Record-breaking radio

RMR DJ Robin Vember succeeds in breaking the Guinness record for the longest solo radio broadcast.

By Stuart Buchanan

Rhodes Music Radio is awaiting official confirmation from Guinness World Records after student, DJ Robin Stuart Vember, set what may be a new record for the longest continuous broadcast by one person.

Vember began his usual breakfast show, On the Rise, at 7 o’clock on Monday, September 18, and continued non-stop until Saturday afternoon – totalling 126 hours and 44 minutes behind the microphone. “This project was not about me,” said Vember, “it was about raising money for charity, while also celebrating RMR’s 25th birthday.”

Throughout the week companies and members of the public in Grahamstown donated money which will go towards Ikhaya Losizo, a project to build a safe house for street children. At the last count, RMR had raised about R5000.

In order to comply with Guinness rules, Vember required a medic, an RMR official and two independent witnesses with him at all times. To show support, many unknown visitors also joined Vember; something he wasn’t expecting.

“From day one, the studio was always full of people, it was like one big jol,” he said, “one anonymous SMS I received said that the person was proud of me, and that they were going to make their mother buy the Guinness record book just to show them my name!”

But Vember said that dealing with Guinness was one of the more frustrating aspects of the attempt. There is no guarantee he will be included in the next edition of the Guinness World Records Book, and as this is one of the most attempted records, it may not be long until somebody else breaks it. However Vember remained positive, saying that, “at the end of the day, everybody here knows I did it, and of course for me the personal achievement is the most important part.”

Although fully recovered now, the physical and mental strains of being confined to a small room without sleep for over five days took a heavy toll, as well as the strict rule that he was only allowed to go to the toilet every eight hours. “Those were the toughest times for me,” recalls Vember. “Even on the Wednesday when I broke the South African record [of 55hrs], which happened at 2pm, all I could think about was my toilet break at 3pm. My body just never got used to having to wait for so long.”

When the crowds died off during the early hours of the morning, it was Vember’s close friends and colleagues that helped keep him going. He was reunited with his original breakfast show co-hosts from last year, as well as current presenter of The Drive-by, James Smurthwaite a.k.a. DJ Ntswembu. “Rob did really well to still be standing on Saturday,” said Smurthwaite. “There were a couple of touch and go moments where he fell asleep within a couple of seconds after talking, and we weren’t sure if he was waking up again. “But we just made sure he was still breathing and poured water on him when he had to talk, which often woke him up with a jolt and a little disorientated!”

Despite Vember’s deterioration, he managed to keep listeners, and the large number of journalists interested in his attempt, entertained. David O’Sullivan of Radio 702 conducted several live interviews during the week, and Vember’s face appeared on the front of many local newspapers, something which he says seems to have turned him into a “mini-celebrity”. “That aspect of breaking the record is cool, but I won’t let it go to my head,” explains Vember, “the main thing is that it has generated great publicity for RMR.”

The station has recently undergone a major renovation and programming restructure, as well as revamping its website to include a webcam, which allows listeners more interaction with the station. “Within the space of a week we received over ten thousand hits on the website, so one can only guess at how many more listeners we now have”. The only thing Vember can do now is to wait for Guinness to make the attempt official. In the meantime he continues to host On The Rise from 7 to 9am on RMR (89.7fm).

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