Author Archives: Katy Booth

Manchester City: My life as a Blue

With Bury FC’s expulsion from the English football league recently, it’s prompted a lot of fans to reflect and never to take for granted what a club means to them. The passion and the pride in a team is something quite special and I have so much empathy for what Bury fans must be going through. As a Greater Manchester team, I’ve known many of their supporters down the years who are a great, loyal, bunch.

Supporting a team sometimes isn’t just down to choice; it’s steeped in family history and local heritage. At least, it is for me and my team – Manchester City, who are the current Premier League champions et al. But fortunes haven’t always been so kind – and that’s all part of a fan’s journey and makes the victories even sweeter.

It’s also 20 years this year since one of the best football matches I can remember: Gillingham Vs Manchester City at Wembley in the Division Two play-off final. The match that cemented my place as a City supporter.

The atmosphere was electric; although City’s season was in a tier much lower than what fans are used to these days, the support has never weaned. I was part of the ‘Blue Army’ that had made the journey from Manchester to London where the twin towers of the old Wembley Stadium were beckoning.

I was 10-years-old and had travelled down with my Mum and Dad. Supporting City is very much in my family. It’s all I’ve ever known and had been going to matches since I was young and back then was a member of the ‘Junior Blues’ and the former Levenshulme branch of City supporters’ clubs.

Football is a big part of growing up in Greater Manchester and the reality is I’ve never wanted to support any other team – even if I did used to tease Dad by holding up United shirts in sports shops!

Everyone in primary school knew which team I supported because kids could bring in their own PE kit and mine was an old City shirt. It was just accepted, there wasn’t much bullying then, only banter.

High School was more brutal. Looking back it probably wasn’t a good idea to start off the new school year showing my footballing allegiances in the only way possible: by having it plastered all over my bag. A teacher took me to one side on the first day and warned: “This is a United school”. It wasn’t long after that my rucksack ended up being kicked down the corridors and having the contents sprawled all over the playground. It wasn’t quite like the scene from the film There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble, but close enough.

It might not have seemed like it then but, when among fellow fans, there’s a great sense of belonging that has continued to this day, whether it’s at Maine Road, the Etihad stadium or having a banter with mates… especially United fans!

In 2012, City won the Premier League title for the first time in 44 years and the game was on a knife edge in a race against rivals Manchester United – it all came down to the last game of the season in extra time. I’ve never felt such a mix of emotions when Mario Balotelli passed to Sergio Aguero. It went in. The goal stood. First tension then jubilation – after all those years in the lower leagues, we were Premier League champions! The success continues to this day and I still have to pinch myself that it’s all really happening.

Some people think that if you support Manchester City then you must be a glory hunter – oh, the irony! One question I get asked most in regards to this is “how long have you supported City for?” The answer is all my life. But if there was any doubt, the date that sealed it was 30th of May 1999, the year city won at Wembley.

Long may the good fortunes continue but even if it doesn’t I, like all the football fans I know, would still support our team through thick and thin. That’s my life as a Blue.

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Boris Johnson: The day I met the future Prime Minister

The day I interviewed Boris Johnson was back in January 2015. Mr Johnson was Mayor of London and had been invited to speak to Conservative party members at the Alma Inn in Laneshaw Bridge, by the MP for Pendle Andrew Stephenson. Back then, I was a reporter for the commercial radio station 2BR.

The schedule for interviews on that shift was tight, in order to fit as much into the day as possible. I had been speaking to an interviewee in Chorley previously and had to travel the length of the M65 motorway and get through the often congested town centre of Colne in rush hour, in order to get there on time. Not an easy task but, luckily, I arrived before Mr Johnson (I can’t recall if he was late or not) and made my way through the pub to the media area.

Interviewing politicians is all part of the day job, of course. During my career, I’ve had chance to grill other high profile members of parliament in person such as Ed Miliband, William Hague and Jack Straw. There was quite a buzz in the venue for this one though, whether that would have been the case for members of the public rather than just party members – who knows?

Boris Johnson arrived and the interviews began with the various news outlets – TV, print and radio represented. Rather than a pool, we conducted these one by one and each reporter was given a chunk of time to ask questions. For me, this is preferable to the “round robin” style of interview because you can tailor your piece accordingly and it wasn’t limited to a set amount of questions.

