Daring Declan promises a little cheek

After searching for a new station manager for several months, community radio broadcaster 2XX FM has appointed an enthusiastic young Melbournite to the position. STEPHEN EASTON catches up with him.

DECLAN Kelly is full of energy, brimming with ideas and wears his passion for community radio on his sleeve.

“I’m not doing this job for the money,” he tells “CityNews”. “I’m doing it because I love radio and I wanted a cool challenge!”

In 2XX, he sees the potential to “pounce and become the cultural hub of Canberra” much like FBi in Sydney or Triple R in Melbourne.

“The best thing about Canberra is that it’s a city but it’s also sort of like a country town, and in country towns you see the community station take a really solid place inside that community,” Kelly says.

2XX’s new station manager, Declan Kelly… “I’m not doing this job for the money, I’m doing it because I love radio and I wanted a cool challenge!” Photo by Gary Schafer

2XX’s new station manager, Declan Kelly… “I’m not doing this job for the money, I’m doing it because I love radio and I wanted a cool challenge!” Photo by Gary Schafer

He is confident 2XX can outdo the existing local stations in terms of hyper-local content and snare more listeners by their being edgy, as is community radio’s prerogative.

“I think we need to be a little more daring. I always like to see a station who’s a little bit cheeky in what they do, so we’ll push the community to listen and hope the community pushes back a little bit.

“That said, we need to be involved with everything, too. You should be coming to 2XX to listen to live music in Canberra, to know what’s happening in the arts scene or the multicultural scene; we should be that hub by engaging with those communities… and that’s what we will be doing.”

Kelly comes to 2XX from SYN, a youth station whose presenters are all under 26, where he landed a paid job as digital content manager after several years as a voluntary presenter, producer and programming manager.

“I’m considered ancient there,” says the 25-year-old, explaining that some SYN presenters are as young as 12.

While he clearly brings expertise in youth engagement, Kelly believes the key to a station with a “rich history” like 2XX is maintaining the diversity of its content.

“I do come from a very strong youth advocacy background and I still do some work for youth advocacy organisations, but I’m not telling the older people here to leave!”

Kelly first took to the air in the final year of a very unrelated master’s degree in microbiology, which was leading him into a sensible science career.

“It was my final year… I was literally just walking down the road, eating a calzone, and I walked by SYN,” he recalls. “Someone had told me about it before and I thought I should go in and have a look.”

With hindsight, he’s grateful he took the road less travelled and found his place in the world of community radio, which he describes as “a really deep well that most people don’t really see”.

“There’s the surface stuff, which is listening to a program that you really like, then you go in a bit deeper and there’s the volunteers, then even deeper there’s the people running the station, and the board, and then there’s how those stations interact with each other, and all these different organisations – oh! and so many opportunities to learn, too.”

While very confident in his ability to manage 2XX’s content, Kelly confesses that the position’s financial responsibilities are a big challenge, but it’s one he’s looking forward to.

“Kudos to the board for thinking I’m the right person,” he says. “I hope I am.”

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