For over six years, Ben Chambers has been writing, producing and hosting a weekly radio show unlike any other. His show is one that is unashamedly pro-European and says so every week, showcasing content from some of the community’s best music, comedy, poetry, commentary and interviews with special guests such as Sir Tony Robinson, AC Grayling, Anna Soubry, Madeleina Kay, Mike Galsworthy and more! Sixteen Million Rising has just achieved an astounding milestone of 200 episodes.
Ben and SMR are National Rejoin March’s official broadcaster, having created special reporting from the growing Rejoin campaign’s events around the country from London to Leeds. The show is now available on all the popular podcast platforms such as Spotify, Google, and Amazon. You can even say “Alexa, play Sixteen Million Rising podcast” to your smart speaker and hear Ben’s professional voice instantly boom out for your entertainment and enlightenment.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben this week.
Hi Ben, tell us about yourself
I’m originally from Norfolk, East Anglia – born and bred! People often write my home county off as “flat”, but it’s “undulating” rather than a pancake like the Fens! I’m a serious Norwich City supporter. It’s a great family club. All the home game are sold out in advance!
I like to think I’m a creative person. My dad’s a carpenter. He’s a “doer” and I’m more of a thinker. I seem to be able to construct a decent arrangement for other people’s songs which I was doing before Brexit! Nothing beats taking someone’s dusty old demo and transforming it into a fully fleshed out piece.
Apart from making music, I’m a bit of a motorcyclist too! Well, I’ll be honest – it’s a scooter, but not a “girly one” like my first lime green effort! I get around on a Honda Forza – into the Pennines where the walking’s amazing as well as across the country to pro-European events. Two wheels are way, way better than four!
What is it about Brexit that made you so passionate about Sixteen Million Rising keeping it going and growing?
This may surprise you, but prior to 2016 I was totally disinterested in politics. I’d rather have drunk a cup of cold sick than listen to a dreary old politics debate. I’d vote in the important elections, but as for local elections, you’re having a laugh! My parents used to always vote Conservative but I’ve cured them! They brought me up well because I rebelled, always voted Labour, like my Grandad.
After the Referendum, I was hit by a bolt of lightning! We’d just been asked a question even Richard Dawkins said he was unqualified to answer and it was catastrophically answered wrong! I put my music making on indefinite hold and spent days and weeks trying to think of a unique way I could contribute to the fight back. That became a little radio show, called Sixteen Million Rising – and seven years later, it’s still my primary focus. It’s taken a lot of work, sure but it’s not quite as detrimental to one’s health as crack cocaine.
How do you have the energy to produce such a solid show every single week, where others require whole teams?
It’s hard work! I collate and research material all week; accept songs and comedy contributions via email and correspond with bands and political commentators to help generate original material for broadcast. The show’s also a “compendium” of the best bits from the week just gone. “News, views, rants and bants” is the theme of the show. It’s important that I try to keep it “light” and definitely optimistic in the face of the conveyor belt of calamities this government seems to create.
Some weeks, it takes more effort than others. I like to think my “Smashy and Nicey” vibe manages to mask that a little! But, I do genuinely believe we’re gonna fix this – step by step, one mountain at a time! That’s what keeps me going and the fact a wonderful group of listeners keep tuning in now we’re on all the podcast platforms and Alexa!
Doing the show solo from home, how can you afford to keep it going week after week? Do you have the funds needed to keep it going “until we have rejoined the EU”?
Ha! I wish! We’re slowly creeping towards sustainability, but we’re not there yet! There’s a base of 69 subscribers contributing between £3 and £25 a month. The vast majority are ‘Early Risers’ who donate £5 every month for which they receive each week’s show as a high quality stereo download direct to their inbox, a day before it goes live on a Monday! They also get a copy of our physical CD, “You Write The Songs!” featuring 21 pro-European bands and artists we play, a copy of our 4 track digital EP, “March On!”, our show’s theme tune, and invites to our new quarterly Zoom Meetings. The objective is to keep making a weekly, free, “grassroots” produced radio show for those on the Right Side of History, every 7 days, until we #RejoinEU and hopefully beyond.