There was only one snag; 2BR was last on the list and I could overhear some of my questions being asked by my fellow media colleagues. Before my turn, I figured out ways I could re-word certain relevant topics so the answers wouldn’t seem rehearsed at best and at worse that I was covering old ground. As a former journalist himself, Boris Johnson wasn’t perturbed nor did he start to lag after the long line of questioners. He spoke to me as if I was the first person at the event he’d met.

The perceived “north / south divide” perhaps predictably, but nevertheless importantly, featured in my line of questioning. Something which is still at the forefront of people’s minds. Even now, as we try to decipher what the future of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ may be.

It became clear, very quickly, that Mr Johnson couldn’t be specific with the details. Preferring instead to defer to his Conservative colleagues to relay various bits of information. He did so with aplomb, in keeping with his charismatic character.

Understandable for a Mayor of London on an appearance up north, maybe? But a trend others have noted as his political profile has risen. Here’s a recent example from an interview during the Conservative leadership campaign with the BBC’s Andrew Neil:

Speeches took place after an obligatory photocall. Guess what? Pulling a pint behind the bar! That is where my brief meeting with our future Prime Minister ends. Many others have their experiences: I was interested to read broadcaster Jeremy Vine’s ‘Boris Johnson Story’, as documented in The Spectator blog. (Incidentally, that was the inspiration for this blog post.)

They say a week’s a long time in politics and four and a half years ago the word Brexit hadn’t even entered parlance. The political agenda is very different now. Regardless of all the interviews, jokes and blunders – what happens next in Boris Johnson’s premiership will be the story the British public remember the most.

Boris Johnson – Gov.uk (Open Government Licence v3.0)

Hear the Lionesses roar!

I’ve loved football for as long as I can remember but there’s something about this World Cup making it extra special. It’s seeing fellow females competing in the sport at the highest level and given priority in broadcast schedules. It’s as simple as that – but long overdue.

The games have been of a superb standard and seen by more people than ever before, with a record for the match between England v Norway of 7.6 million viewers. It was even shown on big screens at Glastonbury Festival, thanks to this tweet from forward, Georgia Stanway:

Women’s football is nothing new. One of the first teams in association football were Preston’s Dick, Kerr Ladies, that was founded in 1917 and in existence for more than 48 years. However, a ban in 1921 by the Football Association prevented the women’s game being played at its members grounds.

Retrospectively, players from that pioneering era are now starting to be given the recognition they deserve; a statue of Dick, Kerr player Lily Parr was unveiled in May at Manchester’s National Football Museum. The first female player to be honoured with a statue anywhere in the country.

Trailblazing in those footsteps have been many, but arguably at a time when there was less attention on the women’s game. The England team of 2019 are currently in the spotlight and manager Phil Neville told BBC Sport about the legacy his team want to create:

“We had a camp last year and we set out the objectives for the next 12 months… all I wanted them to say was ‘win the World Cup’.

“But they were thinking bigger than winning a World Cup, which knocked me in my stride a little bit.

“We want the Lionesses to have a name that people around the world can relate to… badass women. That was our mantra.”

Now games have been broadcast on BBC One, rather than tucked away on another channel or shown via the Red Button, it subtly helps to normalise the women’s game and makes it available to as many people as possible.

The consequence of this should not be underplayed: inspiration. Young people watching may want to follow in the Lionesses ‘ footsteps and become footballers themselves. It also shows young girls quite clearly that you can do this too. In 2019 Britain, gender shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams.

There’s still more to do in this respect. The previous team England played was Norway, in that country there’s parity of pay for players of the women’s and men’s game. For equality to be achieved between both genders then pay must play a part.

It’s also quite acceptable for women’s teams to be managed by men but not vice versa. However, as seen by the calibre of play in this World Cup, I could see members of this England team: Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Ellen White et al managing a male team in years to come.

That would be fantastic. I hope that if / when it happens the overriding view of society sees it that way too. I grew up with boys telling me I knew nothing about football – just because I was a girl. How wrong they were! I trust those archaic sexist attitudes, particularly in school playgrounds, are starting to change for the better. What England are doing, as well as having broadcasters on board for this World Cup, is surely helping.

