It’s that time of year where one of the biggest shows on TV comes to Lancashire. When Elstree Studios are in use for BBC Children in Need, the south’s loss is the north’s gain because this was the week when Strictly came back to the spiritual home of ballroom dancing – Blackpool!
BBC Radio Lancashire had been given tickets to review the hottest show in town and was raffling them off for a lucky member of staff. Having watched all this series and become somewhat of a super fan of course I was going to enter… and won! I’d got engaged the previous weekend, so it added to the memories and became a wonderful engagement gift from the station to me and my fiancé.
We had to arrive at Blackpool Tower for 15:30 and were taken to the VIP holding area. It was sequin central as we made our way among the glitz and glamour to Jungle Jim’s play area to wait to be allowed in the studio. Former pro dancers Ian Waite and Natalie Lowe were on hand to welcome guests next to the cuddly toy grabbers and climbing frames. There was something surreal but down to earth about it all.
An hour later and we were allowed in into the famous Tower Ballroom. Mobile phones were confiscated from guests on entry, probably to stop everyone’s necks craning down during the presenters’ links. While this scuppered any chance of a selfie or a Facebook check-in it actually gave a chance to soak up the atmosphere and take in the resplendent surroundings. If there’s any room that you’d want to spend six hours of your life this would be one of them – and it’s a good job because that’s exactly what we did.
After a quick warm up by a man wearing the obligatory glittery jacket, the musical performances were recorded. Our floor seats were to the right of the stage and three rows from the front which gave amazing views of all the dances, Gloria Estefan and Take That. During the boys’ performance in particular the ballroom’s dance floor literally sprung into action. When all the dancers were jumping in sync we could see and feel the floor bouncing up and down in time to the music. The show was going live on BBC One at 18:45 and right before transmission began The Foundations ‘Build me up Buttercup’ gets the audience geared up for the show. The familiar title sequence played – we clapped along – and were live.
It’s an impressive production in every area; from the talent in front of camera to the crew behind the scenes who work incredibly quickly changing the sets and clearing the floor between dances, while the training VTs are playing. As well as watching the dance choreography it was also fascinating to see how the show was filmed. The audience was on good form all night, with standing ovations and applause aplenty. Then the room erupted when the first perfect score of 40 for this series was awarded by the judges to Ashley Roberts and Pasha Kovalev for their jive set in a fish and chip shop.
As you can imagine, when the live show finishes and the voting lines open there’s a mad dash for a much needed loo break but to keep our spirits up the production team hand out a Freddo chocolate frog and carton of orange juice, while packets of Haribo sweets are thrown into the audience for a sugar boost. As I was making my way across the dance floor I bumped into Charles Venn from Holby City, who had a quick chat and shook my hand. *Swoon!*
The results show is recorded after voting lines close and it’s a much longer process as the team is taking different shots and re-takes; the opening sequence was recorded around three times, for example. This show isn’t shot in sequence, so some of the presenter links or chats with Claudia are filmed in a different order to what you see in the final edited programme on screen.
Then it was time for the the dance-off with former cricketer Graeme Swann against newsreader Kate Silverton. It was Kate and her partner Aljaz Skorjanec who had their last dance but what a fab-u-lous place to have it – in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. I feel privileged to have watched the production of Strictly Come Dancing – a programme that is a credit to the BBC. It was a long night but an unforgettable experience.
Here’s the moment I appeared on Strictly, for a fleeting glance, at the end of Stacey and Kevin’s performance…
Christmas traditions can come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s a snowball cocktail on Christmas Eve or getting out the Boxing Day board games to play with the family. For me every year meant I’d dig out some festive favourite songs for a Chilled Christmas on special on the radio. The time has flown by like Santa on his sleigh and it’s been three years since I last presented a programme… until now!
I gave up that side of things to concentrate on newsreading instead. 2018 will mark my 10th year in radio and up until I qualified as a broadcast journalist I’d presented a ‘chillout’ programme of mellow music every week on different radio stations in the North West.
This year I’m delighted to say that I’ll be back on the airwaves presenting a new ‘Chilled Christmas’ programme on BBC Radio Lancashire on Christmas Day from 17:00.
