A GROUP brought together by its love of Bollywood music has grown into a full-blown radio show, thanks to a grant from Dorset Community Foundation.

Bollywood Music Lovers began meeting at the Russell Court Hotel in Bournemouth two years ago to share their enjoyment of the music but, when the 100-strong group was forced to stay at home in the lockdown, chairman Ramesh Lal looked for other ways of staying in touch.

With a community of some 10,000 Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani families in Dorset, he hoped there would be an audience for a radio show.

“It’s a link to our audience’s cultural heritage,” said Mr Lal.

“It makes them feel at home if they remember a song, it brings back memories and it’s a reminder of their families.

“Their names are mentioned and that’s just as important as the music. Hearing your name read out when the request is played makes a real difference and it connects the community together.”

To set up the station, Mr Ramest approached Bournemouth's Hot Radio, which found a slot.

“They have a studio but we couldn’t go into it because of Covid so we needed to build somewhere to record the show."

A £4,500 grant from the foundation’s Dorset Coronavirus Community Fund helped buy the equipment to go into a studio at newly-recruited presenter Anjali Mavi’s home.

Bollywood Beats with Anjali began broadcasting on June 9 last year, playing its trademark ‘raga to bhangra’ selection of Indian classic and contemporary songs requested by listeners.

Shows go out at 9pm on Tuesdays and are broadcast in English and Hindi.

The show’s community involvement also spawned Bournemouth Poole Christchurch Indian Community, a Covid response group that produced face masks for the NHS and restaurant workers, delivered hot meals provided by the Russell Court Hotel to older members of the community who were shielding and ran shopping errands.

The group worked with Dorset Healthcare to organise an community vaccination day at BIC and had its own volunteers there to reassure people concerned about being vaccinated.

Mr Lal added: “We feel very strongly that everybody should be vaccinated so we want to promote it actively because the members of our community are at the biggest risk.

“We have some doctors among our volunteers so they were able to answer questions from anyone who was perhaps hesitant and explain why it was important to have the vaccination.”

The group has arranged another vaccination day on July 25.

Meanwhile its members are looking forward to getting back to having live music events together and seeing the radio show’s audience grow.

Mr Lal said: “The love of the music brought us all together but we had no idea it would grow from a social thing that was a bit of fun into this.

“One of the ways we thought we could bring people together is through Bollywood music because people in the north of India speak a different language to the people in the south but the thing that unites them is Bollywood music. It’s a way of reaching out to everyone.”

The long-term goal is its own dedicated station, like Southampton’s Unity 101.

Community foundation director Grant Robson said: “The way MLB has grown and the good work it is doing for its community is incredible. We are delighted to see them making a success on air and spreading not just the Covid message but the sheer joy of the music.”

Listen to Bollywood Beats on 102.8 FM or at hot.radio