One of the promises I made to myself after getting my wings from the Dark Angels in Aracena, was to seek out more opportunities to be creative. To be open. To say yes to things, even when I wasn’t sure where they would lead me.
And that’s how I found myself in Birmingham with a film maker, a comedy performer, a baker, a former copper and a very familiar voice from Radio Four – just five of the many inspiring and interesting people I was to meet that day.
I’d been fortunate enough to be selected to go along to the first BBC Women in Radio event. Very fortunate as it turned out, as we learned that the 30 women in the room were the top 5% of the 450 who had applied and that we all had the potential to become radio presenters of the future.
Well, flabber my ghast! So, I’ve had the privilege of working for the BBC before, but in all my years in the news room, even when I worked as a radio reporter, I never thought I had the voice for radio. But I did love it. Finding stories, listening to interesting people, getting chances to do and see things that you just don’t get to do every day.
The Women in Radio event brought it all back to me. We spent the day learning more about what it would be like to work in radio, starting with the wit and wisdom of BBC Radio Somerset’s Emma Britton, and Women’s Hour Jane Garvey, who shared their experiences with humour and honesty.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind of meeting and asking questions and getting advice. We speed dated with representatives from HR, radio editors, and broadcasters, bombarding them with questions. We spent an hour learning more about interviewing with Jane Kinghorn, who now trains BBC journalists, practising those all important listening skills on each other, seeking out the questions that unlock and chasing squirrels. Everyone has a story. And I heard many inspiring ones.
In between activities, there was a chance to network, to meet other guests and contributors supporting the event. And when Helen Boaden, director of Radio and David Holdwsorth Controller BBC English Regions make time to be there, you know this is more than a box ticking exercise. I was impressed with their commitment and encouragement and Helen’s absolute love for radio which shines through, despite, as she herself acknowledged, living through a very difficult year at the BBC.
Perhaps my favourite part of the day was the last session, when we got the chance to be newspaper reviewers on a 15 minute programme presented by Frances Finn. It was exciting to be back in a studio under the glare of the red light. Frances did a great job linking to all the stories we picked out of the papers and making sure everyone had chance to contribute. Though I’m glad I had my back to the studio’s technical area, so I wasn’t aware of Helen Boaden listening in. I’ll get my own chance to listen back and appraise my contribution about cycling, when I listen to the CD of our ‘broadcast’ we were given in our goody bags.
So, what next? Well we were under no illusion that it would be as easy as rocking up to your local radio station and demanding a slot on the breakfast show. And it’s no kind of positive discrimination. The best voices on air will belong to the best people for the job. But we certainly came away with permission to knock on its door and introduce ourselves.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the day. But I was hugely impressed by the time, commitment and the generosity of the people who took part – both BBC staff and guests. It was well organised, interesting, exhausting and exhilarating and I came away feeling inspired by everyone I met.
There are two more BBC Women in Radio days planned for Manchester and London next year, so if you’re interested, why not apply? You’ll need to supply an audio clip, but don’t worry, you don’t need fancy recording software. I sent mine from my iPhone:
And if you want another view of the day (complete with photos – which I forgot to take), check out Clare Mackintosh’s blog. She’s just one of the brilliant women I met.