My love of radio began at the University of Manchester’s student radio station, Fuse FM. After I graduated, I transferred the programme to North Manchester FM. I was also on weeknights on the Stockport radio station Pure 107.8FM too. One of the highlights when I was presenting Chilled Pure on Christmas Eve into Christmas Day morning and I was on Santa Watch. It was magical and I jingled all the way.
Even though I’ve had almost a decade in the industry, I still have to pinch myself because I never imagined I could make a career out of it. I originally joined student radio as a way to bring out my confidence. People who work with me now will find it hard to believe, but I was actually quite shy!
After working with Fuse FM’s marketing team, I was persuaded to put a show proposal in and I thought I’d pitch a show of music that I knew well from my own collection and that’s how ‘The Chill Room’ was born.
Later down the line, I was advised by industry professionals that to specialise in a genre or a niché area of programming was a bad thing, if you want to become a radio presenter. I can understand why they said that because there are so few opportunities in that line of work nowadays. However, I just took a different route and broadcast journalism suits me. I think it has made me a more rounded broadcaster as a result. It serves as a reminder; there’s more than one way to achieve your ambitions.
It’s been great to put a ‘Chilled Christmas’ programme together again, this time to be broadcast on the BBC. It’s an hour of festive favourites and mellow versions of tracks you know, with some hidden gems there too. On the playlist there’s Lady Antebellum, Luther Vandross, Stacey Kent, The Stylistics and a new release from Kate Rusby’s latest Christmas album – to name but a few. Hopefully, it’ll be the perfect festive accompaniment, while all the rich food digests on Christmas Day!
What a pleasure it’s been to research the music again. The programme will also be sprinkled with some anecdotes from myself as well. And – you know me – they’ll be quirky! This year has been truly fantastic for me in every way, both professionally and personally. To have been given the chance to present a programme on BBC Radio Lancashire really has been the cherry on top of the cake… or should that be the brandy on top of the Christmas pudding??
I hope you can join me on BBC Radio Lancashire from 17:00 on Christmas Day for ‘Chilled Christmas’. It’ll be available on iPlayer for 30 days after too – in case you want to extend that festive cheer even further!
All that’s left to say is Merry Christmas to you! Thank you for reading my blog during 2017 and I wish you all the very best for the new year ahead.
I’m the sort of person who laughs in the face of superstition. Who actively seeks out locker number 13 in the gym, for example. It’s almost always free. Some people are superstitious and there are some Doctor Who fans – known as Whovians – who think the casting of the thirteenth Doctor is indeed unlucky.
The actor just happens to be a woman: Jodie Whittacker. I think it’s a brilliant decision.
Firstly, let me start with this caveat: I won’t begrudge anyone an opinion and it’s fine for you to disagree with me. It’s fine for you not to like the casting. (I take a while to come round to the idea of a new Doctor after each regeneration myself.) It’s even fine for you to object to the casting because she’s a woman and it breaks the tradition of the male canon of actors we’ve seen previously in the role.
What I do take issue with, however, is some of the language I saw on social media after the announcement. Antiquated statements like: “shouldn’t she be in the kitchen instead”, “she won’t be able to park the TARDIS” or this Tweet from Katie Hopkins:
I describe this as ‘subtle sexism’. Even though it’s garish and unsubtle in nature, it is subtle sexism because it’s meant to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’. Joking doesn’t cut it though; it’s just as offensive and I’m inclined to think these statements are more likely a true word spoken in jest.
You don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist and, as Kate Hopkins’ sentiments show, you don’t have to be male to be a misogynist. Misogyny is really a response of fear. It’s the ‘alpha-male’ culture where people fight men to get to the top of their trade. Nowadays the pool is more equal but larger. The quest to get noticed is gradually becoming between both men and woman, in many industries. When comments alluding to the subordination of woman arise in conversations such as this Doctor Who debate I believe it’s down to a fundamental, even subconscious, resistance to gender equality.
It’s a shame it’s taken so many regenerations to get to this stage with the show. If a woman had been cast as The Doctor earlier people would have got use to the idea by now. I find it actually quite sad that having a female cast in the show’s title role causes such animosity in 2017. If there was true equality then it wouldn’t be an issue.
