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SQUAD: Justice interviews Foundation FM co-founder Frankie Wells

Foundation FM is a female led radio station based in Peckham, South East London. It launched November 5th 2018, and since then has quickly gathered popularity becoming one to watch for 2019. They hold the values that representation matters and aim to make sure the voices of women and LGBTQ+ people within the industry are heard and their talents broadcasted to the masses. We sat down with station manager and co-founder of Foundation FM, Frankie Wells, to find out more about the storm that is Foundation, what really goes on behind the scenes and what they think about Lovebox this year. Polaroids by Jamel.

Justice: Hello Frankie, nice to be able to sit down with you

Frankie: Pleasure to have you in my little studio

J: So kicking right off at the beginning, what drove you to form Foundation FM in the first place and what were your main aims? Because even as someone who is not in radio, I know there has been a lot of stuff going on in the London radio scene. So what was your personal drive?

F: A couple of things really, I had been working in radio for a really long time – about 5 or 6 years – and I was just feeling really disheartened. I was not seeing certain women I thought were really talented given spots, hearing the phrase “Yeah but we’ve already got a girl on the line up” and over all feeling like my voice wasn’t always being heard. I don’t think it’s because I didn’t work hard. I felt like it was other reasons, which is okay but it just got to a point where I was given the opportunity and time to start my own thing and I thought why not! And I think Becky and Amy where very much in a similar situation to me and we all kind of came together, found each other and had been having similar conversations with other people. It just happened to be us three and were like “why not?” I think anyone can start their own radio station and I really believe that we just happened to be the people that were like “ah we’re actually going to do it”. But I’m honestly always surprised we were the people to do it and just really lucky that loads of people came on this journey with us!

J: You seem to have some really, kind of…pure and hearty ideas, that being said – why do you think foundation rose in popularity so quickly? Because you really seemed to come out of nowhere!

F: I don’t know it’s weird! The thing is, I don’t think it’s popular. To me it’s just this thing that I do. It’s hard to see from the inside because I’m in this studio every day and were not looking at Instagram…[laughs] okay we are – but were not looking at it like “LOOK HOW COOL WE ARE, LOOK HOW POPPIN WE ARE”. If Instagram died tomorrow I would feel confident that foundation would be fine and people would come and still make radio. And I think maybe that’s it, were a community so people are always going to come here and make radio with us and we’re always excited to hear new voices and support each other. It doesn’t just have to be women, we’re interested in everyone’s story. We prioritise women and the LGBTQ community’s voices as that’s what excites us. We just happened to meet and connect with a bunch of people that are excited about the same thing. It’s such a loving environment to be in because everyone here just wants to be an audio nerd with me! Or they just want to talk about something I have no idea about and I can learn from them and I think that’s what’s great. Foundation is about being represented and I think if you turn on the TV you might not see someone who looks like you or hear a voice that sounds like you and that can make you feel alienated and that’s not okay. We want to create a space where your voice is valued and we can learn from you and we can acknowledge our privilege since we have been able to create this platform and give it to other people. When you show people you value them that breeds good energy- we got here by good energy.

J: So you spoke about finding people who are underrepresented or ‘underground’, so what does underground mean to you and how do you go about finding the people you showcase?

F: I think underground means something very different to a lot of people at different times, underground to me means making waves in your own lane – you’re not bothered by anyone else and I think that’s exciting. And how you find the underground? It finds you, people in the underground say “I am here, and what I create is amazing and you should know about it and it’s my job to say, “yeah, I see where you’re going and I believe in you and I want to ride this wave with you.”

J: Foundation being very new you probably have a lot of people wanting to get in on what you’re doing so why have you chosen to work with Lovebox in particular and do you have any further plans for the festival?

F: We’ve chosen to work with Lovebox because one: It’s a great opportunity to showcase our DJ’s, that’s what foundation is about – it’s about giving women a platform and a step in their career to the right path – like we’re all working together – I might know someone that you need to know and then we make connections and we help them on their journey. Foundation for us is the first step on the ladder for someone, we don’t expect people to be here for five years, we expect them to be at the start and we get to watch them grow and think we were their home and we were where you started, so Lovebox is an amazing opportunity for our DJ’s. Two: I think Lovebox is a really exciting London festival, the line-up is sick. Also it’s also working with the community, and having things that no other festival has done before like working with you (the Squad) and Pxssy Palace for the sanctuary. Lovebox thinks about mindfulness and gives the love back to their audience- they consider how they can make it a safe space and more enjoyable place for those coming. It’s really important for us since we share those same values.

J: I saw that you have spoken about events before, there are quite a few other ‘collectives’ and groups similar to Foundation that have an exclusivity to them, how will you make sure that Foundation’s events remain safe spaces and don’t become just another ‘place to be’?

F: I think exclusive sometimes tips, you have to be strict sometimes on knowing your space, your audience and who you invite into your space. Like I wouldn’t personally go to a POC Queer night because that not my space, that hasn’t been created for me and that’s fine because I have plenty of other spaces for me. I think its being vocal about that and who can come in and out of a space, and being aware of your privilege if you are going to occupy that space. Events are still very new to us so I can’t comment too much on how we’re going to work – it’s like a pipeline dream. I have to remember that were only 6 months old – Foundation is growing, she’s her own entity saying NOPE we’re doing this now. So we’re just going to carry on with what we’re doing because we think it’s going great – if you get us and you get what we’re about then you can come along but please respect everyone in this area and respect our values. And also were not about being cool! If you meet me and the other co-founders were like so not cool and I think sometimes people get caught up – we just want people to come and be themselves with us and hang out and be excited to share things. But regarding events…we’ll see.

J: So apart from shows, what are the next steps for Foundation, where would you like to take it?

F: People ask me this all the time and like i said, Foundation is her own little storm! You can plan something and she says “umm I don’t think so, we’re going to do this!”  and I enjoy that. Things to come? Probably more outside broadcasts, we’ll be at Lovebox playing and it’s a lot about growing our DJ’s now and pushing them to where they can go so we’re giving them the support they need – we want to sit down with everyone and ask what is your dream and how can we help? My main role is station manager and it’s about growing the radio and bringing more people and more voices in – so that’s the main focus right now.

J: You’re quite nice, so how can people contact you about that and get involved?

F: Come and talk to me! I am around to listen and I love to meet new people, I love to hear new voices and stories, I love to be educated. Everyone who comes through I’m just like, “Let me get you on radio now!” I met one person who I went for a meeting with and she was just talking at me and I was just like, “I think you’re great!” I’d never met anyone like her, so I offered her a show and then we piloted and worked on some things. You can just come up to me and talk to me if you see me, slide into the dms, email me if you want to be formal…I’m very organised…sometimes. Just get in touch!

J: It’s been a pleasure sitting down with you but final question. Back to Lovebox, even though you’ll probably be running around the whole of Lovebox who are you most exacted for on the line up?

F: Well of course the Foundation FM DJ’s! Apart from that Solange will be pretty special but I’ve actually never seen Chance The Rapper live, one of the first things I ever did when we built this studio was lock myself in this room and listen to Chance The Rapper’s album the whole way through and sing it at the top of my lungs – so of course I hope to recreate that this weekend.

You’ll be able to catch the Foundation DJ’s at Lovebox this year taking over the Tropical Jungle on Saturday.