I didn’t think I could love football more but seeing the Lionesses in action, smashing stereotypes along the way, I couldn’t be prouder to support their campaign both on and off the pitch.

The next step is to face tournament favourites USA in the semi-final. Come on England!

Last chance to listen: Eclectic 80s

It’s the decade of big hair, big shoulder pads and even bigger songs.

That’s why, over the Easter period, I wanted to present a specialist music programme dedicated to the music that defined a decade. It’s a popular radio format for a reason and these songs ‘test well’ with listeners.

If the BBC wants to attract younger audiences then I think music of this era is a great way to do it. It evokes memories for those who remember the decade for those who lived it and appeals to those who didn’t. I think it’s testimony to how good the sound of the time was because programmes – and indeed entire radio stations dedicated to the decade – prove so popular.

When I was starting out in my broadcasting career I learnt a lot from the likes of DJ Caz Matthews at North Manchester FM. A few years later, I appeared on BBC Radio Manchester’s 80s programme firstly with Manchester musician Clint Boon and latterly Stuart Ellis. I was delivering travel bulletins into the programme at the time and a great advantage was that I got to hear a lot of the output! I know 80s is a format well done by very knowledgable and experienced presenters, which is why I wanted to do something a little different an put my own spin on things: I pitched “Eclectic 80s”.

My programme on BBC Radio Lancashire celebrates the niche, the novelty and great songs you don’t often hear on the radio. Wham! was the most requested band in my running order but, instead of what you might expect, I played ‘Young Guns’, when was the last time you heard that?

80s computerised TV host Max Headroom makes an appearance with The Art of Noise for ‘Paranoimia’, in what arguably takes the title of most eclectic song played in the whole two hours – and proudly so!

Also, I channeled Brett Davison’s ‘Tricky TV theme teatime teaser’ by playing the full theme from the TV show ‘Moonlighting’, which starred Bruce Willis – back when he had hair. It was performed by the late, great Al Jarreau and producer by Nile Rodgers of Chic. I’ll post a full tracklist at end of this blog post.

I was so proud of this programme, especially with the amount of interaction that I got while on-air. I wasn’t expecting much as it was Good Friday evening, but people got in touch to say they were listening, to tell me what they were doing and share their memories of the 1980s.

It’s only available on BBC Sounds for a few more days so if you fancy a quirky couple of hours to re-live the new wave, new romantic and synth pop style that defined a decade, follow the link here and re-run the fun: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p075j96b

TRACKLIST:

Stomp! – The Brothers Johnson

Sweet Surrender – Wet Wet Wet

Oh Patti (Don’t Feel Sorry For Loverboy) – Scritti Politti

Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics

Rain or Shine – Five Star

The King of Rock n Roll – Prefab Sprout

You’re the Best Thing – The Style Council

My Old Piano – Diana Ross

Moonlighting – Al Jarreau

Kissing with Confidence – Will Powers feat. Carly Simon

Dancing with Tears in my Eyes – Ultravox

Let’s Wait Awhile – Janet Jackson

Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins

Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need this Pressure On) – Spandau Ballet

Too Shy – Kajagoogoo

Sweet Love – Anita Baker

Young Guns (Go For It) – Wham!

Bridge to your Heart – Wax

This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

Paranoimia – The Art of Noise feat. Max Headroom

Rosanna – Toto

Here we Are – Gloria Estefan

Don’t Look Down (The Sequel) – Go West

January, February – Barbara Dickson

Half a Minute – Matt Bianco feat. Basia

Thinking of You – The Colour Field

My One Temptation – Mica Paris

Down to Earth – Curiosity Killed The Cat

Waiting for a Train – Flash and the Pan

Cassette tape

Concorde at 50

It’s 50 years since the most beautiful airliner the world has ever seen took to the skies. I’ve had a soft spot for Concorde many years and wanted to mark the anniversary of its first British test flight by explaining why the aircraft is special to me.

Despite being retired from air travel, Concorde remains a pride of British and French engineering as a mainstay of supersonic flight – reaching Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, at an incredible 1,350 miles an hour.

Aviation is in my blood on both sides of the family, so much so that in the first careers test I did at school the results indicated that I should work in that industry. My uncle was an air steward for British Airways and my Mum, Dad and auntie all worked at Fairey Engineering in Stockport, which was originally a manufacturer of military aircraft.

