who saw the birth of Burst as his way out of studying law. After graduating, Paris went on to host the Heart Bristol breakfast show before enjoying a long and illustrious career in local radio. Looking back, he fondly remembers the early days of Burst, which finally came to fruition in 1997 after a UWE radio station collaboration came to an end.

“UWE had been running Fresh FM for some time,” he explains. “They were very developed. They brought Bristol uni students on-board to contribute but we were very much on the UWE coat-tails. The Bristol University Student Union wanted to start its own station, and it advertised for a meeting. I went along, thinking there’d be loads of people there. When I got there, I was literally the only person. I walked into an empty room. The General Secretary said: “Well, do you want to do it?” I said, “yeah…” And that was it. I got some friends involved, we managed to get a short-term licence, we enrolled for presenters, producers, runners and coffee makers and built up a team of almost 50 people.”

[Burst] acts as a training ground for all involved in the process; it harnesses and nurtures the talent of all who pass through its doors and, most crucially, it allows student voices to be heard

Next came the name. Which, Paris says, was “remarkably hard”. Sitting in a pub, the team came up with Burst, standing for ‘Bristol University’s Radio Station’. “I worked on Burst for a couple of years, managing it and presenting on it,” says Paris. “When I left university, other people took the reins. It’s fantastic to know that it’s still going strong.”

Beaming out across the city, Burst has enjoyed many memorable moments over the years – a collaboration with BBC Radio 6 Music in 2007; a broadcast on every UK student station in 2018, while hosting the Student Radio Association’s chart show; and even contributions from BBC Radio 2’s Johnnie Walker and BBC Radio 4’s Jenni Murray and Jonathan Dimbleby.

Often collaborating with Epigram, the University of Bristol’s student newspaper, and with UBTV, the student YouTube channel, Burst has been there for the big events in Bristol’s history. Today, Station Manager George Ruskin says reflecting local culture remains “at the heart of Burst’s programming”. In February 2020, it reported on Greta Thunberg’s protest from the midst of the march. A month later, when the pandemic hit and the university closed its doors, the students’ dedication to the station prevailed and they created a pop-up stream, with presenters contributing from their homes all across the country.

Notable former broadcasters
As the University of Bristol boasts a long list of notable alumni, Burst’s airwaves have, too, enjoyed the sultry sounds of some of the nation’s now much-loved personalities. Most prominently, comedians Marcus Brigstocke, Danny Robins and Dan Tetsell found their voices on Burst, hosting a breakfast show in the early 2000s. World-renowned magician Chris Cox also made an appearance during his student days, recently returning to the station to host a Christmas show.

Tune in
Burst weekdays begin with an hour-long breakfast show, and weekends with a two-hour brunch show. Then, on weekdays, listeners can enjoy some light music before the signature two-hour Hangover Brunch starts up, leading to a current affairs programme, two hours of entertainment, a topic-focused show, a drive-time programme, and a specialist music show until the overnight handover. Every hour, a national news bulletin is broadcast from the Sky News Centre. Breakfast, brunch and Hangover Brunch shows are also punctuated with local travel, weather and sport updates, as well as information on student events and upcoming gigs, plays and films in the wider city. Over the coming months, to mark the milestone, listeners will be also be able to tune in to hear all about Burst’s best bits. Bristol’s hospital radio, BHBS, is also set to celebrate 50 years on the airwaves this year. The station was the home of Bristol Sport until the launch of BBC Radio Bristol, and their work with Burst and the community stations ensures this city is one of creativity and collaboration.

Over the last 25 years, Burst has produced a canon of work that has celebrated the student population, often tuning in to hear from those studying abroad. Its creations have regularly been recognised by BBC Radio Bristol and many of its presenters, producers, writers and reporters have gone on to work for the corporation.

In a time when we’re rightly questioning the value of local outputs, given their often-unjustified cost and tiny editorial areas, independent student radio is more important than ever. It acts as a training ground for all involved in the process; it harnesses and nurtures the talent of all who pass through its doors and, most crucially, it allows student voices to be heard.

Happy Anniversary Burst Radio! Tune in live every day at: burstradio.org