The Avalon Story - a community connecting with its past on the airwaves

Sharmaine Spencer, 23rd August 2022

The Avalon Story on Radio Northern Beaches 

Avalon Beach is famous for its surfing culture and village atmosphere. But for those who live in this beachside Sydney suburb, it’s much more than that. 

Over the past 100 years, Avalon Beach has given birth to scores of artists, musicians, architects, scientists, and businesspeople, as well as passionate community volunteers and activists.

They all have stories to tell, and you can hear many of them in a new show, The Avalon Story, on Radio Northern Beaches (88.7/90.3 FM).

Avalon Beach looking North - Photo by Wendy Frew

The Avalon Story was produced to mark the centenary of the naming of the suburb by land developer AJ Small in December 1921.

Radio Northern Beaches presenters Wendy Frew and David Stewart-Hunter chat to locals including publisher and historian, Jan Roberts, who grew up in the “child’s adventure playground” that was Avalon in the 1940s and 50s.

Professor Mark Howden, Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist, first learnt about climate change during geography lessons at Barrenjoey High.

Internationally-known painter Nada Herman’s work celebrates the landscape of Pittwater where she grew up in the heritage-listed sandstone house, Hy-Brasil, in Avalon.

Johnson Brothers Group director, Robert Johnson, speaks about his family’s commitment to giving back to the community where the hardware business started in 1957 by his father and uncle in Avalon has prospered.

University of Canberra Professor Dennis Foley, who spent some of his childhood on the Northern Beaches, talks about the continuous Indigenous connection to Avalon and other parts of the peninsula.

These are just some of the interviews that have been broadcast on Saturdays at 9am on Radio Northern Beaches, 88.7 and 90.3FM.  All interviews can be heard on demand on mixcloud.

Radio Northern Beaches presenters and show creators Wendy Frew and David Stewart-Hunter wanted to share The Avalon Story with the wider community radio sector as a great example of connecting with the history of your local community and using community radio as a platform to tell this history. 

David says, "It seems likely that there will be many other suburbs around Australia that will be celebrating centenaries of post-WW1 foundation and community radio stations who might wish to create a similar programme. The Avalon Story has helped to demonstrate the value of community radio in representing our local area and celebrating its people and places."

Radio Northern Beaches presenters David Stewart-Hunter (L) & Wendy Frew (R), creators of The Avalon Story

It is a great way to tap into local institutions in your community, like councils and historical societies, and provide an archive and oral history of the area that generations will continute to enjoy into the future. As there was a local committee organising events for the suburbs centenary, both David and Wendy were able to suggest their programming idea to the committee as Radio Northern Beaches' contribution to the celebration. 

The Avalon Story has now been added to the archives at the Avalon Beach Historical Society, and the Local History Hub at the Northern Beaches Council Library. 

Does your local community have a special anniversary coming up soon, or an ontold history waiting to be documented through the airwaves? Then take some inspiration from Wendy and David and the team at Radio Northern Beaches and get your own suburb story happening on air! 

You can listen to The Avalon Story interviews up on mixcloud here. 

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Access special broadcasts for your station this Anzac Day, 25 April.

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