What I love about the series, and the sci-fi genre in general, is that anything is possible. Originally, The Doctor could only regenerate a number of times but we have surpassed that now due to the creative license of the writers. This same creative license applies to a gender change; we’re dealing with fiction after all. The Doctor has four hearts, so why does it matter whether he / she has a penis a a vagina? Can she exterminate the Daleks convincingly? As a Whovian, that’s what I’m interested in.
If we can have a female Prime Minister running the country then surely we can have a female Time Lord travelling the universe. The only thing that really matters is whether Jodie Whittacker is a good enough actor to play such an iconic role. She did open her hand very well in the teaser trailer but, until I’ve seen her first episode, I’ll reserve judgement. I wasn’t familiar with much of her work beforehand but from what I’ve researched it certainly bodes well for next series.
A change in ideology of gender equality takes time. As some people’s sentiments after the casting announcement indicate, we’re not quite there yet. The casting of a female Doctor is a step closer though. Hopefully, before long she’ll just be accepted – without any digs, jibes or fuss – as part of the canon of work in this extraordinary series.
Five decades since it began (albeit with a hiatus in the middle) and the programme still prompts such in-depth discussion about social issues. Doctor Who is as important, relevant and socially revolutionary as ever.
I’ll leave the last word to the legend that is Colin Baker, who played the sixth incarnation of The Doctor:
It feels like so much has happened in the month since the suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, so much bad news, so much terror. For every negative emotion though there has also been unity and love.
The explosion was literally close to home. Most people I know have been there to see events. They’re often some of the happiest times of our lives. No doubt, that’s how the people who’d been to see Ariana Grande on 22 May felt too. Until just after 22:30, when the explosion happened and everything changed. That night 22 people never came home and countless lives changed forever.
It’s a tragedy that’s affected people beyond the city’s boundaries. For me personally, four of the victims were from Lancashire and, as news of the atrocity filtered through, it unfolded that I knew one of the people who died in the blast; I’d gone to the same high school as 29-year-old Martyn Hett.
I’m from Stockport originally, the same town as Martyn. It’s six miles away from Manchester and most Stopfordian’s are proud to call themselves Mancunian. Just like the majority of the country and beyond did after the attack. In uniting against evil, showing our empathy and solidarity, we’re all Mancunian because being Manc is about much more than geography. The bee is a symbol of our undying spirit of love, peace and hope.
Even now, I can remember vividly the night of the bomb. I got an inkling from social media, my first thoughts were that surely something of this scale must be a hoax? It was a concert with a young following after all. But terrorism knows no boundaries.
I turned on the radio and as the details began to unfold it just got more and more horrifying as Greater Manchester Police confirmed fatalities. Understandably, there was a sombre feeling that followed. I was one of the breakfast show producers that week at BBC Radio Lancashire and we were reflecting the mood in our programme. It gave me chance to get in touch with my Manchester contacts from home. One thing struck me straight away from speaking to people – resilience. Ours is a city that will never be beaten.
LISTEN: The report I put together for the four Lancashire victims of the Manchester bomb, which aired on BBC Radio Lancashire a week after the attack… (Blog post continues below.)
Of course, there’s grief and the nation mourns together. We must reflect on the evil but we then must counter that by remembering those we have lost and reflecting on the hope there was in the aftermath. Hope came in many forms: Tony Walsh’s ‘Our Place’ poem, the ‘One Love’ concert staged by Ariana Grande and her team or the people who went out to the memorials to water the floral tributes.
What really resonated for me were the outbursts of Oasis’s ‘Don’t look back in anger’, which has rightfully become an anthem of Manchester. My family are all Mancunian and the majority of my education happened in Manchester. I went to sixth form college at Parrs Wood in Didsbury and then studied for my undergrad degree at The University of Manchester, so have spent a lot of time in the city during my formative years. The bee is a great emblem because there is such a buzz. There’s many things I love about Manchester, but most of all, I love how diverse the place is.
If you stand on Market Street in the city centre, for example, you will see all kinds of people all going about their business, the same as anyone else. In my experience, there’s very little discrimination because people are so accepting and friendly. The ripples of acts of terrorism don’t just happen at the time though. It can affect people for years to come, in different ways, if you let it. It may manifest as fear or prejudice, either subliminally or overtly, but that’s what we must reject. It creates a divide and that isn’t what our Mancunian spirit is about. I have tickets to go to a gig at the arena at the end of the year, if it’s open by then. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there ever again but that’s not the right attitude to have. Hopefully I can go and have a good time.
