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Hundreds join rally to save BBC's 6Music

Indie kids and ageing rockers come together outside Broadcasting House to protest against closure of the pioneering digital station

Hundreds of music lovers gathered outside Broadcasting House in central London yesterday as pressure mounted on the BBC to overturn its controversial decision to close down the digital radio station 6Music.

The comedian Ed Byrne and singer Cerys Matthews were joined by some of the station's most popular DJs as fans listened to live music in the glorious afternoon sunshine.

Devotees had travelled from Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham to protest against the closure of a station that attracts more than one million listeners every week.

6Music is celebrated for its eclectic mix of old and new music which was reflected among yesterday's crowd. Indie kids and ageing rockers held banners and sang protest chants together, united by a genuine passion for music that, they claim, is not played on any other station.

Scores of supportive messages from musicians, including Damon Albarn of Blur, Lemmy of Motorhead and the rising star La Roux, were read out to loud cheers.

The station is credited with helping many new bands break through over the past eight years, including Bloc Party, Kaiser Chiefs and Florence and the Machine. Performing a live session on the station carries as much prestige among established musicians as it does with unsigned bands.

Steve Lamacq, the new music champion who has hosted the station's drive-time show since 2005, stood at the back of the 500-strong crowd. He said: "The listenership could not have done more to save the station. Now it is up to the BBC. The rise in listener numbers is impressive – but not surprising because we have been getting better and better for the last eight years. Right now, 6Music is at the top of its game."

More than 170,000 people have joined the Facebook campaign to save the station since the BBC's director-general, Mark Thompson, made the announcement in March.

Presenters from the Asian Network – the other station earmarked for closure by next year – also took to the stage to remind the BBC Trust of its obligations to serve all British communities. A bigger protest against the Asian Network's closure took place at the same time in Birmingham.

There was no sign of the newly appointed junior culture minister, Ed Vaizey, who famously retracted his support for the BBC's decision after a weekend listening to the station.

The campaign to save the threatened stations received a boost earlier this month after they won a hat-trick of prizes at the industry's top awards ceremony – the Sony Music Awards.

A diehard fan, Mandy Williams, 44, who had travelled down from Liverpool, said: "I have listened to the station since it started eight years ago and I'm totally obsessed with keeping it open. To shut it down would be cultural vandalism."

Ed Byrne, a Mock the Week regular, entertained the crowd by saying that he didn't mind having to watch sport or Andrew Lloyd Webber, or even listen to Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright interviewing an astrologist about the hung parliament, as long as he could keep listening to the likes of the former Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker on 6Music.

Byrne told the IoS: "This protest sums up 6Music very well: a small number of very enthusiastic people. Go tell the world."