Art & Events Interview Caro Meets

Hunt & Darton: Radio Local

By | Published on Friday 8 May 2020

We first came across the collaborative work of Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton when we experienced and enjoyed the fruits of their labour – the Hunt & Darton performance art cafe – up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe quite a few years ago now. That cafe then toured the country.

In their most recent venture, rather than setting up a pop-up cafe to bring together local communities, they have been arriving in town centres and creating a radio studio, partnering with community radio groups to celebrate the localness of good old-fashioned local radio.

The COVID-19 shutdown has stopped them from opening pop-up town centre radio studios for now, but it hasn’t stopped the wider ‘Radio Local’ project. The latest iteration is up and running with the Norwich & Norfolk Festival, the only difference being that Hunt, Darton and the local community who take part will do so from their homes.

Anyway, it’s all very intriguing. And with the Norwich version available to all online – and with some London versions also planned – I spoke to the duo to find out more.

CM: Can you start by telling readers what to expect from ‘Radio Local’? What kind of show is it?
H+D: ‘Radio Local’ is a celebration of local radio and community, from the charmingly mundane to the extraordinary, to the borderline ridiculous.

Think banter about survival tactics for isolation, expect tracks from local legends, interviews with Norwich & Norfolk festival artists no longer able to perform, family challenges to join in with at home, live reports from the over 70s and specially commissioned segments.

Those include audio postcards from Great Yarmouth; kids from Kings Lynn sharing the places they are missing most in lockdown; Top Of The Pipes, in homage to the postponed Diss Organ festival; food reviews from key workers; and contributions from our ‘Radio Local’ workshop goers, who have been making their own segments at home. 

In short, it’s a magazine style show.

CM: This isn’t the first time you’ve done ‘Radio Local’, although it’s slightly rejigged because of COVID-19. Can you explain the history of this and tell us about the previous locations?
H+D: ‘Radio Local’ started in 2017 in Cambridge, after Cambridge Junction commissioned us. We broadcast live in the centre of town for 24 hours straight – that’s how ‘Radio Local’ was born! Last year we toured to Stoke, St Helens, Fleetwood, Manchester and Peterborough, broadcasting for twelve hours in each location. In each community we made radio by elevating the voices of those we met, sharing local humour and telling stories.

CM: What inspired this? What was the aim of it?
H+D: Our pop-up interactive art installation, Hunt & Darton Café, toured for five years up until 2018. Weaving ourselves into the fabric of towns and high streets around the UK was an incredible experience: getting to know the locals, making new friends, taking on local politics and providing a space in which people could meet and play.

Inspired by that experience, we wanted our next project to shine a spotlight on the everyday, the domestic, local – the eccentricities of human life.

And we love radio. There’s time and space there like no other medium. It has people at its heart and takes you across a spectrum of emotion – jumping from hard news to co-hosting antics, from humble gardening shows to war-torn countries, from opera to grime – sometimes without even changing the station.

Recently, local radio has become increasingly centralised and stories central to the lives of local people are being cut. This leaves communities with a cultural and informational deficit. We love local radio and think it deserves to survive. We hope ‘Radio Local’ goes some way in filling the growing gap between local voice and global information.

CM: Can you explain how listeners get involved?
H+D: There are lots of ways to get involved in the show.

We will be setting inter-generational family challenges for our feature ‘you can choose your friends, not your family’ – such as a DIY obstacle course, toilet paper stacking or making a piece of ‘conceptual art’ out of toothpaste tubes.

There’s a scavenger hunt, plus competitions for all to join in with at home. And everyone is invited to make jingles with anything around the house – like voices, pans, kids instruments, packets of food, door slammin – all recorded on phones.

Full details of all the ways to get involved can be found at

CM: Can you tell us about your plans to bring this to London?
H+D: Next stop of the tour is Culture Mile in the City of London. We’ll broadcast for fourteen days from 30 May to 12 Jun.

The work has begun and we have already commissioned artists Scottee and Victoria Melody to work with us and the residents of the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates. We will also be joined by Bourgeois and Maurice as guest presenters.

After that, we have plans to take ‘Radio Local’ to two more London areas this summer, in collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre and London Borough Of Merton.

CM: Can we talk a bit about you, now? How did the two of you come to be working together?
H+D: We met studying at Central St Martins over a decade ago and developed a friendship which led to performing together as Hunt & Darton. Our collaboration was born out of a desire to lose the ego and make performance which would allow us to embarrass ourselves live on stage. Now our aim is to play and to create entertaining experiences to inspire and change the way we look at the world.

CM: Did you always want a career in the arts?
H+D: We didn’t know we wanted a career in the arts but always knew we needed to be creative and have a creative outlet for our thoughts and experiences. The career aspirations came later as we learned more about the power of art on society and people and our desire to sustain what we do long term. We had proper jobs for a number of years alongside Hunt & Darton and the skills we developed have proven invaluable.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
H+D: To continue our collaborative practice together. We’ve got a great team around now, so we want to sustain them and want to continue to work with communities and to get our ideas out there.

CM: Would your lives these last few weeks have been very different had we not been locked down? Were there plans you had to cancel?
H+D: We have had a few gigs cancelled and tour locations put on hold, but massively appreciate the opportunity to re-model ‘Radio Local’, work virtually and fully embrace all things digital.

CM: How are you coping with lockdown? What are you doing to stay sane?
H+D: Actually, I think our collaboration has benefited from not having to see each other’s faces as often – although, not really, as we are always on Zoom together. We’ve been really busy remodelling the project for digital and gathering content via Zoom interviews and workshops, not to mention building radio studios in our homes to broadcast from. It’s been non stop but very enjoyable, and – with young children to entertain too – it’s been pretty full on.

CM: What hopes do you have for after lockdown? Do you have work in the planning stages?
H+D: We are planning a new work called ‘DIY RADIO’, which is a downloadable PDF for families to use to make their own radio shows at home. We then collect the shows and build them into a podcast series hosted by us. This work starts in June 2020 and is supported by Farnham Maltings.

We are also developing a new work called ‘The Mum Show’, which involves working with non-performers who are mothers to create a new tribe and we are developing a new podcast from our kitchen tables to be aired live after the kids have gone to bed. ‘Radio Local’ will continue to tour as soon as possible.

Hunt & Darton began broadcasting via Future Radio & Norwich and Norfolk Festival on 8 May and will continue until 24 May. See the festival website here for more.