There is an unquantifiable sadness – we’ve had vigils for the victims and now the funerals are taking place one by one. I went to the vigil for Martyn Hett in Heaton Moor Park and it was cathartic in ways I hadn’t imagined. To see so many people coming together to celebrate his life was truly heart-warming, after so much heartbreak.
Manchester stands proud of our history, our culture and our people. We always have and always will… And as the lyrics of the song go: “Don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.”
Have you recovered from all the election coverage yet? For journalists, snap election is something we weren’t planning and had no control over but it was actually a fabulous showcase for our work, across all platforms.
I’ve now voted in three general elections but have also covered them for three separate radio stations. All different formats and I’ve had a range of roles each time.
2010 – I was a first time voter and also in the final year of my undergrad degree at the University of Manchester. I was heavily involved in our student radio station Fuse FM as part of the committee who ran the station. Although I presented programmes and had read a few bulletins, news wasn’t really my area at the time. As ironic as that sounds, considering I now live and breathe news! I was Head of Marketing and had responsibility for the ‘Street Team’. We were heavily involved in generating content and vox pops from voters. We were also really excited that BBC 5Live had decided to broadcast from the students’ union during the night.
I’d been invited to take part in local community radio station, North Manchester FM‘s, election coverage as a studio guest. Charlie Walduck was roving reporter at the count at Manchester Town Hall, providing inserts and interviews with candidates. It was an ambitious project for a community station on limited resources. It was the forerunner broadcast for me to apply for my own show and then becoming a presenter on the station.
2015 – Five years later, I was working in radio professionally for commercial radio group UKRD’s stations The Bee and 2BR. Lancashire Election Night Live was another big broadcast; the first time the two stations had simulcast together. I was reporting from the town hall on the night. Blackburn is a safe seat with a long Labour legacy. However, this particular year was interesting because, the town was getting a new MP with the retirement of former cabinet minister, Jack Straw. I provided live inserts to the all-night broadcast including scene sets, interviews with candidates and conducted the live victory interview with Kate Hollern MP.
2017 – We were doing it all over again, sooner than anyone thought! This time I’d moved stations a couple of junctions westbound on the M65 for BBC Radio Lancashire. Yet another ambitious project! In the lead up to the election, I was one of the breakfast producers who sourced content for the OB’s on Graham Liver’s ‘Big Election Breakfast Tour’ coming live from constituencies all around the county. Along with the Lancashire pop up living room “double-gussetted long-handled Graham Liver at breakfast” bags were handed out to listeners in every corner of the county.
On results day itself, I felt like I’d drawn a particularly long straw, reading our afternoon news bulletins. I love being part of big news days when listeners have a real thirst for developing information. It’s always a privilege to be able to deliver it to them, I’d broadcast previously the day after the EU referendum and when Theresa May was originally announced as Prime Minister, so was well up for whatever the day would bring…
I compiled and read our two extended 10-minute-long bulletins at 13:00 and 17:00. Keeping us journos on our toes, Theresa May began speaking on the steps of Downing Street at around 12:55! We got a clip of her saying she would form a government in the top story. That’s what I love about bulletin reading; the adrenaline rush you get when news is just coming in or changing. On results day, the breaking news buzz didn’t waiver all day long, with new lines coming in all the time.
Depending on your political views, general elections can mean a lot of different things for different people. There’s just some of my memorable moments. We might be making some more soon. Who knows? As we’ve seen over the last seven years – anything can happen in politics!
This week I went to the Nations and Regions Media Conference at The Lowry in Salford. Since the Radio Festival changed venue and moved down south, I was looking forward to a conference of a similar vein in the old stomping ground.
I should have known from the ticket price (£90 early-bird rate) that this was aimed more at executive level, rather than for those of us who work in production. It would take a journalist working at some commercial stations around two days salary to pay to go to all events, adding travel and parking costs etc. The redeeming feature was the price did include lunch though – bonus!
