WHO said video killed the radio star? Confidence, creativity, qualifications and ambition are just some of the positives coming out loud and clear from Radio Stafford 103, the Support in Mind Scotland project going from strength to strength at The Stafford Centre in Edinburgh.

From humble beginnings, the station has produced its own batch of home-grown radio stars – all service users who have experienced mental ill health. All of them have found their voice, literally, as presenters since the project was first mooted in 2011.

Each week, a dedicated group of DJs air their shows to a growing online audience around the world as well as day visitors to The Stafford Centre, and now the ultimate goal is to eventually take Radio Stafford on to mainstream radio with an FM licence.


Presenters include Lord Sir DJ MOG, Boris Smooth, DJ Mandz and DJ L (all pictured above) and they spoke recently of their pride at how the Broughton Street station has evolved and the part it is has played in helping them and the other regular DJs to grow their self-confidence and skills.

Mog, aka Mike Staley, says: “An idea went round the Stafford Centre about maybe setting up a radio station in 2011 and first of all I wasn’t too keen to do it at all. It was only when our wonderful Mandz suggested that I should go on the radio show. I thought I’ll give it a shot and see how I go. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it since.

“I enjoy doing my rock show every Thursday from 2 to 4pm. I try and promote the Stafford Centre as much as I can and the work that we do here, as well as the work of Support in Mind Scotland and other events from other organisations.

“None of us get paid for it, we are all volunteers, I just love doing it. That two hours on a Thursday I feel even more happy afterwards and it gives me a lift.

“We’ve built up from virtually nothing to about 850 separate listeners since 2011, from all over the world. I like moving forward. I don’t know what the future is going to bring. I would personally like to see Radio Stafford 103 on FM and getting it right out there on digital radio rather than having it just on the internet but at the moment we’ve only got enough funding to do so much.

“Someone might be listening in and may be feeling a bit depressed. If I can save one person’s life doing the show it will be worth it. I want to give people the incentive to come into the centre.”

He adds: “Originally we just started off with a table in the top roof of the Stafford Centre and just started off with a mixing desk and a microphone. Then it developed into what you see now downstairs, the radio booth.

“Two of the DJs and our manager Michele [Mason] did a five-minute Dragons' Den style presentation to the council, and we were awarded with our first tranche of money. That was an inspiration in itself when you are told by people at the council that you are getting money to forward your cause was brilliant.

“It’s broadcast upstairs in the cafe at the centre, so if we can help put a smile on their face by the time they leave that’s great.”

Shows are a colourful mixture of interviews, jingles, and of course an eclectic mix of music, and for anyone missing the show when it goes out live, they can tune in later and listen online at their leisure.

Like Mog, DJ Mandz (Mandz Collins), has found the project inspiring, and is using her involvement as a springboard to target a working career in radio. Mandz graduated recently with an HNC in Creative Industries (radio) and is continuing her studies in Glasgow after being accepted for the HND Creative Industries (radio) course.

“When I first came to the Stafford Centre I would just come in, not speak to anyone, cry a lot and go home again. Now, I want a career in radio

Mandz Collins, who has just graduated with an HNC in Creative Industries (radio)

“Its’s all about confidence,” says Mandz, who has been invited into Castle FM for guest slots. “When I first came to the Stafford Centre I would just come in, not speak to anyone, cry a lot and then go home again.  To go from that to now is a huge leap. I want a career in radio and ideally I would get a job on Forth One. I’m trying to get my foot in the door. I have met Boogie and Arlene and would love to interview them here one day!”

“Some people might listen in and not even know that are any of us are suffering, because you don’t let it show when you’re doing your show. You might have had a really bad day right up until the minute you are sitting in the chair, and you might continue to have a bad day when you get out of the chair. You never know how you are going to be when you wake up in the morning, but this is something to look forward to – planning your show, picking your songs and getting your playlist organised.”

The radio project is open for any of the service users to try and The Stafford Centre has now started open mic sessions between 2 and 4pm on a  Wednesday using their mobile radio unit upstairs in the mezzanine, “We are encouraging DJs who to come and have a try,” says Mog “I  host it and teach them how to use the software we’ve had quite a few new people coming in already. We are trying to pass the message on now.”

DJ Boris (Stuart White) adds: “Radio Stafford is great for teamwork, it’s come a long way. We say to people who come along, and might be a little bit daunted at first, don’t worry about talking. I don’t particularly like talking, and prefer to play music, but it will come naturally if you want to talk.”