As you might expect, I grew up living under the flight path of Manchester Airport (some may call it Ringway) and could see the line of take offs and descents from my bedroom window. The site of the Stockport air disaster in 1967 isn’t too far away either.

One particular occasion in the school playground, the whistle blew and everyone had to stand still and listen to the teacher for instruction. It seemed far too early to go inside, but instead we were told to look to the sky. Concorde was flying overhead and it was a magnificent sight and sound to experience.

This didn’t sound like a usual aircraft landing, there wasn’t a sonic boom of course as that was forbidden over towns and cities. The sound of the airliner was louder but smooth. I also saw the inimitable streamlined shape from below with the outline of the wings and a “snoop droop” nose sketching a silhouette into the sky, as the landed gear was lowed. All I can describe it as is a magical sight to witness that has stayed with me.

Concorde retired from the skies in 2003. That was after a crash in France due to a catalogue of errors three years earlier had affected some public feeling towards the aircraft. Attitudes towards supersonic travel changed but the fondness the pubic holds towards Concorde still exists. That was witnessed in the last flypast over Buckingham Palace, alongside the RAF Red Arrows. The last time it would be seen in the sky.

Nowadays Concorde is a tourist attraction at sites across the UK, including the Runway Visitor Park at Manchester Airport. Tour guides take you onto the plane and you can also sit where the likes of Sir David Frost, Dame Joan Collins or even The Queen would have travelled.

It makes you wonder how such a splendid aircraft came to be grounded? But in this era of budget air travel it’s clear to see how it happened. Now Brexit is on the cards (or is it…) finances and feelings are elsewhere when it comes to supersonic flight. However, the Concorde era will remain an extraordinary period of aviation history and an example of the great heights that can be achieved.

The changing landscape of local radio

I was in a restaurant lately, a smaller group had been taken over by a larger one. The whole place had a refurbishment. The menu’s changed; old signature dishes have been removed in favour of other ones. The produce isn’t local – the meat doesn’t come from local farms and the ice cream is produced miles away, rather than in the dairy down the road. The staff have changed too, I’ve no idea where the managers have gone but some of the bar and serving staff have stayed.

This analogy also describes what’s happening to independent local radio (ILR) with big changes announced in recent weeks. Many smaller groups, including a lot of stations I worked for previously, have been bought by either Global or Bauer. This is because rules that restricted networking, by having a requirement that certain hours and news content must be produced in the area that the radio station broadcasts have been relaxed by the industry regulator, Ofcom.

It’s been a process of osmosis to get to this point which has been on the cards for years. At least there are two big players in the commercial world. It’s actually good to have competitors – to keep everyone on their toes and the bar raised. The stations that will remain will sound very slick, even if the links are voice tracked ‘crunch and rolls’ from the latest reality TV star turned radio presenter. That seems to be the trend these days…

Commercial radio has always been about making money and you can’t fault the companies concerned for doing that; it makes business sense to increase productivity in this way. If the rules are relaxed to allow networking then it’s only going to be a matter of time before it happens. Of course, behind every station rebrand or new celebrity slot comes with it job losses, families impacted and an industry with shrinking chances for established talent and newbies alike.

Others who’ve blogged on this subject have mentioned that the gap in the market gives an opportunity for both BBC local radio and community stations. In my experience, community radio sounds at its best when a station is well run by people with industry experience at the helm, usually in paid positions, to steer a cohort of enthusiastic volunteers. Even though community stations can provide a valuable hyper-local service, if the sound is poor people aren’t going to listen for long. What comes out of the speakers is everything, especially when other stations along the dial are going to be on form all the time. Ofcom rules state that community stations must be run not-for-profit and, in this current climate, I would argue this needs a rethink to allow the sector to flourish fully.

As far as BBC Local Radio is concerned, a lot of people’s perceptions are based on old-fashioned stereotypes. I produce the drive time programme on BBC Radio Lancashire and, since I took over this role around six months ago, we’ve reformatted the programme so local news is the focus but you’re never far from a song. If you haven’t listened in a while give it a go – the playlist is closer to many of the stations that will soon be shutting down to become transmitter sites for the bigger conglomerates than you may expect.

