A Silva lining
The word “legend” is often used to describe football players. Too much, perhaps? However, for David Silva, I think it’s apt. It’s the midfielder’s last Premier League game in a Manchester City shirt this afternoon, against Norwich.
The Spaniard is one of the players from the 2011-2012 squad that won the Premier League title for City, 44 years since the club was last victorious. After today, Sergio Aguero is the only other player who remains. The likes of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Touré have all said their goodbyes over the years.
David Silva joined the club for a £24 million pound transfer fee from Valencia in 2010, then playing under manager Roberto Mancini. Known as “Merlin”, The Magician” or “El Mago” for his prowess on the ball, Silva will be remembered for bringing his Spanish flair to the Premier League. The kind that saw his national team win Euro championships in recent years, as well as the 2010 World Cup. With technical ability and a left foot that’s seen him become a key playmaker for the Blues, who doesn’t shy away from goal himself. Silva is a joy to watch play when on the road or at the Etihad Stadium.
The game there today sees the completion of this year’s Premier League season against visitors Norwich, a club that’s already been confirmed as relegated to the EFL Championship next season. Today’s match is taking place much later than originally scheduled, due to the break in play because of the coronavirus pandemic. That also means there will be no fans in the stadium to bid this season’s captain adiós, in his final game wearing a sky blue shirt.
Which leads me onto the ‘silver lining’: A player’s time at any club will always come to a close and David Silva is ending his on a high. In his 10 years with Manchester City, the number 21 has been a key part of squads who have massively enhanced the team’s trophy cabinet, with four Premier League titles, two FA cups and five League Cups to his name. A role model to many, with Man City’s academy graduate Phil Foden a potential candidate to take on Silva’s position in midfield next season. And there’s still the matter of this year’s Champion’s League to be decided too.
While David Silva’s next move is yet to be announced, there’s no doubt that, domestically, the 34-year-old has done it all and done it in style. He’s left his mark on Manchester City, as well as the top tier of English football. Thanks for the memories, El Mago.
“Holding to nothing whatever” was the theme of this year’s Buddhafield festival. It’s usually based in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Taunton in Somerset, with roots in the Triratna Buddhist Community.
I attended the gathering in person in 2015, which was also my first experience of camping and when the photographs in this blog post were taken. I’ve been on annual leave from work this past week so when I heard the festival was being held virtually this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it felt like a great opportunity to get involved once again.
The festival was held over five days, utilising technology with the likes of Zoom and Facebook live broadcasts. I’ve particularly enjoyed the talks, meditation sessions and musical performances. Personal highlights were sets from the band Hands of the Heron as well as soloist Susie Ro.
Although viewing over a screen, the sense of connectivity with others was still very much felt. The opening and closing ceremonies being memorable for this, with people joining in for the mantra. What struck me was that a sense of community is so much bigger than just our locality. A reflection that’s particularly pertinent during lockdown.
Some attendees commented that lockdown has felt like an enforced retreat for them. Another called it ‘the long pause’ – a lovely analogy that describes what quarantine has done for many of us, by offering time to re-evaluate our lives. For me, one of the positives is that it’s allowed a deeper connection to nature.
My first experience at Buddhafield, five years ago, has stuck with me because of the powerful spirituality that I felt. This was not lost by transferring online and I shall remember this year’s festival for the inspiration, innovation and compassion shown from everyone involved.
(All photographs taken at Buddhafield 2015.)
Dealing with breaking news
This week the front and back pages of newspapers have been filled with news of Liverpool Football Club being crowned Premier League champions. However, in what seems like an eternity ago – but was actually just a week beforehand – I was getting some other sport breaking news to air. In what is a big story in my patch of Cumbria, Barrow AFC were promoted to the English Football League for the first time in 48 years.
Many followers of current affairs will be familiar with “breaking news” as a banner on news channels or smartphone push notifications to describe anything new or developments to an existing story. That’s one take which somewhat dilutes the term, I think. The kind I’ll be discussing in this blog post is the sort that, as a radio producer, makes you completely rethink a programme and turn items in a running order around.
Breaking news is the bread and butter of journalism; it’s something to be enthusiastic about, rather than panic. These are often times when we produce some of the audience’s most memorable moments of our output. Often, but not always, it will happen at unexpected moments – at the end of a shift, when you have made plans after work, for example. The news of Barrow’s promotion certainly wasn’t unexpected but happened right at the end of my shift.
