Live from Gun Hill

It has been a library, a reading room and a coastguard lookout.And now the octagonal Casino on Gun Hill at Southwold is officially a radio station.

With striking views over the coast, the landmark building is being leased by Blyth Valley Radio and, as previously reported by the Journal, has been transformed into a studio.

The Blyth Valley community radio station, which is run and manned entirely by volunteers, hopes the prominent position of the Casino will help boost its audience numbers and encourage even more people to sign up to present its shows.

Speaking at the opening ceremony this week, Sylvia Jagger of the station said: 'We're pleased so many people came out to support us. We've already had one gentlemen approach us and ask about presenting.

'It's fantastic for us.'

The first song to be broadcast live from the Casino on Monday was Boney M's I See a Boat on the River. A rousing singalong followed, while visitors tucked into food courtesy of St Felix School, where the Blyth Valley head-quarters is located. There was even a home-made cake in the shape of the Casino on offer.

The station's original studio, known as 'The Bunker', at Reydon will continue to be used as a broadcasting studio as well as training room and recording studio.

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The extra room will be needed, since in the past fortnight alone 12 people have signed up to become presenters and two schools have been in contact to arrange work exper-ience place-ments.

For some, the reopening of the Casino brought back memories.

Keith Scoggins spent 30-odd years working out of the building as a coastguard. 'It's changed since then,' he said. 'It's a good idea to have a lookout here because you need someone to watch the seas, especially with all the coastguard cuts in Yarmouth. But I'm glad the building is being used again. They've certainly stripped everything out since I was here.

'There used to be a dozen of us based here.'

While HM Coastguard's Lowestoft and Southwold rescue teams are now based on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate, radio presenters using the Casino will have a direct link to the coastguard in case of emergencies.

Southwold mayor Sue Allen and chairman of Reydon Parish Council Paddy Walker had the joint honour of officially declaring the building open during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Afterwards, Mrs Walker said: 'It's a wonderful building and a great atmosphere here today – although I think they're going to spend more time taking in the view than doing much else!'