The reality is there’s only a finite amount of jobs available in the industry at any one time or, in the case of community radio, most do it for the love of the medium. Due to the recent changes, 250 positions in commercial radio could be lost, according to an estimate by the industry news service Radio Today. This affects many, from presenting, producing to news – not forgetting freelancers. Media and journalism courses up and down the country have optimistic students enrol each year with a dream of working in radio. If the jobs aren’t there for those already established then what’s the knock on effect going to be for those trying to get a foot in the door or develop?

It’s stark, it’s scary and it’s not what anyone who works on the front line in this industry wants to see happening to friends and colleagues who’re affected. The landscape is changing but I’d like to think it’s not all as bleak as it seems. Fewer stations are on the dial but there’s an online presence now that can’t be ignored. Social media, podcasts and listen again services mean there will be need for content producers, just maybe not in a linear format like radio is.

There’s stations like Imagine Radio in Stockport and Cheshire. Despite all the networking announced recently, the station’s new owners announced an expansion. Revolution 96.2 that broadcasts to Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside, is a commercial station super-serving those areas with local content. You might think a market like Greater Manchester may be saturated but there’s a lot of listener choice in these areas and that’s promising for ILR. In time, a hyper-local commercial model may spread to other areas as well.

I believe the trend for networking will buck but it could take a while. There’ll be a shift and demand for localness from listeners and smaller commercial radio stations will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes with a sound that will be different and refreshing. Like what Century did in the mid-90s, with a higher speech to music ratio, football rights and a well staffed newsroom. Something like this would need to be bold, have financial backing and launch when the time is right. Sadly, that time isn’t now and who knows what the local landscape will look like when it is? However, radio will adapt to survive; it always has and it always will.

Disability in the media

An inclusive range of Barbie dolls, that have disabilities, has been announced by toy makers Mattel. This isn’t like the previous incarnation of “Share a Smile Becky”, which showed a gaudy pink wheelchair that didn’t fit into ‘Barbie’s dream house’. Now Barbie looks more authentic. One of the dolls uses a wheelchair and another has a prosthetic leg. This range will be available in Autumn later this year.

There’s now more representations of disabilities in the mainstream media, which means we’re getting closer to representing society as it truly is but there’s still more to do.

11 million people in the UK are living with a disability, statistics from Disability Sport show. Diversity is a wonderful thing that we must celebrate, rather than shy away from, and the media has an important role to play in holding a mirror up to society and reflecting it.

This is by no means an simple task, but who said positive change was easy? There’s different models used to depict disability and it’s vital that the media takes a stance that will have a positive impact.

The medical model.

As the name suggests, the name derives from health care. When a person is born with an impairment or acquires one, in the medical model, this is often seen as something to be cured through surgery or otherwise. Here we can see negative connotations used with descriptive language, such as someone “suffers” from a condition rather than lives with it or even worse – is “handicapped”. This places the disability as a fault with the person concerned, which breeds prejudice and negative stereotypes to the public subliminally.

The social model.

This is a more liberating view which focuses on the environment we live in. What differs in the viewpoints is that, in the social model, it’s our surroundings that are disabling not the person. Think of a building, the room you need to get to is on the first floor. An able-bodied person may choose to use the stairs and a wheelchair user would use the lift. They’ve both able to access where they need to go, so nothing has become disabling in that situation. However, if lift wasn’t available that’s when a person would be disabled because they can’t get to where they need to go. Up until that point, both people were treated exactly the same.

I personally think if more people and organisations adopted the social model the world would be a more accessible, inclusive and accepting place.

We’re getting there, albeit slowly. Some of the most encouraging representations I see are like the the new range of Barbie dolls or inclusivity in children’s TV programmes because that’s giving young people a true representation before society has a chance to condition kids’ views as they grow up. Young people are often very accepting and non-judgemental, we can learn a lot from them. No one is born with prejudice, leading to the school of thought it’s something learnt through life.

The London Paralympics in 2012 gave hope that coverage could change some negative perceptions. Channel 4 was the broadcaster for this and, while I’m sure there were the very best of intentions, I felt the marketing missed the mark: Athletes were billed as ‘Super Human’. This was almost a hypercorrection for all the ills of the past. A Guardian article by Penny Pepper in 2016 commented how disabled people don’t want to be treated like superheroes, just as equal humans.

