Anglo-Polish Radio ORLA.fm launched on 18 May 2006, the birthdate of Poland’s most famous son, Karol Wojtyla who later became Pope John Paul II.
Many – sadly including some in the Polish community – said it could not be done. Many who doubted we had what it takes or who simply did not care to help their community. Yes, other ethnic communities have been far better for launching and supporting their media in the UK, than the Polish community.
And despite all that, ORLA.fm backed its DJs and proudly hired radio presenters who have since found work in mainstream Polish media back home – and one who has even become a member of the Polish parliament, the Sejm!
We have interviewed many famous people, including three of the last four democratically-elected Polish presidents, and promoted the very Polish community which didn’t always figure we should mutually help each other. A radio station, after all, is not here to benefit its owner or its owner’s ego. Only ORLA.fm among Polish radio stations in the UK has truly understood that the primary role is to serve its community and that we function because of that community. Want to make a profit? There are many other industries better geared for that.
So it is with huge pride that I look back upon our achievements, many of which are documented on Wikipedia here.
But we also look at how we have adapted in order to survive an economic crisis in the UK, the reversal of Polish migration to the UK, and the delivery to the busy community of a play-back podcast feature. All of that has helped to boost the station’s stature, and we are certainly grateful to the many fans we have made of the station over the years. Thank you.
We also took a look at other stations which opened back in 2006 and noted that we have survived while some others launched with bigger budgets and fanfare did not. For example, Martha Stewart’s attempt at radio, or even services with names like Oprah or part of the huge UK or US radio empires. Here’s just a snippet of some of the casualties that launched in 2006:
Global Radio’s Atlantic FM (ceased 2012)
Brunel FM (ceased 2010, rebranded as TotalStar afterwards)
theJazz (ceased 2008 after operating without DJs)
Martha Stewart Living Radio (ceased 2013)
Oprah Radio (ceased 2014)
Original 106fm (ceased 2008)
Palm 105.5 (ceased 2014)
The Severn (ceased 2012)
talk107 (ceased 2008)
Radio Vip (ceased 2011)
Washington Post Radio (ceased 2008)
Some wrote off ORLA.fm as a has-been, or even as a never-been. Yet others, like the celebrated British media editor Roy Greenslade, paid tribute to the idea of a bi-lingual station which opened up Polish culture – to a much wider audience.
Within a year of launching online, we started to broadcast on FM in west London courtesy of our alliance with Hayes FM in 2007.
At three years, we were the first Polish radio station to broadcast live from a mobile studio inside the Kensington Olympia venue in London.
At five years, we celebrated with a huge party at the Polish embassy in London and broadcast an episode of the social affairs programme London Bridge hosted by George Matlock.
Throughout that time we have won the confidence of advertisers such as RyanAir, National Health Service, DFDS Ferries, and Asda, to name a few. We have backed the cinema release of cultural events like the Katyn movie by Andrzej Wajda, the DVD release of movies like Flying Blind, with James Bond actress Helen McCrory, and we were the first media patron of the pioneering Jazz Cafe POSK in Hammersmith, London.
Now a decade on, we have further redesigned and adapted to ensure we remain relevant and innovative for the next 10 years! Myself and the entire ORLA.fm team thank you for your support and look forward to serving you into and beyond 2026.
George Matlock, Director, ORLA.fm