Hear Here: A Pop-Up Radio Project

12 months. 6 themes. 2 cities. 1 project.

We’re trying something new tomorrow at Sunday Streets. We’ve uploaded Hear Here stories to the online audio sharing platform, Soundcloud, and we’ve created special links to those stories that you can scan and listen to on the spot using just your smartphone! 

Here are some free QR scanner apps we found:

Android: Barcode Scanner, available for free in the Google Play store

iPhone: QRReader, availablefor free in the iTunes App store

Blackberry: QR Code Scanner Pro, available for free in the BlackBerry App World

Once you’ve got the app, all you need to do is bring yourself, your phone, and some headphones to Esprit Park in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood on Sunday, July 22nd!

Help paint our pop-up story tunnel while you’re at it – and maybe record your story with a Hear Here producer!

We never know what kind of stories we’re going to hear when we step into our recording location for the day. Sometimes we know a little bit about someone who has signed up in advance, but it’s rarely much more than where the person lives.

This Tuesday’s community recording session at the 81st Avenue library in East Oakland was no different. Branch Manager Anthony Propernick had wrangled a full lineup of participants in advance and we set up in a quiet study room to hear each person’s story. 

Over the course of the day, a theme emerged – and it was different than the theme we set out to talk with people about that day. Currently the project is focusing on the topic “Eat,” but we’re always open to hearing about any subject a participant is burning to talk about. On this day, that subject was a changing Oakland. 

Twenty-four-year-old Sheri Tucker sat down with us first. She grew up in West Oakland and says it’s just not the same anymore. She reflected on her childhood there as one of the best times in her life – a time when she played in the street with other kids under the water fountain of a tapped fire hydrant for the first time. She says she recently returned to the building where she used to live, a high rise, and was treated rudely by a man in the elevator there.

Community activists Ted Atkinson and Carolyn Hewitt also shared their thoughts on a neighborhood they’ve seen degrade over time – East Oakland. Atkinson began the interview by pulling out the diploma he earned from Woodland Elementary School in the late 70s, which occupied the same site as the now two-year-old 81st Avenue library does today. Hewiit also attended Woodland, a few years before Atkinson. The two agreed that drugs and the housing bubble are key factors in uprooting the community that used to hold East Oakland together. Still, most Oakland residents we spoke with on Tuesday spoke with pride and hope for the city they’ve come of age in and come to love. 

At this recording, we also tried a new tactic of playing stories from past participants (which you can listen to here) and asking interviewees to share the thoughts or questions that arose for them. Hearing new participants respond to the personal stories of others, and knowing that we could deliver that message to the original storyteller was perhaps the most striking time I’ve felt that this project is truly accomplishing it’s mission. People who have never met are speaking to each other. What’s more, they’re relating to each other. 


We’re going to be at Sunday Streets! We’re providing the paint, so come tag the inside of our story tunnel with whatever inspires you. Painting’s from 11am-1pm, and we’ll be interviewing from 1:30pm-3pm!

Our pop-up art installation & recording booth, coming soon to a public space near you!

Perched on a hill in the southern part of San Francisco is a high school, and in that high school are a few converted classrooms that’re home to the Bay Area’s oldest public radio station, KALW. In a tiny corner of one of those classrooms is where Hear Here lives: two desks squished behind a collapsible recording booth with a harmlessly stained chair for guests.

(Yes that’s a costume case occupying the guest-of-honor chair)

It’s a humble and fitting setting for us as we try to discover the hidden alleys and intersections of community in the Bay Area. Hear Here is a local experiment, and in the spirit of the locals, every piece of furniture in our home has been previously used and if not free, purchased off of Craigslist. It’s sort of emblematic of the tech startup culture that’s shifting the landscape of San Francisco, but much, much scrappier (and with less complaints from the neighbors).

But back to the furniture: Anyone who can sit with us in “The Pod” and still appear sophisticated is someone we admire. On that note, meet Mariel Waloff:

Mariel is our summer fellow from UC Berkeley. When I first spoke with Mariel a couple months ago, I clued her into the secrets of the project: that we’re inventing, assessing, and troubleshooting every single day as part of this Localore experiment. (Let’s recall the "fear" quote from a previous entry…) Not only was Mariel game, but she was ready to bring her own startup experience to the table. Years ago in Philly, Mariel helped to launch a multimedia community storytelling project supported by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, PhilaPlace. Could a more perfect match be made in Hear Here heaven? 