The media is a powerful tool. Look at the sea-change and conversations that are happening about views towards plastic waste since David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II. It can happen again for perceptions about disability and here’s my thoughts about how…

Actions for change.

  • If we’re rightfully celebrating diversity then let’s do it properly. Don’t show one group or the other – show integration.
  • If a disabled person is cast in a drama, have them take part in storylines that don’t constantly revolve around their impairment.
  • Cut out ‘inspiration porn’. It’s not inspirational for someone with a disability to have an education, a job or be in a relationship… that’s normal. By all means, celebrate achievements but not the ordinary.
  • Have sporting events such as the Olympics and Paralympics run together concurrently. This happened at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year.
  • There’s a lot more to disabled people than just sport, representations should focus on all walks of life.
  • Use positive language.
  • Talk, talk and talk more; this is the only way to tackle the taboo. Most misconceptions come from a lack of understanding or fear of the unknown.

Conclusion.

You may not agree with some or all of what I say here but at least a discussion is being had, rather than the elephant in the room. A video was produced by journalist Ellis Palmer for BBC Ideas recently “How to talk about disability”. If you’ve found the themes I’ve written about interesting I urge you to take a look at the short film and continue the conversation:

As Ellis says in that film: “treat others as you wish to be treated”. An impairment doesn’t define a person, it shapes experiences through life. Let’s make a difference and use the social model of disability everywhere, particularly in the media.

Writing for radio

In this multi-platform age, we’re becoming less defined by titles. I specialise in ‘broadcast journalism’ yet the job description is becoming much wider, as the industry adapts to the world we live in.

When I left my job in commercial radio it was advertised again as a post for a “multimedia journalist”. Also, due to a recent change in terms and conditions, my role at the Beeb is now simply called “journalist”.

The job is arguably more varied than ever. My role may now mainly be a producer but I’m also a news reader and reporter. There’s maintaining the online presence too, particularly social media.

Variety is the spice of life but what is the lifeblood of a journalist? Writing is everything.

When I enrolled to study journalism, I was told I’d be taught how to write. “Well, I already know that”, I naively assumed. I already had a degree in English, dabbled in fiction writing and was even maintaining this blog. I was wrong.

You don’t need to be a modern day Shakespeare in order to succeed but there are a few habits to unlearn. Most academic writing is too mellifluous for journalistic purposes, with sentences that have enough subordinate clauses to lead you down the garden path and back again, a bit like this one, if you get my drift. Imagine how difficult it’d be to read that last sentence aloud?

Here’s my 10 top tips for writing for radio:

    Get to the point as quickly as possible.
    Be concise.
    You’re writing to be heard not read, so write sentences as you would say them.
    Read aloud to get the hang of it.
    Use contractions. In everyday speech you probably wouldn’t say ‘could not’ instead of ‘couldn’t’, so write that way.
    This extends to punctuation. Normal rules about grammar don’t apply because the commas, full stops and hyphens in your literary toolbox help give sense. Many times you’ll place these in a sentence to indicate a pause, allow for breath, or effect.
    Keep vocabulary simple. Use words you’d actually say. Many times I’ve changed a word in a perfectly good script because it’s not a term I’d normally use.
    Pay attention to the station style. Commercial radio news is very different to BBC. If you’re on work experience make the effort to listen to the output. This sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how many don’t.
    Be creative. A blank script is a bank canvas and just because this list is a general rule of thumb it doesn’t mean you can’t put your own stamp on things.
    Have fun! Your enthusiasm will shine out of the speakers.

Writing can make a difference between a great, good or mediocre piece. Think about social media; a well written, snappy tweet is more likely to go viral than one that’s wordy and all over the place.

The more chatty the better. The art of writing for radio is making it sound like you’re not actually reading. It’s a craft that takes skill. Skill develops through practise. Even over the archives of this blog, you can hopefully see how my writing has improved with time and experience.

We never stop learning – enjoy!

What Katy Did, last year…

January – the month of (failed!) New Year’s resolutions and a look back on how the previous year panned out. It’s become a tradition of this blog to do so and I’m happy to say last year was a blast, both professionally and personally. I’m going to be a true radio pro now and try to hook and tease you by saying that I’ve left the best until last… so stay tuned!