One of the early sessions about investigative journalism was insightful; there was a lot of wistful reminiscing to the past about the likes of ITV’s long-gone ‘World in Action’. It was a treat to hear from director Paul Greengrass, who used to work on the programme before heading off to Hollywood. What I took from this session was journalists are more than ever required to “show their workings” in this era of “Fake News”, as President Trump coined it. It means, due to this vigour, the quality of work broadcasters are producing is actually more reliable. Maybe not all of Trump’s media criticisms are so damming for the industry, after all?
The second day got underway and I was enjoying debates on various issues. MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, shared her view that – because MediaCity now exists – that doesn’t automatically mean northern views are catered for. “The North” doesn’t stop at Salford and start again in Scotland. There’s a whole wealth of audience members, stories and talent that’ll be missed, if that’s a widely-held belief.
I hope it isn’t, but have taken calls from people in the past who have made humorous misconceptions. While I can forgive statements like: “Is Bolton in Lancashire?”, because it’s on the border. It only takes a quick glance at a map to know the answer to: “Is Blackburn in Manchester?”
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, announced there will be a consultation to move some of Channel 4’s staff out of London to “wherever it can be found” in the UK. As someone who grew up in Greater Manchester, I know how amazing the opportunities at MediaCityUK are: the area’s been completely regenerated and is buzzing. However, if every major media outlet sets up there, Salford will become as much of an isolated bubble as London is perceived to be.
As a regional staple, I was disappointed with the lack of mentions local radio got at the conference. People who work in that area make a limited amount of resources spread far and wide in order to create content. Talented staff are serving parts of the audience that other platforms may not reach. At times, providing vital information – the recent Lancashire floods are a prime example. I would urge any sceptic to spend a day in a local radio newsroom – either commercial or BBC – and see for themselves. Yet newsrooms in local stations are constantly under threat from cuts.
BBC local radio as an example; there are stations all across the country. Audience reach of all of them combined must be enough to match a national network station. Surely that makes it eligible to warrant a discussion? The audience is more concentrated in each TSA and the issues differ from place to place, but that makes what’s on offer so unique.
It was infectious hearing Head of BBC Radio, Bob Shennan’s, positivity for the medium and his enthusiasm that another golden age of radio is “still to come”, even if it may be different from what has gone before. Due to the way the discussion went though, ill-fated Channel 4 Radio got more of a mention than local radio, which is still very much thriving on the dials.
At the end of a thought-provoking conference, I was driving home listening to a network station when the news came on. There was a Lancashire story in the bulletin and my ears pricked up, because that’s where I live and work. The reader made the easy mistake of pronouncing Barrowford, in Pendle, as: “BARROW-F’D”. You need local knowledge to know it’s actually pronounced: ‘BARROW-FORD’. There’s no way of knowing this by reading off a script alone. I carried on my journey explicitly aware that local radio is still as important as ever.
This time last year, I made a decision that would affect how my whole year would pan out. I decided, after much consideration, to go back to freelancing. This was such a big decision because staff jobs in radio are like gold dust. But in 2016, I took a leap of faith.
As a result of that ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, I have had wonderful experiences and am going to share some of those with you in this blog. I spent the majority of my time in newsrooms across the North West. This past year has been quite extraordinary journalistically, in the stories that have dominated the headlines.
Just some stand out moments were when I was newsreading for Revolution 96.2 the day of the Hillsborough Verdicts, at Wireless Group the day Theresa May became Britain’s new Prime Minister and at BBC Lancashire the day after ‘Brexit’, as well as the day the announcement of the government’s decision to allow fracking in the county – a day when people from across the BBC were looking at my scripts.
I left 2BR in February and spent six months as a freelancer, before settling down at BBC Lancashire. Much of my freelancing was spent double shifting. Looking back now, I don’t know how I had the energy! I would finish a morning shift at one radio station, have lunch as quick as I could, then hot foot it down the M6 to the INRIX travel centre. I had some fixed hours there that helped guarantee while I was freelancing I could at least afford to pay the rent and bills for my flat.
There wasn’t a week I went without work though – one of my new year’s resolutions for 2017 is to have a holiday! I have been an INRIX travel broadcaster for almost three years and was pleased to get chance to be an information editor and see the other side of how the bulletins are put together. The travel hub is a hive of activity and it was great to be part of the afternoon team.
