In the early 1980s, the University of Alberta funded a series of experimental literary radio programs, which were broadcast across the province on the CKUA community radio network. At the time, CKUA station had just been resurrected through a deal with ACCESS and was eager for educational programming. Enter host and producer Jars Balan – then a masters student in the English department with limited radio experience. For five years, Balan produced three radio series, Voiceprint, Celebrations, and Paper Tygers, which explored the intersection of language, literature, and culture, and he interviewed some of the biggest names in the Canadian literary scene, including Margaret Atwood, Maria Campbell, Robert Kroetsch, Robertson Davies, and many others.
This episode is framed as a “celebration” of those heady days of college radio in the early 80s. In it, clips from Jars’s radio programs, recovered from the University of Alberta Archives, supplement interviews with Balan and audio engineer Terri Wynnyk. Special tribute will be given to the recently departed Western Canadian poets Doug Barbour and Phyllis Webb through the inclusion of their in-studio performances recorded for Balan’s own Celebrations series. By looking back on the pioneering days of campus radio, this episode sheds light on the current moment in scholarly podcasting and how the genre is being resurrected and reimagined by a new generation of “academics on air.”
Special thanks to Arianne Smith-Piquette from CKUA and Marissa Fraser from UAlberta’s Archives and Special Collections, and to SpokenWeb Alberta researcher Zachary Morrison, who worked behind the scenes on this episode.