DJ L (Emma) agrees: “ I think the Wednesday afternoons are a really good idea, it’s just happened the last couple of weeks. Some people might be a little intimidated about coming down here and sitting in the booth when there are lots of people in the cafe and upstairs. I think people get a bit of confidence from that, even just doing it for 20 or 30 minutes.  It’s great for building confidence.”

Emma’s confidence has certainly benefitted from her work with Radio Stafford. She already has a degree in sound engineering and is now a youth worker doing an HNC working with communities. “I definitely think the confidence I have gained from coming here and working with the radio has helped with my studies,” she says. “There are a lot of other mental health resources out there, but we have the radio station here, which is unique.”

All of the DJs are quick to praise the support they have received from all of the staff within The Stafford Centre, including manager Michele Mason, support worker Hanna Maan and assistant manager John Philp, who was instrumental in transforming the station from an idea into reality.

Emma says:  “John has done a fantastic job with the Stafford Centre website, where you can find pictures of all the DJs and profiles. John, Michele and Hanna have been a massive support. I’m grateful as are all the DJs for what they have done. It’s nice when you go up the stairs when you’ve finished a show and people say ‘nice tune’ or ‘good show’. It means you have a chat with some people you might not know that well. It’s a great way of getting to know people because it can be a bit daunting when you first come in here and don’t know anyone.”

Team spirit is strong among the DJs and none are averse to the occasionally wind-up and leg pulling. “We are like a family, and we do bicker occasionally. They call me the grandad, there’s lots of banter,” says Mog.

We are like a family, and we do bicker occasionally. They call me the grandad, there’s lots of banter

Lord Sir DJ MOG

So why ‘Mog’?

“Boris and Mog got their DJ names from me,” laughs Mandz. “ Mog tries to deny this, he says it stands for Man of Genius but I gave him his nickname a couple of years ago – tongue in cheek – and it stood for Miserable Old Git. It’s not meant as derogatory term, it’s a term of endearment! We can all have a laugh and a joke and that’s what I love about this place.

“You can have a bit of banter and feed off them. It’s doesn’t matter how you feel before you come through the doors here, there’s always going to be someone you can have a laugh and a joke with. There’s always going to be times where you want to be by yourself as well, but we all kind of bounce off each other. I think that’s so great because you don’t get that kind of support everywhere.”

Stuart, aka Boris, says: : “I got mine because of Boris Johnson and Boris Becker the tennis player were both mentioned on the telly in a short space of time. I hated it at first, absolutely hated it, call me anything but Boris, but now anybody can call me Boris, it’s stuck!”

As well as playing a variety of music, all of the DJs are passionate about promoting mental health rights and the work of Support in Mind Scotland and the Stafford Centre, as well as other organisations.

Mandz explains: “Mental health is often forgotten about or not taken seriously enough and that’s why we’re all passionate about it. We all do have our own problems and what we suffer from, but why not show people we can do positive things like the radio station.

“Where I grew up, in Devon, they don’t have places like The Stafford Centre. So, I’m always saying to people who suffer with mental ill health, listen to our show. Not enough people class [mental health] as something important. Just look at the number of suicides each year, of course it’s important! Or how many people end up in hospital, it is something that needs to be taken seriously.

“I know a lot has changed for the better in the last 15-16 years, but there’s a long way to go. I just don’t think people take mental health seriously enough. One in four is a hefty amount of population that is going to suffer. People pigeon hole you and think you are going to be a liability. There is no cure, so you can’t just say everyone is going to be spot-on by popping a few pills.”

Emma agrees:  “There is a lot of stigma we still need to challenge. You are maybe at work and you hear phrases like ‘we are accommodating you’, that makes you feel a bit more crap about yourself. There’s a lot of work to be done to break down the barriers and attitudes towards mental ill health.”

Radio Stafford is a project Support in Mind Scotland is incredibly proud of and would love to see rolled out at centres elsewhere in Scotland. 

Frances Simpson, Chief Executive of Support in Mind Scotland, says: "Radio Stafford embodies everything we are about – giving people a voice, developing confidence and skills and creating opportunities for people to take control of their lives.  This is just the start for Radio Stafford and for us as an organisation – next step is to broadcast live on FM across the nation."

Radio Stafford embodies everything we are about – giving people a voice, developing confidence and skills and creating opportunities

Frances Simpson, chief executive, Support in Mind Scotland 

So what does the immediate future hold for the station and its band of presenters?

Mandz says: “It would make a difference to have some more money behind it. For example, a lot of the technical stuff.  Is old and not up to date and not enough memory on it.  A lot of what we can do is down to money. We don’t complain though, we just push on and keep going.

And she adds, with a laugh: “Right now, I’d settle for an interview with Boogie though!”