Ideally I need about 100 monthly supporters which would enable me to travel to events, interview public figures, advertise the show more effectively with boosts on social media,. New subscribers are always welcome.
What is your personal favourite bit of Sixteen Million Rising shows, in content and in producing it?
I love giving a platform to our community, most notably the musicians, singers, songwriters, bands and artists! I’m in awe of the creative goldmine Brexit’s unleashed. I’ve always wanted the show to champion those using their skills and talents for the Pro-European cause. Despite its moments of levity thanks to the bevy of comedians we feature, it would be nothing without the music!
Over the past 7 years, we’ve built up a back catalogue of over 600 songs from over 200 artists ranging from bedroom made demos, to professionally produced studio tracks. Almost every conceivable genre of music is covered from acoustic guitar ballads to full blown stadium rock anthems, from unknown artists to all the way up to punk icons like Glen Matlock and pop legends like Simply Red! I love it when an artist responds to my call to send in an audio intro for their new song to play.
You’ve interviewed many celebrities on the show that people will know. Who’s been your favourite person to interview and who would you love to have on the show in the future?
Oh, now that’s just not fair but I’ll give it a whirl! Sir Tony Robinson, back in 2017 was certainly a highlight! He didn’t know me from Adam. He actually invited me to his London pad where we recorded it. I was a bit wobbly; I mean it’s Tony Robinson! Actual Baldrick off Blackadder! The guy who digs up fields on Time Team! But he was lovely and treated me like a regular Andrew Marr. I don’t think he had a clue I was turning to jelly inside! I remember my dad afterwards telling me how proud he was.
Anna Soubry was typically electrifying – she was certainly the most passionate interviewee I’ve met, and this was when she was still technically a Tory! I’ve loved her ever since!
For future guests, how long have you got? I’d love to chat with Mick Hucknall, given his vociferous opposition to all things Tory, Brexit and Right Wing – and I’d be made up if Gary Lineker could find the time! But it’s not all about the high profile public figures. One of the most fascinating interviews I’ve done was with a church leader, Steve Chalke in London. He runs a church welcoming to the LGBT community and he wasn’t shy about telling me his unique perspective on Brexit that left a mark on me.
Once we have rejoined the EU, what then for Sixteen Million Rising?
I guess that’ll be my cue to cash in my chips and retire to my super yacht! In all probability, the show will evolve giving voice to those determined to never let something like this happen to a supposedly functioning democracy again. There are all sorts of wonderful organizations, initiatives and ideas out there that need a voice and I’d love to be in a position to help them. Groups like “Shout Out UK” who go into schools and colleges to teach kids about how politics works, how to engage with it as a constructive citizen and play a part in shaping their community.
Then there’s “Make Votes Matter”. If we’ve not achieved Proportional Representation that is certainly something I’d be very interested in working on. But in all likelihood, the fight against right wing, divisive rhetoric, bigotry and hate will continue, even after we’ve put this disaster to bed. The more voices there are in strong and purposeful opposition to the likes of GB News, Talk TV, The Daily Mail, Sun and Express, the better.
If you were to recommend one pro-European song that you’ve played over the years on the show to new people, what song would it be?
Are you seriously expecting me to pick out just ONE song from the hundreds we’ve played on the show? Drink responsibly mate! But if you insist, it would have to be Rachel Ashley’s “We’re Not Gonna Brexit!” – which she’s remixed about a hundred times to bring it up to date in these fast moving times. No other song captures the energy, the positivity, the optimism and community spirit of our movement like Rachel’s and it was voted the Number One Anti Brexit/ProEU song of all time on our first ever poll a couple of years back. I wouldn’t be surprised if it, or a new variant, tops the chart again when we rerun the All Time Greats!
Sixteen Million Rising is the UK’s pro-European radio show, presented by Ben Chambers and available on all good podcast players, including Alexa. Supporters of the show also get a high quality download of the show sent to their email inbox every week. To listen, support and for more info, just go here,