Sunderland student radio station named best in the world at New York ceremony

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SUNDERLAND has the best student radio station in the world.

Spark FM picked up the title at a prestigious international awards ceremony in New York.

Bright sparks from the community radio station picked up the gong after receiving three nominations in two categories at the New York Radio Festival, which is now in its 55th year and recognises the best radio work internationally.

Although Spark is a community station, it’s predominantly staffed by students and is based at Sunderland University.

Programme controller Ivan Lehane, head of station sound Richie Lee, and former station manager Sarah Harrison, collected the award, which recognises Spark internationally for its achievements.

But the accolades did not end there. Sarah went on to win bronze in the student category for Best Documentary for A Tale of Procrastination and Phil Dean, who formerly presented rock show The Takedown, won a finalist certificate in the documentary category for The Zombie and You.

To make the trip to the radio festival even more special, the Spark team broadcast their drive-time programme live from the Big Apple itself.

Station director Fred Marden said: “When we launched in October 2009 we set a target to win in New York within three years.

“We did it, but to win in the category of Best Station was more than we dared to dream. Our students, volunteers, staff and Sunderland have reason to be immensely proud.”

The first New York Radio Festival awards took place in 1957 and entries are judged by a panel of industry professionals who are themselves award winners.

Spark is a multi-award-winning radio and television station and magazine, which broadcasts from the David Puttnam Media Centre to Sunderland on 107FM, and to the North East and the world at

Since 2009, Spark has picked up a host of awards, including Best Station in the North East (Radio Academy Nations and Regions), and Best Community Engagement (Student Radio Association).

Most recently the team has won another three national student television awards to add to their cabinet.

Graeme Thompson, dean of arts, design and media at the university, said: “Congratulations. A wonderful tribute to the professionalism and talent of everyone involved in the Spark project.”

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