Due to the nature of breakfast programmes on BBC local radio, which are broadcast from very early in the morning, there’s an afternoon producer who takes over looking after the programme from the morning producer when their shift finishes. The role includes reacting to the day’s developments as well as setting up content throughout the afternoon and into the evening. The role of ‘late prod’ is on a rota for the news team at BBC Radio Cumbria and I’ve been doing my most recent stint for the last month, while working from home.
It was 19:00 on Thursday, 18 June. I’d just subscribed to a Sky Sports day pass so I could watch my team, Manchester City, play their first game after the season break, due to the coronavirus pandemic. I’d finished setting up the next morning’s breakfast programme and was out of the loop while I’d sat down to have tea. The call from a colleague followed to inform me the announcement had been made – Barrow has been promoted.
It was not a surprise; due to the nature of this year, the non-league season wasn’t able to be completed. Therefore, the final standings were decided by a vote of all clubs in the league. When the season was suspended, Barrow were top of the league and became champions. Ironically, 48 years earlier the team had actually been voted out of the English Football League, as was the protocol at the time. The Bluebirds hadn’t even finished bottom of the league that season either. It’s reported the decision was made due to where the town is located and how long it could take some away teams to travel to the Holker Street ground.
I logged back onto the computer in my home office, that I had only five minutes earlier shut down, and began moving items around the running order. Previously, a plan had been devised on how the breakfast programme the day after any possible promotion should sound. It was a case of implementing that and ringing round some guests that had already been set up to ask if they wouldn’t mind being put on hold. All were very understanding of the circumstances.
A lot of liaising was done with my colleagues in the south of the county to set up certain pieces and deliver kit to the commentator, so he could appear live outside the Holker Street ground in the morning. Then guests that had been set up in advance had to be confirmed. Once all that was in place, I allowed myself a 45 minute break to at least be able to watch the second half of the football match that I had initially intended to. After that, I finished writing cues and drafting questions. The whole four-hour programme had to be re-worked and I finished putting everything in place in the early hours of the morning.
The advantage of working from home is that at least I didn’t have a commute to contend with after I’d finished and just went straight to bed. It’s part of the job to be flexible and hearing the programme go out live the next day makes it all worthwhile – the jubilation in the fans’ voices and the elation of those who work at the club. It’s always nice to play a part in such a celebratory programme. I believe it showcases the importance and value of local radio to be at the heart of communities like that, reflecting what matters to the people who live there. It wasn’t the first time I’d dealt with breaking news during my career and it, almost certainly, won’t be the last.
Timing is everything
Listening to the latest episode of The Diversity Gap podcast on Spotify, something instantly struck a chord with me: “Timing is everything”.
“There are some thoughts you can share… and they fall completely flat. It’s almost as if no one was listening. But then, you can share that same thought in the right cultural moment and it sets the world on a different trajectory altogether.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
You could make a statement at one point in time and nobody would take any notice but you could say it at another moment in time and it resonates. I feel that’s what we’re currently witnessing for the Black Lives Matter movement. For years, decades and even centuries people in the black community have been speaking of their views about prejudice. Now others are taking notice.
In news for something to be on the agenda there needs to be a ‘peg’, something to hang a story on. This could be an anniversary, event or development. The death of George Floyd was that moment. He died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
I cannot profess to be an expert in racial issues. I’m a white woman of privilege; someone who has experienced prejudice in life but in a different way to that of racial tension or oppression. However, I’m someone who can hopefully be seen as an ally, who’s passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality. I’ve tried to educate myself in the issues that are being discussed, watched the coverage, read articles and spoken to black people to hear their views.
It should not have to take the death of a man to make people take notice. When anyone raises concerns over the way they are treated we, as a 21st century society, must listen. (Not just pay lip-service. Lip-service is akin to ignorance.) Then, if necessary, make any changes that come out of those conversations to quell inequality.
Systematic changes can take time but, as Bethaney Wilkinson says in The Diversity Gap podcast “timing is everything”. Social change is possible and maybe the time for that in terms of race relations is now. We’ve already seen global protests, statues taken down and police officers charged, in the three weeks since George Floyd’s death.
“Diversity is about dignity. It’s not about metrics and marketing and money. It’s about real people, real stories, real lives.”Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.
