Spark FM

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107 Spark FM
Spark FM Logo 2014.jpg
Broadcast area Sunderland, United Kingdom
Online via Radioplayer
Slogan Exclusively Sunderland
Frequency 107 FM
RDS: _Spark__
First air date 26 October 2009
Format Community radio
Language(s) English
Owner University of Sunderland
Website Spark Sunderland

107 Spark FM is a community radio station serving 15-to–25-year-olds in the Sunderland area. Spark carries a variety of content catering for both mainstream and niche musical audiences, as well as interviews, news, sports, talk and entertainment. The station also creates opportunities for young people to tell their stories, contribute and lead discussions that affect them. The radio station broadcasts on 107 FM and online via the station's website.

The official launch of 107 Spark FM took place at the new £12 million CitySpace building in the centre of the city of Sunderland.


The station began broadcasting in November 1997 as Radio Utopia a two week short term broadcast under the (then) Radio Authority's Restricted Service Licence (RSL) scheme. The station was part of a regional arts festival called "Visions of Utopia" and the station reflected the scheme and carried various programmes tied-in with the scheme, such as "The Quakies" a programme produced by children from the former pit village of Quaking Houses in County Durham. Radio broadcasting predated this by several years, with student programming on the community radio station Wear FM, which closed in 1995 and is now the more commercial station Sun FM. The station was low powered but still proved valuable as a training ground for new broadcasters. Programmes were broadcast from studios in the Forster Building, formerly used by Wear FM, with a transmitter on the roof.

The station was rebranded the following November as "107 Utopia FM" and developed a more formatted sound and joined the "Student Broadcast Network" (SBN) bringing news, national programmes and a 24-hour service to the station. Utopia returned in September 1999 for the first ever freshers broadcast and again proved its value for students and volunteers. The station largely draws volunteers from the University's large undergraduate media courses but has also been part of wider community radio programmes with projects in County Durham, Washington and Sunderland.

During the following years Utopia broadcast more frequently, getting up to broadcasts twice a year. In 2002 Utopia began broadcasting on the 102.4FM frequency. In 2003 the station began to use new studios in the £11m Media Centre at the St. Peter's Campus, when media teaching moved there that year. The old studios have now been demolished and the building is now used to teach courses run by the University's School of Education and Lifelong Learning. The move also facilitated the recording of sessions in The Media Centre's new radio and television studios.

Later in 2003, Utopia FM enjoyed its greatest success at The Student Radio Awards, collecting 3 silver awards, with Duncan Wallace (Best Male), Jonathan Wood (Best Newcomer) winning individual prizes and the station itself winning silver for Best Marketing.

Volunteers from the station have not only succeeded in gaining recognition in the annual student radio awards: successfully in securing multiple nominations in the annual student radio awards, with a Gold and a silver in 2004 and three bronze awards in 2005 and a bronze in 2003; they have gone onto a variety of jobs including local radio presenters; BBC Radio 1 producers; News Editors and the Vice-President of a major international imaging company.

Community licence and rebranding[edit]

When the UK media regulator Ofcom announced a plan to issue Community Radio licences, work began at the station to apply for a Full Time licence. This application was made in early in 2007.[1] In September 2007, Ofcom awarded Utopia FM a full-time 5 year Community Radio licence.[2]

It was announced in June 2009 that Utopia FM would be changing its name to 107 Spark FM to signal the change in licence and the broadening of the audience.[3]


Spark launched a bi-monthly printed magazine in July 2012, in association with regional Johnston Press-owned paper the Sunderland Echo. The magazine is distributed free of charge through the city's university and other public venues to students and young people.


Community action[edit]

On Thursday December 10, 2009, the station launched its first major community-based campaign, teaming up with the Sunderland Echo newspaper for its annual Christmas Toy Appeal.

December 2010 saw the 12 days of Christmas, featuring 12 outside broadcasts with a charity theme.

In December 2011, Spark run the 'Lock In' charity fundraiser, raising over £2000 for suicide awareness and prevention charity If U Care Share. The event locked three presenters inside a city centre cage for 48 hours, and was accompanied by challenges and fundraising activity across the city.


- Radio Academy Nations and Regions Award | North East winners 2010/2011/2012 [4][5]

- I Love Student Radio Awards 2010 - Community Spirit [6]

- Nominated for 3 Student Radio Awards 2010 - Best Station, Best Journalistic Programme, Best Specialist Music Programme[7]

- I Love Student Radio Awards 2011 -

Community Spirit:  Winner 
Station Manager of the Year: Lee Sevenoaks Winner
SRA Volunteer of the Year: Kyle Wilkinson Winner


- Student Radio Awards 2011[9] -

Best Journalistic: Phil Dean, The Zombie and You,  Gold 
Best Interview: Scott McGerty Interviews Wretch 32, Silver
Best Specialist: Dance Revolution, Bronze

- New York International Festival Awards 2012 Best Radio Station (Silver)[10]

- Student Radio Awards 2012[11] -

Best Specialist: Dance Revolution  Gold 
Best Interview: Scott McGerty Interviews Far East Movement Silver
Best Interview: My Boy Daniel Gold
Best Entertainment: DriveTime with Richie Lee Gold
Best Male: Ethan O'Leary Gold
Best Marketing and Station Sound: Bronze
Best Station: Bronze

- NaSTA Peoples Choice Awards 2013

Open Award:  The ZipWire Challenge  Winner 

- Student Radio Awards 2013

Best Newcomer:  Dom Stirling  Bronze 
Best Female: Alex Burgess Silver
Best Male: Jonny Chambers Bronze

- I Love Student Radio Awards 2014

SRA Volunteer of the Year:  Dom Stirling  Winner 
SRA Volunteer of the Year: Alex Burgess Highly Commended
SRA Volunteer of the Year: Jay Sykes Highly Commended

- NaSTA Peoples Choice Awards 2014

Open Award:  NewTube  Winner 


External links[edit]