Ken West’s legacy for Community Broadcasting

CBAA Communications, 11th April 2022

It is with sadness that I learned that Ken West passed away this week.

The festival Ken co-founded was ground breaking.  At one time The Big Day Out was recognised as the biggest touring festival in the world.

Ken was not only a pioneer in the music industry but a great supporter and friend of community radio.

I first met Ken in 1995.  Melbourne station 3RRR was broadcasting live coverage of the Big Day Out, and I was organising for the broadcast to go out nationally on community radio.

After the national broadcast I asked Ken to join the board for a project Jim Beatson (of 4ZZZ and CBAA) and myself were working on.

We were putting together a board to bid for one of the few remaining FM licenses in Sydney.  Our concept for FBi radio was a new music, arts and culture station.  We aimed high – in getting Ken on board we had recruited someone who proved key to our success in securing the license for FBi.

Ken claimed we caught him in a moment of weakness, on a high after finishing up another successful BDO.  He was immediately (and emotionally) engaged in our campaign - identifying that we would need money to get things moving.  Ken’s solution was to organise a series of fundraising concerts around Sydney, the culmination of which was a major concert at the Horden.

West used the Big Day Out team and contacts to run these fundraisers.  Many of the great acts of the time played for free when Ken convinced them Sydney needed a community station dedicated to music, arts and culture.  Silverchair, Frenzal Rhomb, Front End Loader and Tumbleweed, to name a few, took part in the FBi fundraising concerts.

The money raised went to provide test broadcasts, campaign for members and prove community support for the license application.   Eight long years later, in 2003, FBi was granted a full time license.  To this day FBI plays 50% Australian music, with half of that from Sydney.

I haven’t seen Ken for many years, but the last time I did was at an FBi event after the successful campaign had delivered Sydney its own youth radio station.  He asked if I was still saving the world a quip about the altruism of volunteering a big chunk of your life to community radio.  He had a bigger dose of altruism than most.

Vale Ken West, the music industry has lost a most important innovator and community broadcasting has lost a great friend and supporter.

Ken is survived by his wife Cathy and son Oliver.

Written by Lee Hubber, Director Spots & Space and founding President of FBi Radio.

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