Racism is wrong. Diversity is something to be celebrated. And, when prejudice occurs, it must not be ignored.
Life after lockdown
After 11 weeks of self-isolation due to the coronavirus, restrictions have been eased by the UK government sufficiently so that we can at least start to think about what life after lockdown could be like.
I’m classed as ‘vulnerable’ because of having underlying health conditions. It’s something I would never ordinarily describe myself as, but these are not ordinary times. I was never officially part of the shielding group but that’s basically what I ended up doing as a precaution. Working from home, getting shopping delivered, that kind of thing. Then, at the end of last month, the advice changed and people shielding were allowed outdoors.
Well, I haven’t been outside the perimeter of the house just yet but the easing of restrictions mean that I’m able to take small steps towards a ‘new normal’. Yesterday, my parents were able to visit us in the back garden, while maintaining the mandatory two metre social distance. It was a joyous occasion, as I hadn’t seen them in person for about three months. During that time we missed celebrating together Mother’s Day, Dad’s birthday and their 37th wedding anniversary.
We’re a tactile family, so not being able to hug each other is strange. You also have to go against instinct at points: when something drops on the floor and someone else goes to pick it up. Or when our cat comes close, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to pet her! Luckily, after some weather forecasts predicted wind and rain, the day turned out nice. We had to get our umbrellas out at points, but it was an opportunity to see the back garden in bloom. Even the birds getting food from the flutter butter holder weren’t put off by our presence.
At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be updating this blog as frequently as weekly, but I think documenting my period of self-isolation has been a good thing to do. It’s been cathartic to write about, as a way to try to make sense of an uncertain situation and hopefully it’s made for interesting reading too.
As we emerge from lockdown, I don’t anticipate I’ll update this page quite as frequently. My diary style tweets on Twitter curtailed after about 70 day because all the days were starting to blend into one large mass of time! I’ve always aimed for quality rather than quantity of posts. Also, focusing on other things will give me a chance to write about various topics, most of which are a commentary on the media industry, which have been a feature of my site for the past nine years and something I want to continue.
This period in time that we have been experiencing is probably something future students will learn about in their history lessons and something our generation will tell their grandchildren. Key workers will be remembered for keeping the country going at a challenging time. The tragedy of loved ones lost will also stay in our thoughts. At the time of writing, the global death toll of COVID-19 stands at about 393,000, according to statistics from the World Health Association. More than 40,500 of those deaths have been registered in the United Kingdom. To put the UK figure into context, that’s about twice the capacity of London’s O2 arena.
Of course, the virus hasn’t gone away; the reproduction rate or ‘R number’ isn’t as high as it was in the middle of lockdown, when the peak was at its highest but it could potentially rise again. We must continue to be careful; coronavirus can still infect people indiscriminately and the consequence of that could be fatal. Be mindful, stay safe and, if you’ve followed my story of self-isolation over these past 11 weeks, thanks for reading.
Coronavirus: Week 10 in self-isolation
I’d like to start this week’s reflection in tribute to our nephew George W. Dyson, who passed away in Canada at the age of 41. He was a lovely person, whose inspirational spirit transcended countries, was felt by all fortunate enough to know him and was taken too soon. I send my love to all his family and friends at this, the most difficult of times. The death wasn’t coronavirus related but the horrible reality of restrictions surrounding the virus is that we cannot attend a funeral at this time.
One of the things George loved, when he visited his family in England, was the garden at our home. We will plant a memorial tree in his honour. Since I’ve been staying at home more than usual I’ve been able to appreciate it too, becoming aware of the subtle changes over time. Normally, I wouldn’t be so attuned to when certain plants bloom but that’s one of the positives to come out of lockdown. Spring blossoms are now transforming, getting ready for the summer season.
You can see the changes to the flora in the front garden in comparison to an earlier photograph I took on the first day my precautionary self-isolation started. When asked to submit a photograph for one of BBC Radio Cumbria’s social media posts documenting life in lockdown I knew that snap was what I’d use. The reflection from the glass in the shot was a ‘happy accident’ but encapsulates my view of the world, carrying on outdoors, while I stay inside. You can see what it looks like in the video here… (Post continues below.)
At work I’m becoming a whizz with Zoom, an app I’d never used before. Seeing team members is a great way to stay connected with more than one person at a time. I’ve also taken part in BBC training over Zoom which allows me to now record interviews with contributors, while still working from home.