Mariel’s training is in documentary photography and video, and with Hear Here, she’s crafting stories in sound. A few days a week, Mariel squeezes into The Pod with us, pulls on some headphones and navigates her way around ProTools. Oftentimes, she meets us in Oakland to interview residents (St. Mary’s Senior Center was our last adventure). Or she comes up with exciting new angles for our live events (our next event in August is part story slam, thanks to Mariel). 

And here’s a fun fact about Mariel: She’s the only twin on the Hear Here team (Mariel has an identical sister who was born I believe 17 minutes before she was). 

We’re lucky to have Mariel on board, if only for the summer. A couple weeks into her fellowship, I assigned her about 10 interviews to transcribe, script, cut and mix into pieces for broadcast. Her reaction? “Bring it on.” Now that’s a lady who can hang with Hear Here. 


Mural outside the gates of St. Mary’s Center in Oakland.

I’ve lived in a couple parts of Oakland, including the Oakland/Emeryville border, but pulling up to the gates of St. Mary’s Center felt like pulling up to an Oakland I hadn’t experienced before. 

At least a dozen people waited outside the closed gates of the senior center at 8:30am, for either the morning coffee, which is served each day for free, or the myriad of activities that were to unfold: art projects, $1 lunch service, men and women’s group recovery sessions, drug counseling, hanging out with friends. It was this world that we entered for just half a day, thanks to the invitation from the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

We were here to capture stories of food, but as is the nature with this pop-up radio project, we ended up on our toes to keep up with the bustling environment. We were in lunchrooms, kitchens, conference rooms, and patios. And we met chefs, volunteers, addicts, mothers, daughters, and veterans.

We’re learning a lot about the multiple stories that are unfolding in Oakland right now through Hear Here. There’s a lot of heart, history, and hope in Oakland, and at St. Mary’s, we were able to catch a glimpse of that spirit through the eyes of seniors who have lived in the West Oakland/Emeryville neighborhood for decades. Thanks to ACCFB for inviting us – we look forward to returning to St. Mary’s in the future!  


Greg Gee

Back in April, Hear Here set up for its first public interviews in the community room of the Golden Gate Branch of the Oakland Public Library. Underneath the stomping feet of children’s story hour going on in the library above, local residents shared their own stories with Hear Here producers on the theme of Work. Since that first recording date, we’ve revisited the Golden Gate library to hear more stories – and have popped up in the San Francisco library system at the Main and Ortega branches. We’ve also moved on to the theme of Eat.

At the Ortega library, aspiring baker Ryan Lee explained how to make perfect loaf of bread – and why it matters to him. “There’s this kind of connection that’s formed with our ancestors in the process… In this day and age when bread production has become so commercialized and to try and experiment with doing it the way our ancestors do it really forms a connection,” said Lee.

Xiao Juan Shu also participated in the Ortega branch recording. She told the story of reconnecting with her mother’s love through the pleasure of simple Chinese cooking.

On June 12, Hear Here producers Audrey, Mariel, and Erica ventured outside the public library system and into a public school. At Oakland’s Laurel Elementary, parents participating in a monthly food distribution program opened up about finding access to nutritious food and shared other food memories.

This is just the beginning of our year-long effort to collect Oakland and San Francisco stories. If you have a story* you’d like to share – and maybe hear on the air – email us at hearhereradio@gmail.com to sign up for a time at one of the following upcoming recording dates:

  • Tues., July 17, Oakland Public Library, 81st Ave. Branch (12:30 - 4:30pm)
  • Thur., July 26, San Francisco Public Library, Visitacion Valley Branch (2 - 6pm)
  • Wed., August 15, San Francisco Public Library, Western Addition (1 - 4pm)
  • Sat., August 25, Oakland Public Library, 81st Ave. Branch (12 - 4pm)
  • Sat, September 22nd, Oakland Public Library, Cesar Chavez Branch (1:30 - 4:30pm)
  • Sat., October 20, Oakland Public Library, Cesar Chavez Branch (1:30 - 5:30pm)

*Hear Here will focus on the theme of Eat: in June and July; the theme of Play in August and September; and the theme of Love in October, but won’t turn away a great story!