I think we’re a middle child. The dates are a little confused, but at some point in the late 1960s, a group of clever young students ran around creating student organizations. The same people cobbled together Trent Radio, the Arthur, and what would eventually become the TCSA. So, in a way, I like to think of us as sibling organizations. It’s hard to say who is older and who is younger, but I like to imagine Trent Radio as a middle-child because we seem to have those kinds of problems.
We began in or around 1967 and 1968 as two hours of pre-recorded content on CHEX radio, fulfilling CHEX’s local content requirements. CHEX (and CORUS Entertainment) has a long history of being tremendously kind to Trent Radio. We lasted a whole 17 years before they kicked us off for swearing – one of our DJs having quoted the band name: “Fat and Fucked Up”. It was going to happen eventually.
Failure. That’s okay; invest in failure. We said: “Forge ahead!”, moved into the audio-visual labs at Bata Library, and expanded our broadcast hours. Of course, that lasted only for a few years until Trent University kicked us out because they needed the space.
We vowed: “Forge ahead!” and moved into facilities in Lady Eaton College around 1977-1978… of course, that lasted for only around five years until we were kicked out because the university needed space. “Forge ahead!”
The pattern continued. In 1984-1985, we bought a small rundown 1860s red brick house on the corner of Parkhill and George, right alongside Peter Robinson College (P.R.C.). The idea was that the campus would run the length of the street – Sadleir House, P.R.C., then Trent Radio. That way, we could serve the student community on campus — just not such a volatile campus. Then the university sold off P.R.C. right next to us. “Forge ahead!”
The next great battle was to secure a stable spot on the dial. It works like this in Canada – the airwaves are public property, stewarded by the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and you can pay them a little money to broadcast legally on an ‘unprotected licence’, meaning that anyone could move into town and boot you off the dial, or you could pay them a lot of money for a ‘protected licence’, meaning the CRTC will fight to protect your spot on the dial, if needed.
So, we bumped around a lot with an unprotected license. Through the 1980s and 1990s, you could hear Trent Radio on 101.5FM, then we lost it. “Forge ahead!” Then we were at 96.3FM for a long time, then we lost it. “Forge ahead!” There were others, but to skip ahead, in 1997-1998, we finally became 92.7FM, under a protected license, the frequency with which you can hear us today (and you can also listen from the Internet at trentradio.ca).
When we had to decide on call-letters, we briefly thought of “CFFU”; all call-letters in Canada start with a “C”, but the rest was to stand for “Fat and Fucked Up”. We eventually settled on “CFFF”, I think mainly because it was more obnoxious to say. I’ve tried to keep individual people out of this article because Trent Radio and its history is the product of so many driving, focused, and creative people, but I’ll make one exception.
Our current and long-time General Manager, John K. Muir, interviewed elsewhere in this paper, was heavily involved with the decisions of this era. He is fond of saying that part of the reasoning to go with “CFFF” was that it could stand for: “Fuck it, Forget it, and Forge ahead”.
Trent Radio is not a radio station – we just have one of those. We are a lot more in the community than a hulking broadcast. We encourage a culture of failure, learning from blunders, adversity, and finding the strength to defend your view under challenge.
We discourage a culture of protectionism and encourage individuals to pursue their own singular, selfish artistic goals. Like any middle child, we found friendships among all the fabulous weirdos. And, in all this when someone disagrees, my immediate response is: “Do your own show, then!” And people do. Then programmers argue – they fight about politics, philosophy, art, and everything that’s important to fight about, and all of it goes out on the air. In this, we ride shamelessly on the coattails of the founding principals of Trent University.
If this brief history of Trent Radio has shown anything, it should be that if you meet with failure, if you meet with overwhelming adversity, if you feel yourself constantly shifted from place to place without thought or reason, then just remember: “Fuck it, Forget it, and Forge ahead”.