Adventures in Radio Land

If you have fifteen minutes of fame, I have about 6 minutes left. Well, I’ve used up about 9 minutes in a fairly parochial way on an early Sunday morning on BBC local radio so maybe I can claim some of that back. Previously the most media presence I’ve managed is three seconds of coverage in the 2012 Great North Run when I ran in front of the poor man who was carrying a fridge just as he was being featured in the commentary.
So anyway; I get an invite to be a brief guest on Helen Legh’s early morning show (6am to 9am) on BBC Three Counties Radio, to talk about my reluctance in running and Mission Without Borders in preparation for the marathon. I’ve never done any kind of media for real before, although many years ago I went through some media training which could be summarised as ‘don’t trust the evil media people , you’ll be lucky to get out of the studio alive.’ I’m please to say my experience on Sunday was much nicer, although I’m not a politician, have something to sell (as such) and I think with all the Margaret Thatcher kerfuffle (aside: she’d be loving all the controversy, those of you that hate her – you’re just cementing her historical legacy, sorry) they probably wanted to have something with a lighter feel.
In fact getting into the studio was the most hairy thing. I’m sure Luton has some good points, but I’ve not found them yet. When I arrived outside the BBC radio building there, there was a young lad hanging around just around the corner who proceeded to meet with a very well dressed older man who gave me a distinct glare as I waited with increasing nervousness to be let into the building. So, early Sunday morning is a good time for drug deals it seems.
Thankfully they let me in, and I spent the next fifteen minutes getting increasingly worried as I listened to the show being piped into the empty reception area. Nice comfy leather sofas though.
Eventually, a very cheerful Irish bloke popped his head around the corner, shook my hand and invited me to come down. It turns out that other than the presenter, this chap was basically everything else about the show, and he seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. So I got sat down in a studio next to the one that was on air, was offered coffee (refused politely) and was waved at by Helen in the adjacent studio. I began to relax a little. This was the BBC, and they are human beings.
I was formally reminded that the little light bulb when read meant “on air” so I made an unusual commitment to myself to keep my mouth shut unless spoken to. Now relocated during the news to the main studio my vision was largely filled by a giant green microphone. Watching them operate it was clear how much of this is timing, in particular judging when to come in with your microphone after a song, or as was said to me, the difficulty of judging when the news report was going to finish, so you get a smooth transition and no pregnant pauses. Ad to that the need to keep track of the piles of paper containing notes, texts and emails and it is definitely a job for those with a penchant for calm multitasking.
During Donna Summer (featuring Musical Youth, no less) warbling along about Unconditional Love, we had the pre-interview chat. This is the bit when they ask the politicians “you don’t really believe in this do you, go on, what’s the real story?” to which the correct answer, no matter how they smile and seem nice, is to say nothing except for your official agreed message track. I of course, spewed forth in usual style and therefore proved I would be the worst politician possible.
And then I was on air and you have one of those moments where you kind of say, “OK brain, over to you now, try not to screw up.” Apparently it went well according to the people who matter. I’ve listened to it once, and keep wincing at the ums and errs and the one use of the phrase “well, basically…” which annoys me a fair bit when other people do it so now I have guilt at my own linguistic sin.
But, all things considered, it could be a lot worse. And then it was all over, a wave goodbye and then ushered out.
Thankfully the drug dealer had moved on.
Was it fun? Yes, hugely. But goodness knows how nervous I would have been if that had been national radio or TV. As it is the listenership probably consists of a dog and my well dressed dealer, and I am sure most people decided to make the tea at that point and all the sensible people of course were asleep. But was what I suspect will be a unique experience for me.
Afterwards though I could not help wondering what people hearing 8 minutes of you talking about running and openly discussing your personal views about faith and God then draw up in their minds what sort of person you are. Come to think of it, I do it all the time on the basis of even less information.
So I think I’ll just stop thinking about that now, before I freak myself out, and instead just be thankful I am not in the public eye and never likely to be, because I am not sure I have a thick enough skin to cope with that.