Rejoining BBC Lancashire was like I’d never been away! I was originally with the station in 2013 as a Broadcast Assistant and came back as a Broadcast Journalist in 2016. I’ve done almost every role in the newsroom from reading sport bulletins during the Euro 2016, the Olympics and Paralympics. To updating the Lancashire ‘Local Live’ pages of our website – covering the progress of Graham Liver and the team pulling a bed from Pudsey to Bare in aid of BBC Children in Need for BBC News Online. No two days are the same and I love the variety of my work.
My usual role is producing Gary Hickson at teatime, which is a real honour. When I was first with BBC Lancashire I was mostly a reporter for Gary’s programme and it’s great to produce the show I had previously worked so closely on. Gary is a talented broadcaster who brings out the best in me, keeps my feet on the ground and the programme’s rising RAJAR ratings speak for themselves.
It’s a dream come true to read news bulletins on the BBC and I count that as my biggest achievement of the year. I thrive in a live breaking news environment and it’s liberating to have so much creative freedom. I’ve loved bantering on the breakfast team, reading the extended news bulletins at one o’clock and the doing the double headed news with Gary at five o’clock too.
We embrace social media and I was proud to be the first person at the station to do a live news bulletin both on-air concurrently while broadcasting on Facebook Live. At the time of writing, Facebook stats show that broadcast has reached almost 94,000 people. Amazing… and it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Face for the radio’! You can see it HERE.
That’s just a snapshot; there’s been so many memorable moments to mention. Thanks to everyone who’s made 2016 such an enjoyable year. As for 2017… stay tuned!
What a year this has been for the passing of true talent. It started in January with a the news of the death of David Bowie, now the latest star to be taken is George Michael, at the age of 53.
The news is particularly poignant having broken over Christmas; a time when Michael’s music is at the forefront of public consciousness due to his widely different – but equally brilliant – festive hits ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas).’
As a big George Michael fan, I have a lot of his albums both as a solo artist and with his band Wham! His was one of the first “grown up” types of music I listened to. Of course, George Michael was an archetypal and inimitable pop star. Alongside his beautifully silky voice and striking good looks he also had a great understanding of music, with political awareness and intelligence. He was the full package.
I love how he could create classics in any type of mood or style. This is particularly evident in the way his greatest hits are arranged in the compilation ’25’, that was released to mark his 25th year in the music industry. One disc is “For Living” and the other is “For Loving”. What comes through in his music is honesty that can really touch your soul. This is particularly evident in ‘Jesus to a Child’, a tribute to his late partner Anselmo Feleppa:
George Michael moved seamlessly from a dance track to a ballad full of sadness. I also enjoyed how he could completely rework and remix works he appreciated and put his own unique stamp on it. Tracks that come to mind are his version of The One’s ‘Flawless’ and how ‘Shoot the Dog’ utilises Human League’s ‘Love Action (I Believe in Love)’ and makes it into a completely different style. Meanwhile, his duet with Mary J. Blige on the song ‘As’ contemporises a Stevie Wonder classic.
Michael’s career shows a musical progression as well demonstrating a wide range of emotions in his work. I think this is one of the reasons why he has had such longevity; his ability to adapt. While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to his interview with Kirsty Young for Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ programme and what strikes is how modern his choice of songs were. He had so much more to give; apparently in the pipeline for 2017 would have been a new album and a documentary.
Alongside George Michael’s copious talent, he was a generous philanthropist. I remember seeing an interview with him saying that he didn’t mind how people accessed his music, as long as they were listening. It’s also the impact he had on other’s lives which adds to this selflessness:
There’s a reason George Michael is one of the most played artists on UK radio, and my own personal collection, because he is one of the the best.
Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou – ‘You Have Been Loved’ and you will be missed.
A day after the result of the US Election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hilary Clinton, you’ll be hard pushed to find someone who hasn’t heard the news both in the US and here across the pond.
Any new leader of the free world is bound to be a big headline grabber, particularly in our 24-hour ‘breaking news’ culture. But with Trump it is more so due to the unexpected nature of his victory and the publicity he has generated throughout his campaign.
