Collaboration between Cape Cod, British stations reveals similar challenges faced by coastal communities

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Simon Neild

Ellie Baxter of Falmouth, England, speaks with Trinity Poon of Sandwich, Mass., about growing up in a coastal community amid climate change.

WCAI in Woods Hole, Mass., is partnering with a community radio station in Falmouth, England, on a collaborative project linking the coastal communities the stations serve with a series of one-hour programs aired on both stations. 

Steve Junker, managing editor for news at the Massachusetts radio station, always knew that towns in Cape Cod and England share names. Looking at them on a map one day last fall, he started to wonder what issues towns in coastal England face. 

“Because we report a lot on environment at our station, and we report on a lot of big issues that are important to towns in coastal communities where tourism is a big component of the economy, I started to think that they must share a lot of those same issues,” Junker said. 

He started emailing radio stations in England asking whether anyone wanted to work on a collaborative project and got a response from Source FM, located in Falmouth, Cornwall, in southwest England. From there, Junker and Simon Neild, a director on the board of Source FM, started brainstorming about what a collaboration between their stations could look like. 

The project, titled “Falmouth to Falmouth: Connecting Cape Cod to Cornwall,” will debut on April 13 with an hourlong broadcast on each station. A second hourlong show is in the works as well. WCAI is also working on a page for the program on its website that will include photographs and interactive components. 

Each show will feature conversations between people from similar walks of life in each town. Listeners to the first broadcast will hear grocers talking about how they managed the early days of the pandemic, young activists discussing environmental issues in the two communities, and potters reflecting on being artisans in tough economic times and how they build community. 

“I like the idea that we’re kind of on opposite sides of the mirror. Looking at each other, we’re different but very similar, too,” Junker said. “You know, we’re looking across the Atlantic Ocean at each other, kind of from opposite ends of the Atlantic, but sharing a lot of similarities.”

After meeting virtually, Junker and Neild got to work creating a list of major issues and stories that they thought were important to their regions. When they spoke after creating their lists, they found significant overlap. 

“When Steve read off his list of challenges, I said to him, ‘Are you sure you’re not actually in Falmouth, Cornwall, not Falmouth, Cape Cod, because you’ve just read out my list,’” Neild said. For example, both communities face the impact of climate change and of an increase in short-term rentals for tourists making affordable housing harder to come by for residents.

In creating the project, Junker said, obstacles included planning across time zones and navigating differences in how the stations operate. Because Source FM relies on volunteers instead of a dedicated staff like WCAI’s, the British station at times had difficulty finding people to work on the shows.

Junker and Neild both hope to continue the collaboration beyond the first two broadcasts and are excited about its potential to grow. 

“In some ways, this is really a labor of love between the two stations,” Junker said. “We don’t really have any specific budget for this. All the people who are working at our station who are contributing their time and energy to this are also reporters covering their own beats.” 

Neild said that despite the distance between the stations, they share more similarities than differences.

“There’s a big bit of water between us, but at the end of the day, you know, we’re all human beings, we’re all the same,” Neild said. “We’re all facing similar challenges in life, and if we can face them shoulder to shoulder, that’s got to be a good thing.” 

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