n eccentric French radio station has become a cult hit in Paris, Strasbourg, Bordeaux – and Brighton.
Paris-based FIP FM mysteriously emerged over the airwaves in certain parts of Brighton three years ago, bemusing and delighting listeners with its idiosyncratic music mix.
Now one listener who accidentally discovered the station while fumbling with his radio dial has organised a monthly celebration of the unusual institution, pronounced “Pheep”.
The station, with a music policy straddling classical, jazz, funk, pop, reggae and easy listening, can be heard in boudoirs and boutiques from Brighton seafront to the South Downs.
Yet once you pass the stone pylons on the A23, cross the Downs, or delve too deeply into Hove, the signal fades.
Writer and comic Dave Mounfield has started a free evening in homage called Vive La FIP, held on the last Thursday of every month at the Prince Albert pub in Trafalgar Street, Brighton.
The events feature DJs, dancing, French food and deals on drinks such as Kronenbourg and absinthe.
Admirers liken listening to FIP to rummaging through the racks of a fascinating second-hand record shop.
Tune in and you will find jazz followed by reggae, classic rock and pop hits, French tunes and world music ranging from soufi chants to Tibetan polyphonic choirs.
FIP (France Inter Paris) was launched in 1972 by Radio France, the French equivalent of the BBC.
It was said to be aimed at reducing road rage in major cities, with a bias towards soothing, laidback melodies.
FIP broadcasts to Paris, Strasbourg, Nantes and Bordeaux.
Brighton has long struggled to pick up Five on television and its receptiveness to radio airwaves from across the Channel remains unexplained.
Urban myth tells of a local man who became so smitten with FIP on holiday that on returning to Brighton he installed a transmitter in his attic.
Another theory suggests the atmospheric coastal conditions allow the radio waves to travel across the sea.
Mr Mounfield, who lives in Hollingdean in Brighton, discovered FIP two years ago.
He said: “I first tuned in by accident. I thought it was Radio 2. But then I thought, ‘Hold on. Radio 2 doesn’t do this’.
“Then they started talking in French.
“I told my friends and they were already listening to it.
“I found it was on in the background of shops and cafes.
“It struck me as a really good thing. Good music, no ads, minimal talking – it’s hugely in demand.
“I know a couple who bought their house because it had good FIP reception. That was their actual reason for buying it.”
He has roped in two friends, actor and part-time DJ Duncan Henderson, alias Hend de Coy, and Rob Timothy, alias Robin TeE, who has regular DJ slots in the city.
Two French friends, Corinne Bywaters and Amelie Sayers, will provide the food.
Jean-Luc Leray, who is responsible for programme content at FIP, said: “The concept is simple and it is the same today as back then.
“Music is all – there is not just one kind.
“We have seven programmers whose job it is to research and choose the best mixes of music. They are like musicians themselves the way they blend the tracks together.”
“This is human radio, with real emotions.”