Celebrate the diverse community and fierce passion at the heart of Triple R, Australia’s largest and most successful independent radio station. From modest beginnings as a university broadcaster in the 1970s to a station with 440,000 listeners and its own dedicated home in Brunswick, these images from our 2016 summer exhibition tell the story of, and pay respect to, this much-loved station.
ON AIR: 40 years of 3RRR
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Summer in the city
Summer in the city, designed by James Taylor, 1979, paper, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
'It's summer in the city again and this time you'll be able to listen to 3RRR-FM on your trannie under the beach umbrella all the way from Torquay to Sorrento' – Sue Mathews, Radio city, Summer 79/80
For the second year in a row, from December 1979 to February 1980, Triple R took a break from the constraints of 'educational' university programming and featured a more relaxed format of music and presenters over the summer months, 24 hours a day. While a shift away from broadcasting formal lectures had already begun, this was a further shift in programming that eventually led to the establishment of the Triple R style. Today, Triple R still 'unofficially' goes into summer programming, when regular broadcasters take a break and others get a chance to 'fill in'.
Triple R medicine
'Triple R medicine box' Radiothon poster, designed by Dan Milne, 2002, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The No nasty side-effects theme of the 2002 Radiothon was decided on in a competition, won by graphic arts student and subscriber, Dan Milne. The promotional medicine box also contained a packet of raspberry jubes and 'prescription' subscription form, with details on how to subscribe to Triple R.
No nasty side-effects
No nasty side-effects Radiothon poster, designed by Dan Milne, 2002, paper, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The 2002 annual Radiothon received over 9000 subscription pledges. That same year, the gentrification of Fitzroy caught up with Triple R and their lease on the Victoria Street premises was not renewed. As long-time broadcaster Tim Thorpe remarked, 'The building is tired and wants us to go.' The search for a new home began: 20 years a tenant, Triple R finally left Fitzroy in 2004.
Make contact Radiothon poster, 2010, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The sci-fi theme of the 2010 Make contact Radiothon was embraced not only by the station's broadcasters and volunteers, but also by subscribers, who relayed personal stories of when they first 'made contact' with Triple R. Each year, broadcasters plan their programs during the Radiothon period to be a little bit more special, to encourage listeners to become subscribers.
God save the queen
'God save the queen' Royal Riot benefit gig poster, artwork by Fred Negro, 2002, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
Held on the Queen's Birthday public holiday in 2002, the Royal Riot benefit at St Kilda's Esplanade Hotel marked 25 years since the Sex Pistols had released their classic punk single 'God save the Queen'. The event was part of a worldwide anniversary with all bands performing their own renditons of the song. One of the highlights of this event was Triple R's own Sex Pistols tribute band, the RRRottens, with guest vocalist Fred Negro.
Kick it to RRRs
Kick it to RRRs Radiothon poster, designed by William Ellis Green (WEG), 2005, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
In the month prior to the 2005 Radiothon, the Megahertz team (made up of 3RRR and 3PBS staff and broadcasters) had beaten the Rockdogs in front of a record crowd at the Junction Oval for the annual Community Cup to raise funds for the Sacred Heart Mission. For Triple R, the Radiothon campaign would secure donations to help complete the renovations at the new station home in Brunswick. In 2005, Station Manager Kath Letch was also exploring new ways of delivering content through podcasts and streaming audio.
Feed your head
Feed your head Radiothon poster, designed by Jon Paton, 1993, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
In 1993, pledges from the Triple R Radiothon would help pay for a higher-powered transmitter installed at Mount Dandenong. At a cost of over $200,000, the transmitter enabled the station to broadcast further over Melbourne's airwaves and beyond, securing a band of new listeners.
Free range radio
Free range radio Radiothon poster, illustrated by Michelle Mackintosh, 2006, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
In the 2006 Radiothon edition of subscriber magazine The trip, then-Station Manager Kath Letch considered the 'free range' nature of 3RRR: 'Some shows roam around more than others but all are free to roam and that creates some of the most special and unique moments of live radio, and such a fantastic range of music and discussion.' Kath Letch was Station Manager at Triple R from 1995 to 2006, overseeing the station's move from Fitzroy to Brunswick, and the transition to digital modes of content delivery.
Choose your destination
Choose your destination Radiothon poster, illustrated by Greedy Hen, designed by Actual Size, 2011, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The 2011 Radiothon was all things travel, and subcribers to the station were invited to share their stories of 'travelling with Triple R'. In May of that year, Triple R also hosted the national launch of community digital radio and the station was made available as 3RRR digital.
