‘Live from Prairie Lights’ to return

BY IAN SMITH | OCTOBER 12, 2010 7:20 AM

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More than a year after the cancellation of “Live from Prairie Lights” by Iowa Public Radio, the show is returning in full form — only this time with some revisions.

Rather than former host Julie Englander running the show, the interviews are being done by UI students and the local Prairie Lights staff.

“I think that’d make it better, it’ll be fresher,” said John Cone, a Prairie Lights regular and local poet. “The writers are young, so I think it would be better to have young interviewers.”

And students will get that opportunity now, thanks to a $1,000 mini-grant form the Iowa City Arts Council.

Officials from KRUI, the University of Iowa’s student-run radio station, purchased $4,000 worth of equipment in January with the help of the grant.

The university station began broadcasting “Live from Prairie Lights” shortly after Iowa Public Radio dropped the show, but it had to record the sessions and air them at a later date.

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The station waited to begin broadcasting live only because it lacked the necessary equipment, said UI Associate Professor Kembrew McLeod, the KRUI faculty adviser, who played a major role in organizing the events.

“I knew the Iowa Arts Council grant would be perfect,” McLeod said. “The equipment is really excellent.”

Previously, KRUI had older, less-sophisticated equipment, he said.

“[It] could theoretically broadcast live, but that technology was older, and it didn’t work very well,” McLeod said. “We didn’t want to risk an interruption.”

Iowa Public Radio canceled the popular 18-year show in late 2008 after a statewide program consolidation, canceling all shows that didn’t meet station standards for listening numbers. KRUI promptly picked up where public radio left off by rebroadcasting recorded readings on Sundays.

Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang gave the show’s début live reading on Sept. 30, with more than 100 people in attendance.

Since then, there have been two other broadcasts, and there are eight more on the itinerary.

Barista Seth Jones at Times Club Café in Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., doesn’t have the opportunity to watch the readings but said they’ve been “really well-attended” recently.

Prairie Lights employee Elizabeth Cunningham said the readings have a “multitude” of people to do the introductions, including poets and International Writing Program participants.

UI senior Amanda Parker, the show’s producer, said she is excited about the show’s resurrection, the broadcasters will also focus more student audiences.

“As KRUI, we would love to have our marketing [geared] toward students,” Parker said. “We want the students to feel involved in something iconic of Iowa City culture that they might not typically know about.”

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