The theme of this year, for me, has been to embrace change.

2018 marks my tenth year in radio and I began by continuing to read the breakfast news bulletins on BBC Radio Lancashire. At the start of the year the station had a massive overhaul. We had a studio facelift, to join the ViLor network of BBC local radio stations. In a nutshell, this means all the music and speech clips are played remotely, rather than stored on computers in Blackburn. The studios moved down the corridor and the newsbooth became no more – as the news reader position is now incorporated downstairs, with the rest of the programme teams.

We were the first station to move onto the new system along with a change of newsgathering software to OpenMedia. The beginning of the year therefore involved lots of training and learning how all the technology works. The analogy “like a kid in a sweet shop” comes to mind!

I put the new equipment and editing software to good use throughout 2018 and have been involved in various bits of presentation and production. Before I got involved in journalism, my initial passion for radio came from a love of music. I‘ve been able to present music specials again, including a reprise of my ‘Chilled Christmas’ format and an indulgence in my interest in musical theatre with ‘Songs from the Shows’, which I presented on New Year’s Eve – a dream come to present a live programme solo on the BBC! I’ve also co-presented; again at the Lytham Festival, for the community programme ‘Your Lancashire’, presented the Unmissable Podcast and studio produced ‘Sounds Like Saturday Night’ and ‘Jukebox’.

I didn’t stray far from the news desk though; one of my highlights was producing and presenting a documentary which aired in May. While researching local Lancashire history, I came across a horrific murder case of a baby that was abducted from the old Queens Park Hospital in Blackburn and murdered. 2018 marked 70 years since the death of June Anne Devaney. It was also a police success story – the first case of mass fingerprinting of a whole town, which led to the murderer being hanged for his crime after a trial at Lancaster Castle.

I researched the background, dramatised the story and looked at the development of forensic science over the years. I’ve previously made a documentary and it was great to immerse myself completely into the art of long form storytelling again. I also feel like a bit of an expert on this case in particular.

Towards the end of the year, we had a shakeup of the rotas and now my main role is to produce the teatime programme. I’m really happy with how the show is sounding and loving the opportunity to shape the programme and guide it editorially. There’s something satisfying to start the day with a blank canvas of a running order and by the end have filled it with lots of great local content.

As you can tell, I’ve been quite busy work wise! It was sad to say goodbye to colleagues and stations I broadcast on during my former Saturday job as a traffic and travel reporter. It’s fair to say I’m a workaholic but I took the decision because, for probably the first time in a decade, I wanted more of a work / life balance.

Living in south Cumbria, we’re on the edge of the Lake District and there’s lots to explore. I’m getting more time to develop my hobby of amateur photography and I have a wonderful partner to now share these experiences with. We’ve had some nice trips last year; including Whitby, Kent and celebrating my birthday in Paris. I got to look at the Mona Lisa up close in the Louvre museum, go up the Eiffel Tower and have a meal floating on the Seine opposite Notre Dame… even if it did take a leap of faith off the river bank to get on the boat! No sign of Quasimodo ringing the bells this time though.

You can imagine, with a holiday to Paris planned there were lots of predictions among friends about whether the question would be popped and an engagement would be announced? Well, that’s all far too predictable! It’s too touristy for that and we’re both not the sort to follow the crowd.

I’ll always remember the 11th of November. Of course it’s Remembrance Day for those who have been lost to war. It’s now also poignant for me because it’s the date my partner and I got engaged – on Arnside Pier at sunrise. It was such a beautiful day; there was a stillness in the air and beautiful colours adorning the sky. Finding love and making this commitment has been the most unexpected but wonderful blessing I could ever have wished for.

A memorable year indeed and it’s nice to have a companion, and now fiancé, to share 2019 with. We’ve already had a roadtrip to Portsmouth and booked a holiday for spring. Of course, this is only a snapshot of the highlights of my last year but I do feel the most content I have ever been. Thank you to everyone who shared a part of 2018 with me.

More posts to come in 2019…

Strictly Come Dancing in Blackpool

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.

Keeeeeep dancing!

Here’s the moment I appeared on Strictly, for a fleeting glance, at the end of Stacey and Kevin’s performance…