Would you like to listen to a radio station dedicated to Canadian theater and storytelling?



Sometimes it seems like the whole world dreams of reaching number 1 on Spotify. People are always talking about starting their own podcasts, but Bahia Watson has something different on her mind. It’s set to launch a whole radio station, and on July 25, the Winnipeg actress will test her concept with a special one-day live broadcast featuring 12 hours of free original programming from Canadian artists and storytellers.

The project is called programmesson.fm, and Sunday’s show is the culmination of a year of research and development with creative partners across the country. To be successful, Watson first contacted a Toronto-based theater company. Outside of March, and together they secured a $ 50,000 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Strategy Fund to continue the concept.

Starting Sunday at noon ET, listeners who tune into the programsound.fm online player can expect an intentionally eclectic list of prerecorded shows that will be hosted live by Watson from his current home in Brooklyn. The full schedule has yet to be released (details will be posted on the website closer to the broadcast), but will include a mix of traditional audio formats (radio drama, oral poetry) and more experimental dishes. (One show, Watson says, is based on those old Choose Your Own Adventure novels.)

Bahia Watson, founder of programsound.fm. (Bahia Watson)

“I’ve always been interested in radio, radio stations. I have a bit of, I guess, a dream fantasy of being on radio,” says Watson, who has instead cultivated a busy career at the radio station. television, appearing in shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Star Trek: Discovery and The extent. “In terms of creating the station,” she said, “that was largely a response to the pandemic.”

In this regard, the idea is not unique. Throughout 2020, audio formats became the go-to “pandemic hub” for many artists, especially those in the theater community, and several of theound.fm programs artistic partners consulted to develop the project were involved in their. own audio productions – Volcano Theater and The Soulpepper Theater are just two examples. Watson explains that the medium is a “very close cousin” of the theater. “It can provide a kind of privacy and a kind of warmth,” she says. Moreover, like the theater, it has the same ephemeral “one night only” nature. “That’s what radio can offer, as opposed to podcasts and timing,” says Watson. And when the Sunday show ends, that’s it. None of the shows will be available to stream on demand, and that’s entirely by design.

There’s another reason audio has become a popular Plan B: Demand for the medium has only increased in recent years. Some 71% of Canadians listen to audio online every month, and podcast listening specifically saw a slight increase in 2021, according to statistics from Edison Research. (In 2020, 37 percent of Canadians were monthly podcasting followers; this year, it’s 38 percent.)

But again, Watson’s vision for programsound.fm is not a podcast. Rather, she hopes eventually to build a platform that could broadcast all kinds of programming with one common thread: storytelling.

It’s a place for people who have stories, meaning everyone.– Bahia Watson, founder of programsound.fm

The performers and creators who contributed to the programsound.fm July 25 programming represent more than the theatrical community. A call for nominations, which went out this spring, drew 110 nominations, and most of the artists who have secured a place in the program do not typically work in theater. In the future, Watson wants programsound.fm to be inclusive as well. “You don’t have to be someone who would go on a stage or have any theater experience or read plays or know Shakespeare or something like that,” she said. “It’s a place for people with stories, meaning everyone.”

Beyond Sunday’s pilot, however, the future of programsound.fm remains to be written, explains Watson. To continue, funding will have to be found. And the 12 hours of programming that aired Sunday involved nearly a year of research and production. “It will take a great team and a lot of resources to continue in the same way that we managed to do it one day,” says Watson. Until a realistic plan is defined, she hopes to keep programsound.fm alive in alternative formats. An “audio festival” is an idea she plays with.

But first, the station has yet to air for the very first time. Until then, Watson will scramble to prepare for Sunday’s schedule. “It was just an idea that developed to incorporate all of these people and all of their voices,” says Watson. “I am so humbled and honored and very excited to share it with the world.”

Programsound.fm will go live on Sunday, July 25 at noon ET. Listen on programmesson.fm.

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