Donald Trump’s rise to power is the epitome of celebrity culture and where it can get people. I know he’s a billionaire businessman and, in spite of any inheritance, to maintain and build upon a fortune does take skill. But would that alone have been enough to get Trump into the White House?
It’s hypothetical now of course, but I don’t think Trump would have won without the celebrity brand he’d built up. This is a man so famous The Simpson’s even made a satirical joke about him becoming president, 16 years earlier! You don’t have to live in America to be aware of the media mogul either; he had cameos in Home Alone 2, Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Sex and the City.
I became aware of this stratospheric celebrity status when on holiday in Tenerife in January. It was the last night of our trip and must have been around 03:00 in the morning when I got back to my hotel room. Still buzzing from what had good night out in the resort, I turned on the TV to try to relax. I wasn’t expecting much; mostly everything was broadcast in Spanish. I did channel-hop to a programme with spoken English though, it was The Apprentice. Not Lord Sugar’s UK version, but Donald Trump’s US hit- which indicates just how far his brand was reaching.
I’m wrestling fan, not as avid as I once was, but I find it great escapism from ‘reality’! You may have seen a video circulating around social media about his appearances with the WWE. This sticks in my mind particularly because I think I can attribute this particular angle as the cause of me falling out of love a little with “sports entertainment”.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon (who also plays an alter-ego character ‘Mr McMahon’ in the ring) must’ve fancied a new hair cut because this was woven into a storyline. A stipulation was that the billionaire loser out of him and Trump would also lose their locks. I was originally a fan of the WWF ‘Attitude Era’ (Hell Yeah!!) and this just became too far-fetched, even for me. It’s surreal now Donald Trump is President-Elect, watching clips of him taking Vince down and shaving his hair off!
I’m not saying people who’ve achieved fame shouldn’t go for a political position. We live in a democracy and if a candidate meets the criteria to stand then they should. Look at the likes of Ronald Regan and Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example – Hollywood actors who have since branched out into politics. I’m sure there will be many more instances of crossovers too.
I can’t help but think though, amid all the controversy, would Trump have made it to the White House without his celebrity status? The exit polls showed Hilary Clinton was the more poplar candidate yet, when it mattered, the result wasn’t as close as some pundits first thought. Maybe a familiar name on a ballot paper does help put a tick in a box, particularly when voters are apathetic or unsure.
Lancashire County Councillors voted through all proposed cuts at their annual budget meeting.
It sees £65 million slashed from services, including funding for five museums across the county, some bus routes in rural areas and other services, such as libraries.
All elected members were present in what would arguably be one of the most important meetings of the year. Labour councillor, David Borrow, began proceedings saying the budget outlined had been some of the “most difficult decisions” they have ever had to make.
Cllr Borrow said, if current spending continued, there would be no reserves left to be used in emergency situations, by the 2018/2019 budget. The Preston North West councillor said in May the cabinet had to make the decisions from working with multi-agencies. He commented that other Conservative controlled councils, such as Surrey, are not facing such financial difficulties: “Lancashire has been one of the hardest hit.”
The government’s ‘transitional fund’ has given the county £2.3 million. In comparison, Surrey has received £24 million. Hampshire gets £18 million and the Prime Minister’s home county of Oxfordshire will receive £9 million.
“There will be cuts for years to come”, Councillor Borrow said. “I know how important it is for all museums to continue.” Views and expressions of int
interest in running the facilities are being sought up until March.
It was noted that the highways budget is being looked at “which should reassure those who are the victims of the floods.” Cllr Borrow went on to say that, at the beginning of the coalition government (in 2010) spending was cut for flood defences.
Continuing to criticise the conservative government, Cllr Borrow said “the public health grant has now been cut by 1.7 million.”
[PHOTO: Councillor David Borrow addresses the chamber from the Cabinet.]
Former leader of the county councillor, Geoff Driver, was next to stand. The Preston North member was presenting an amendment of from the Conservatives to Labour’s budget plans. Cllr Driver said that, when he was in charge, the Tories left more money in the reserves than they inherited. “This administration has not helped itself”, he said. “There is a corporate strategy but no plan.”
Cllr Driver then criticised the council’s handling of turning the listed building of Preston Bus Station into a Youth Zone. Speaking of the competition to fund a new design he said: “there will be insufficient funds… It’s absolute madness!