Do not go gentle
Do not go gentle into that good night, Rage, rage against the dying of the light, artwork by Chris Reidy, screenprint on white paper, 1981, published by Red Letter (Brunswick Work Co-operative), State Library Victoria
In 1981 Triple R experienced a significant financial crisis that resulted in the Board itself recommending to close the station. The problems were exacerbated by a reduction in funds from the consortium of educational institutions that provided the majority of Triple R's funding. Triple R staff and volunteers quickly gathered forces and within five weeks, subscribers and supporters had contributed close to $60,000 to keep the station going.
But Mum it's educational
But Mum ... it's educational, poster by James Taylor, 1979, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
Commisioned by then-Station Manager Sue Mathews, 3RRR's first promotional poster nodded to the educational bent of the station and was, in essence, the story of a generation of teenagers disovering Triple R. This influential poster set the tone for a humorous, larrikin style that has continued to characterise the station's theming and promotion.
3RRR stickers, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The iconic Triple R logo – stickered on cars and bikes across Melbourne – morphed into existence from previous logos around 1981. While the actual creator of this enduring graphic remains unclear, there are rumours it was a design student from RMIT or possibly 'a nice guy who had a studio off Bourke Street'. The 'disco' sticker pictured here was produced specifically for the 2009 I will survive Radiothon.
1978 radio licence application
1978 radio licence application, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
By 1978 3RMT was on the brink of change, with a goal to separate from RMIT and become a more diverse community broadcaster. Following a successful application to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the station was granted a three-year educational licence and its name was changed to 3RRR – a take on the 'three Rs' of education, and 'rock 'n' roll'. The licence application also outlined plans by the 3RMT Board to start offering subscriptions and to establish a Radiothon to raise additional funds.
Planet of Sound program grid
'Planet of Sound' program grid, designed by Bruce R Mutard, 1993, Triple R collection, State Library Victoria
The Triple R program grids have been a fixture of the station since the late 1970s. The 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week mix of strip-and-block programming is a finely tuned mix of general and specialist programs which takes content, audience and scheduling into consideration. The 12-week grid, still used today, was devised in 1984 by then-Program Manager Stephen Walker with Station Manager Reece Lamshed. Station programming is coordinated by the Program Manager, currently Bec Hornsby, in consultation with a programming advisory group comprised of broadcasters, volunteers, Board members and the Station Manager. Visual artists, including Gordon Sonnenberg and Bruce Mutard, were sometimes commissioned to create special illustrated grids. This illustrated grid of 1993 includes iconic Triple R programs which are still on-air today, including Tim Thorpe's Vital Bits, Stephen Walker's Skull Cave and the science show, Einstein a Go-Go.
Triple R station building in Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, photographed by Bre Trefilio, 2015, collection of Triple R
In late 2003, after decades of renting, Triple R officially became 'homeowners' on purchasing a disused lingerie factory at the end of the Number 96 tramline in Nicholson Street, Brunswick East. After raising money through the Move your RRRs Radiothon campaign for the purchase, refitting and relocation, Triple R moved into their new premises. A significant renovation of the building ensued and it now houses the station's offices, performance space and broadcasting and production studios.
Megahertz players celebrate victory at the Community Cup, Elsternwick Park, photographed by Slattery Media, 2010, collection of Triple R
Each year a pack of radio presenters and staff from Triple R and 3PBSFM join forces to make up the Megahertz football team to line up against the Rockdogs team of musicians, in the annual Reclink Community Cup. Started in 1993 by Jason 'Evo' Evans to raise money for the St Kilda-based Sacred Heart Mission, the event is a return to grassroots footy that raises money for charity. It's a rollicking day of rock 'n' roll, bruising muddy football and the guarantee of a streaker in the bracing winter chill of Elsternwick Park.
Frank Thring float
The Triple R Frank Thring float at the Fringe Festival Brunswick Street parade, Fitzroy, photographed by Kyriaki Maragozidis, 1993, collection of Triple R
In 1993 the Triple R float, designed by Anita Budai and Andy Miller, paid tribute to legendary actor Frank Thring, who had become a regular at the station. He often joined producer Archie Cuthbertson on air, telling tales of his time in the limelight and reciting tawdry limericks. With his husky, growling, camp voice, he recorded community announcements and station IDs, one of which was a finalist in the 1989 International Festival of Radio in New York. Thring was touched by the tribute float; he had been ill, and passed away the following year.