July 28, 2017
The Gate Cultural Centre on Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush, is a creative space for people who have a learning disability. It was set up around twenty years ago by Yarrow Housing Trust to cater for the daytime needs of their tenants in the West London area and beyond.
I am there to meet Javier Chandia, who runs the centre’s radio project, but as soon as I enter a young woman with a great smile takes my hand and proudly shows me a display of her drawings. This, I discover, is Jackie. She goes to the centre almost every day to paint and draw, and every Thursday she joins Javier and other members of the group to produce a 30 minute music programme broadcast on Resonance FM, the artists’ radio station founded by the London Musicians Collective.
Jackie leaves me with Javier and Darren, the regular presenter, in the small studio where the programme, called ‘Gate Kicks’, is put together. Darren has a grave but powerful voice just right for radio. He is full of enthusiasm for the show and the people he meets making it. All the music featured, he tells me, is made by people with a learning disability of some sort.
Javier, by contrast, is quieter and more reserved. Originally from Chile, he studied Social Communication and began a long engagement with music, writing about it and for a while even as the owner of a specialist record shop. Would he describe himself as a music critic? “It’s what people have called me”, he says, but I think he is more comfortable as a producer enabling others to find their own creativity.
Javier came to London in 2001, in a period he dubs as the most brilliant of London cultural life. “It was a time,” he says, ”when you could attend excellent events every day at the Royal Festival Hall, and you had the opportunity to meet and talk with great artists”. That sort of experience that has now largely disappeared with the budget cuts to culture.
Latin Waves is Javier’s own radio programme that he has been producing since he arrived in the UK.. In all, he has been broadcasting radio programmes for more than 17 years focussing on art, Latin, alternative and contemporary music. In a recent interview with the arts magazine El Ojo de la Cultura (The Cultural Eye) he says it is difficult to create new audiences and so he works for those people who really love music. His idea is to amaze people with the new and unusual. He hopes his listeners can learn to appreciate new and diverse artists and can transform themselves as active listeners who also discover the endless mystery that music carries
On 30th May 2016, he started producing Gate Kicks and since then they have broadcast a total of 55 programmes of 30 minutes each. The shows do not follow a set pattern. Ideas come from the members of the Centre, a mix of music played by people with learning disabilities and short items and interviews on topics which matter to them, which might include politics, transport, or problems with benefits.
The programme is recorded while the Centre runs other activities. Darren says that it is a free-form programme, and he remembers the day he interviewed Jackie: “She started to talk about herself, and about other things, but it was good, it was funny”.
Darren, the regular presenter of “Gate-Kicks”,
a distinctive radio programme
Javier wants to make the Centre and its programmes better known. The aim, as Darren puts it, is to change the way learning disabilities people are portrayed: “What people often think is that Learning Disabilities people are gloomy, have problems with doctors, with the police. They do not see the positive side, that Learning Disability people can have fun and can be creative.”
Enjoy Resonance FM 104.4 on: