St Helena Online

Tag: media

Saint FM vital to island spirit, says director Dieter

Tony Leo, as he appeared on the BBC
Tony Leo, as he appeared on the BBC

Three minutes into Dieter Deswarte’s BBC film about St Helena, viewers around the world heard the smooth welcome of Tony Leo, veteran island broadcaster.

“This is Saint FM Community Radio. The people’s station at its best,” he said. “Our unique little island will soon be a part of the bigger world…”

He wasn’t there just to help the script along. Saint FM logo 300The young film-maker places great significance on the radio station that was revived by its listeners, against resistance from officials who were funding a slicker, better-behaved rival.

Saint FM is helping islanders break away from a restrictive colonial past, as Dieter sees it.

“I spent a lot of time there,” he says. “I liked the way it wasn’t perfect but it was done with a lot of enthusiasm, for the island.

“And a lot of people are involved. They have a lot of volunteers. They struggle a lot financially, but it’s good that this came out of the people. It’s a great example of initiative and people getting on and trying to do something.

“I spoke to a lot of people and the independent media has done a lot for people in helping  them to voice their opinion. Because I think until it came around it was really, really difficult.

“It’s incredibly important. There is this colonial legacy and this past is still being processed, not only by the government but also by the people.

“It’s very important to have this idea that people don’t feel suppressed. That is something that is constantly causing frustration and conflict on the island.

“It can be made better by better communications between the people and its government. Also feeling they have a voice within the community.

“I think Saint FM and the Independent… the mere fact that it’s independent media, I think that’s something that the people really needed.”

It gives me great pleasure: Julie declares Saint FM open
New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

“I think Saint FM and the Independent… the mere fact that it’s independent media, I think that’s something that the people really needed.” SEE ALSO:  It gives me great pleasure: Julie declares Saint FM open New radio group bids to revive Saint FM

‘Island girl’ Kerisha masters the art of study

Kerisha Stevens MA
Kerisha Stevens MA

Kerisha Stevens didn’t want to leave St Helena to earn a normal university degree – so she stayed home and got an even better one.

She has been awarded a Master of Arts degree by the University of Leicester in the UK, after two years of studying alongside her full-time job as a government press officer.

Her qualification is in Communications, Media and Public Relations.

kerisha video 450Click the pic to see editor Kerisha on video (2009)

Her assignments included writing 15,000 words on the topic, Television, the Internet and Young Saints – reflecting technological changes that came to the island much later than the rest of the world.

Kerisha had already scored a distinction in a media diploma course.

She said: “Gaining this degree is my biggest achievement and after two years of intense study it is such a relief to have completed it successfully.”

She often had to work late and night and in the early mornings.

Kerisha met government minister Alan Duncan in London
Kerisha met government minister Alan Duncan in London

Kerisha left Prince Andrew School after serving as head girl, and found herself, aged just 18, editing the St Helena Herald – signing her weekly editorials simply, “Kerisha”.

In that role, she featured in a video made by island teenagers for the BBC’s School Report project, commenting on the prospect of local television news on the island.

On her personal website, she says that “being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as an editor soon wore off, so she took a job as a press officer at The Castle in Jamestown.

“On an island of just 47 square miles it’s easy to dream of bigger and better things,” she writes.

“But, being an island girl at heart, I channeled my ambitions in to learning more and striving for the best that I could be on an island virtually in the middle of nowhere.

“I found myself wanting to play a part in the island’s future and get stuck into island affairs.”

She says trying to build people’s faith in government is challenging, but a role she enjoys.

Early in 2013 it took her to the UK to gain experience in the press offices of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development – where she met the Minister of State, Alan Duncan.

She also spent time with the island’s public relations agency, Keene, writing an article for its website about her experiences.

Ian Jones, chief public relations officer at The Castle, said of her degree: “This is a tremendous achievement and I pay tribute to Kerisha for all her hard work and her dedication to completing her studies – which I have witnessed first-hand.  She is a credit to the island.”

Kerisha’s website
An Island Girl in London – Keene website
We Want TV News – BBC News School Report


Saint FM supporters win funding vote in LegCo

A vote to end “unfair” media funding on St Helena has been pushed though Legislative Council.

But it was not made clear whether this would put money into the coffers of Saint FM Community Radio – or if so, how soon.

Nor did the motion say whether the government should stop financing St Helena Media Services (SAMS), which has received more than a quarter of a million pounds since being set up by the government in competition with independent media.

Some councillors voted against the motion, that “this Council calls upon the government to take immediate steps to create a level playing field, both financially and otherwise, for all local media organisations.”

There were concerns that money spent establishing SAMS would be wasted if it was unable to continue operating for long enough to become viable as a business.

Councillor Ian Rummery said: “It is reasonable that all media are treated the same.

“How that is done is a matter for our budgeting system to work out. That might mean some lose money and others will gain money to bring them into balance.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be done like that. Maybe clever management of fees for advertising could be used to help bring this about.

“I could not support the ongoing system where there does appear to be a wide disparity of treatment of the two groups of media we have on this island.”

The motion was introduced by Brian Isaac, a strong support of Saint FM Community Radio, which was revived by its own listeners in early 2013.

The station had abruptly closed down at Christmas 2012, shortly before SAMS Radio 1 went live.

The debate faltered when it became clear that some councillors who wanted to support Saint FM warned that they felt obliged to vote against the motion because of the way it was worded.

Mr Isaac then put forward a new motion, simply calling for funding for Saint FM, and the debate was adjourned overnight.

But on Tuesday (15 October) the original motion was reinstated.

Although the vote was split, the Speaker, Eric Benjamin, declared: “The Ayes have it. The Ayes have it” – meaning the motion had succeeded.

Ironically, the debate was part of the first formal Legislative Council session to be broadcast on the internet – thanks to SAMS Radio 1.

A note from Simon Pipe, editor of St Helena Online: Reporting of this story has been delayed for personal reasons. This blog began as a degree project and continued while I began building up paid work as a very part-time university teacher. On Tuesday, as this debate was taking place, I was preparing for a successful job interview at Coventry University. I will shortly be taking up a humble but full-time role in the journalism department, which will enable me to qualify to teach in higher education. I hope to be able to continue running the website in a low-key way, possibly with the help of students; however, my St Helena activities will clearly have to be scaled down from now on. It’s been fun, and I thank the St Helena Independent and many individuals who have given great support, including staff in the government press office.

St Helena’s Mister Radio just keeps on going: please support Tony Leo’s marathon broadcast

Tony Leo, live and lively in the studio for his marathon broacast. Picture by Saint FM
Tony Leo, live and lively in the studio for his marathon broacast. Picture by Saint FM

St Helena Online salutes the achievements of the indefatigable Tony Leo, St Helena’s own Mr Radio.

After 45 years on air, Tony decided he might as well move into the studio on a long-term basis. At 7am on Saturday, 6 July 2013, he began a marathon broadcasting session in aid of the relaunched Saint FM Community Radio.

It was classic Saint broadcasting; the hours rolled by but the chat was as perky as ever.

Readers who haven’t signed up to hear the paid-for internet streaming are encouraged to pay tribute to Tony’s efforts by doing so – or at least, to join St Helena Online in making a small (or large) donation.

Tony suggests a pound an hour…

Saint FM does not benefit from the tens of thousands of pounds paid by the British taxpayer to sustain the rival – and often very good – SAMS Radio 1.

Saint FM exists because people on the island were determined to get it back on air after it closed just before Christmas Day 2012.

It is possibly the best and biggest example of Saints acting together to give the people what they wanted, and not what the government decided they should have (the government, we should acknowledge, did grant a broadcasting licence).

It is, quite simply, the people’s radio station. For that reason, and for many others, it deserves support.

SIGN UP or DONATE via the Saint FM website.

Banned writer regrets telling Tristan ‘love story’

Simon Winchester, the writer who was banned from Tristan da Cunha for repeating a story of a love affair that may not even have happened, has expressed his sympathy for islanders. 

In an essay for the historical journal Lapham’s Quarterly – written while “wallowing” offshore on a cruise ship – he admits he was wrong to trample on local feelings and re-tell the story of a wartime visitor to the island who fell for a Tristanian girl.

It related how Lieutenant Derrick Booy spent 18 months posted to the island, then returned home and wrote a book describing “a wartime love affair which, by all accounts, had been tender, unconsummated, and quite possibly entirely imagined.”

Islanders had pleaded with him not to repeat the story, which had caused great embarrassment, but he thought they were being over-sensitive, and told it anyway in his book, Outposts – for which he also visited St Helena.

Twelve years later, he returned to the island as a cruise ship lecturer, and learned he was banned from going ashore – for life.

“The Island Council of this half-forgotten outpost of the remaining British Empire has for the last quarter century declared me a Banned Person,” he says. “I am welcome on Tristan neither today nor, indeed, as was succinctly put to me in a diplomatic telegram last year, ‘ever’.”

When he told fellow travellers on his latest trip, he says, “a gasp went up. Most seemed quite incredulous… Tristan is British, and you are British: it isn’t even an immigration question. It is a simple assault on free speech.”

But during an “irritating” wait in his cabin, he says, he reflected on the upset he had caused.

“I had no understanding whatsoever that by repeating that naval officer’s memoir, I could hurt the feelings of anyone. To my clumsy, unthinking, touristic mind, the notion seemed quite absurd. I held to an unspoken assumption that as a visitor from the sophisticated outside, I knew better.”

Despite his contrition, though, he is not greatly flattering towards this island.

“Though some may suspect sour grapes,” he writes, “I have to confess that there is little of great charm to Tristan.” Once visitors have visited the pub, the shop, the potato patches and the Welcome To The Remotest Island sign, “most will be eager to return to their waiting cruise ship, to wonder as the island fades away astern, why on earth anyone would wish to live there.”

Read the full essay here

Writer says Michel deserves top honour for Napoleon role

Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, and Napoleon at a Legion d'Honneur presentation. Click the pic to see the painting in full
Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, and Napoleon at a Legion d’Honneur presentation. Click the pic to see the painting in full

Film star Clint Eastwood has one, and so has the singer Bob Dylan; and now a writer on Napoleon says Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, custodian of the emperor’s homes on St Helena, deserves to receive France’s highest honour.


Andrew Roberts makes the tongue-in-cheek nomination in an article for Britain’s Spectator magazine, after visiting the island to research a biography.

“Napoleon’s house at Longwood in the Deadwood Plain is kept up superbly,” he writes, “despite the fact that, as the curator and French honorary consul Michel Dancoisne-Martineau points out, just as in Napoleon’s day it’s enveloped in cloud for 330 days of the year, with all the problems of damp that that implies.

Click the pic to see the full article
Click the pic to see the full article

“Monsieur Martineau deserves the Legion d’Honneur for the years of love and attention he has dedicated to Longwood, which now looks exactly the same as it did on 5 May 1821, the day of Napoleon’s death.”

The Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur was established by Napoleon Bonaparte himself on 19 May 1802, with five degrees, from Chevalier (Knight) to Grand Croix (Grand Cross).

The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (“Honour and Fatherland”).


Michel was toasted at a party in November 2012 to celebrate 25 years as custodian of the Napoleonic properties on St Helena.

The tourism department on the island may not be so taken with another line in Andrew Roberts’s article, referring to Longwood suffering “the same infestations of rats, cockroaches, midges, termites and mosquitoes that plagued the emperor.”

He writes: “The diving and hiking are said to be great, but I wasn’t sold on the plans to turn the island into one of the world’s greatest bamboo exporters. And before any of the 30,000 tourists turn up, they are going to have to extend the total of hotel bedrooms available (presently standing at an impressive 18).

Michel and tourism chief Mike cut cakes in 2012
Michel and tourism chief Mike cut cakes in 2012

He continues: “Saints have rather a schizoid attitude towards Napoleon; he is the only reason most people have heard of their island, yet it equates it in the public imagination with remoteness, exile and death.

“Many of the population are descended from slaves, and they complain that their ancestors weren’t consulted about him being sent there by the colonialist government in London.

“If they had been consulted though, I bet they’d have voted to take Napoleon, and enjoy their 15 minutes of world fame.

“They certainly wouldn’t otherwise have been able to sell little bars of soap in the shape of Napoleon’s head, such as the one that [the Times journalist] Michael Binyon kindly gave me (perhaps as a hint?).”

Click here to read the full article – with a cartoon of Napoleon lying on a map of St Helena

LINK: Legion d’Honneur

Napoleon rides down Main Street: St Helena’s Day 2013
Michel celebrates 25 years as French Consul



Saint FM community group wins licence

The group trying to revive St Helena’s first independent radio station has finally been granted a licence, after weeks of struggle.

Initially the licence – costing £480 to cover four frequencies – will run for one year.

Mike Olsson, former owner of the station, was expected to begin tests over the weekend from transmitters at Head o’ Wain, High Knoll, Jamestown and the Flagg.

Consent to broadcast was agreed at a special meeting of the island’s executive council on Friday 22 February 2013.

The station abruptly closed down days before Christmas, but a group of supporters and experienced island broadcasters held a meeting soon afterwards to launch a revival bid.

After failing to meet the conditions to set up a charity, the group founded a company limited by guarantee, under the guidance of the chief magistrate, John MacRitchie – who has extensive experience of dealing with the media.

Only once the new company’s articles of association were in place did the executive council feel able to recommend approval for a licence – technically granted by Governor Mark Capes.

Julie Thomas, chair of the new Saint FM Community Radio, has now received a letter confirming the licence has been approved.

She said: “We have now made the necessary payment. However, the Attorney General didn’t have the licence ready.  He is hoping to have it completed by early next week, which could mean Tuesday or Wednesday.”

The group was staging promotional events at Half Tree Hollow and Longwood today (Saturday 23 February 2013), to encourage more people to sign up as members, at a cost of £5 a year (£1 unwaged).

Membership stood at approximately 250 after a launch event in Jamestown on 16 February.

Julie added: “Mike has started testing, so parts of St Helena will hear the familiar sounds of Saint FM over the weekend and increasing coverage as we go now into next week.”

Saint FM’s rival station, SAMS Radio 1, was officially launched on 13 February 2013, though with only six hours of hosted programmes on weekdays.

The station’s launch was delayed by transmission difficulties. It is understood they continue to be a problem.

Supporters switch on to Saint FM radio revival
St Helena Online congratulates a worthy adversary
After eight combative years, Saint FM drifts into the sunset

Supporters switch on to Saint FM radio revival

SaintFMCC JT 640Supporters sign up to join the new organisation that’s reviving Saint FM radio station. The photograph of a promotional event in Jamestown on 16 February 2013 has been contributed by John Turner, who said: “I think this tells the story”. Governor Mark Capes has promised to summon executive councillors to consider a licence application as soon as legal formalities are sorted. A decision is expected imminently – with councillors thought to have pressed for approval (18 February 2013)

Click to show your support for Saint FM

The team reviving Saint FM is optimistic of being granted a licence within days. An online poll has been set up to gauge the level of support for streaming broadcasts on the internet – with a small annual fee to listen. 

by Johnny Clingham
St Helena & Ascension Island Community website 

The Saint FM team, led by Mrs Julie Thomas, reports being very pleased with support for efforts to revive St Helena’s first independent radio station.

A promotion day was held outside New Horizons centre in Jamestown on Saturday, 16 February 2013, with many people signing up for yearly membership of the organisation.

The aim was partly to educate members of the public face-to-face on how Saint FM community radio would benefit the island.

Membership cost £5 per year for citizens employed on St Helena and £1 for unwaged members.

Despite the frustration of failing to become a registered community charity,there has been lots of progress the decision was taken to become a company limited by guarantee – meaning directors would not be risk heavy personal losses.

A local advert has been published for an assistant station manager to assist with the day-to-day running of the station, which closed abruptly on 21 December 2012.

Negotiations are taking place to reinstate the streaming of the station via the internet.

An online poll has now been set up on the St Helena & Ascension Island Community website to get a better understanding on how overseas listeners feel about paying a yearly membership to help support the organisation.

If the statistics from this vote look favourable, we will publish more information on how people can sign up. 

The poll is open for seven days, until Sunday, 24 February 2013. Find it here.