“It’s alright saving money for a rainy day, but it’s raining now.” The Conservative budget amendment to the proposed budget mainly looked at financing services by borrowing money to fund them, rather than cutting. Councillor Graham Gooch was one of a series of members who spoke in the debate that followed. The South Ribble West representative said: “No consultations had been done before these budget decisions were made. The decisions have not been made properly.”
A lively discussion broke out with councillor John Fillis, from Skelmersdale East. It left Burnley chairperson Margaret Brindle reminding members to show respect: “This is not a bear pit”, she said.
Sitting near the back of the chamber, alongside Independent members, Lancashire’s only Green Party councillor, Gina Dowding from Lancaster, said: “The government’s financial settlement did not give us any more money.” Cllr Dowding gave an example of the Public Health cuts earlier announced. “[Chancellor] George Osbourne plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Here in Lancashire, he’s only focusing on Northern workhouses.”
Liberal Democrat, David Whipp, of West Craven spoke next. He said his party propose a “cushion” to allow the “cuts to library services to evolve.” He said he has “issues with axing the parish bus initiative” and the Lib Dems approach the budget with ‘compassion and compromise’.”
“I haven’t met with any conservatives [about the budget] then they trot this out at the last minute. Well, we won’t be supporting it”, Cllr Whipp said. The chamber voted on the Conservative amendment and the motion was lost on an eight vote margin.
The Liberal Democrats then proposed their amendment and councillors voted against that also. However, all Conservative councillors abstained. Tory Councillor Paul White, of Pendle East, commented on how his party should “commend [the Lib Dems] for having the same aims [as them]”, even though they chose to propose it differently.”
Independents and the one Green member were next to propose their amendment. They suggested a further £3 million contingency to be made available from the reserves to facilitate the transition of services. As well as cross party cabinet groups be set up to explore and support the transition of services and arrangements. This motion was passed, despite 34 members abstaining.
Next up was a proposal on bus subsidies by the Conservatives, focusing on reinstating transport to day-centres. They planned to do this again by borrowing, rather than using budget reserves or charging. Their proposals included green energy plans and under-spending on concessionary travel. This was the motion that had the most support from the public gallery, with protesters from Chipping and Ribchester staying on to find out the result.
Tory councillor, Michael Green, representing Leyland, said: “Cutting bus services attack the most vulnerable people in society; those who can’t afford to run a car, unlike most of us who will drive our cars home tonight. It is an attack on the elderly, who can no longer drive. It’s an attack on young people, who catch the bus to get to college or an apprenticeship. It’s also an attack on town centres that will lose out on business because of these cuts.”
Labour’s David Borrow said: “We have barely enough funds to deliver statutory services. Can we afford the 4.5 million of this service? We are pretending to ourselves and those in the public gallery. Some of things we have to cut [in this budget] are horrendous. We need to give the council a fighting chance.”
A tight vote on bus subsidies followed. 40 councillors voted for the motion, 42 were against and one person abstained. Therefore, the motion was lost on a slim margin of two votes. That means some bus routes will now no longer operate. Residents of the Ribble Valley, could see a reduction in services by next week.
[PHOTO: Bus campaigners protest before the meeting.]
Councillor Michael Green gave the next Conservative amendment. He mentioned he thought the previous bus subsidy would be passed, which explains the focus of their next proposal. He wanted to see £500,000 for waste services that are not needed in East Lancashire be invested back into highways. Cllr Green said: “in the grand scheme of the budget, £500,000 is not actually a lot of money.”
Labour’s Councillor Borrow said he: “can’t see any reason to oppose this amendment.” He spoke about when he goes back home in Yorkshire he can see the roads get worse and that Lancashire should be proud of the state of the highways. The motion was voted for unanimously, although Labour’s Cllr John Filis did shout: “Why not give it to the bus people?” during the discussion.
Entering the seventh hour of the meeting, the last vote of the night was whether the budget cuts would happen. The chamber broke out into passionate debate from members. Leader of Lancashire County Council, Jennifer Mein of Preston, stood to tell members she understands it’s late in the day but she was “ashamed and appalled” by members’ behaviour when discussions got heated.