Meanwhile, the radio industry itself continues to change. It was announced earlier this week that stations which had been acquired by the Bauer group will be rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio, as reported by the industry news website Radio Today.
This includes many UKRD stations, a group where I worked on staff for nearly two years, as well as stations in the Wireless group like Wish, Wire and Tower FM that I freelanced at in Wigan. Going forward, there will be fewer job opportunities available for broadcasters and journalists. You can read my thoughts on the changing landscape of local radio in a blog post I wrote in March last year HERE.
It’s also the end of an era for travel news; today’s the last day BBC local radio is taking voiced bulletins from the traffic data company INRIX Media. From tomorrow, bulletins will instead be provided in-house, using scripts.
I had a great time in my four years as part of the weekend team at INRIX, working in the Altrincham office. My highlight was delivering travel bulletins for BBC Radio Manchester’s ‘80s programme because I got to chat to Clint Boon from the band Inspiral Carpets each week. Another was when I was going to a fancy dress party shortly after work, so spent the last bit of my shift dressed as a Blues Brother! BBC Radio Cumbria was also one of my regular stations, which is where I now work.
To broadcast travel news well takes skill which is quite niche – similar but essentially different to presenting or news reading. Travel broadcasters assimilate information from various sources to bring you what you hear on-air, without verbatim scripts and often with only a short amount of time between bulletins for various stations around the country. I know I’m a better broadcaster having worked at INRIX, alongside many talented colleagues. My thoughts are with those affected by the changes.
Back in December 2016, during a busy Christmas party season, I recorded myself delivering a travel bulletin on BBC Radio Manchester for a Facebook live video. If you want to see what it was like ‘behind the scenes’ in the travel news centre, here it is…
Coronavirus: Week nine in self-isolation
I’ve been out of the house for the first time! Was it for a lovely walk? A delicious take-away meal, perhaps? No, neither of those; I had to visit the emergency dentist. A literally painful reminder that the outside world, as well as the one inside my mouth, is continuing regardless of any precautionary quarantine for Covid-19.
Some context: In January I had a wisdom tooth taken out by the wonderful team at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal. When lockdown restrictions came into force, I was grateful to have had the procedure done before it got any more serious.
Flash forward to this week, and the partially erupted wisdom tooth on the opposite side didn’t feel right, followed by a headache and sore throat. Then, in the middle of Monday night, the pain started. Swelling also meant I wasn’t able fully open my jaw. I couldn’t eat solid food or talk properly, without looking like a ventriloquist.
I tried home remedies to ease the pain and swelling and was going to wait to see if it got better. No such luck until my neighbour rang about something completely different. She’s a dentist and, while on the phone, was able to diagnose me. She said I must call the emergency dentist. I was wishing I’d had both bottom wisdom teeth pulled out when I was in hospital, but I’d only recently had an x-ray which showed the tooth was fine. I’d also been for a dental check-up, just before this self-isolation started.
Dental surgeries aren’t yet open for business, understandably, but I was able to contact mine. My dentist prescribed some antibiotics and we met in the surgery car park to pick them up. A surreal socially-distanced situation. The pills were put on a tray, which was placed on the ground to pick up and we kept two metres apart.
I’m still working from home, which has been a godsend with these dental issues, to be honest. This week in May is the third anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing. I edited an interview with a young woman from Cumbria who was there at the Ariana Grande concert.
Thoughts of the 22 people who were killed and those who were injured are never far from my mind. I’m proud of my Mancunian roots and went to school with Martyn Hett, who was one of the people who died. I wrote more about my thoughts in this blog post at the time. Three years on and the aftermath is that people are living with grief and some of the survivors with with physical or mental health conditions as as well. Even now, it’s hard to comprehend this act of terrorism.
Manchester is a truly fantastic city – it’s the spirit of the people that make it so. The Oasis song Don’t Look Back in Anger was cathartic for many after the attack and still is. I listened to the track again on 22 May and lit my bee candle in honour of the 22. They will never be forgotten and are always in our hearts. #WeAreManchester.
Coronavirus: Week eight in self-isolation
Lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly by the UK government this week. It’s not made much of a difference to my personal situation though; I’m still self-isolating as a precaution and working from home.
At this point, all the weeks are becoming quite similar. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. I find that easier to think of than how long I might be at home for. My own situation will probably need to last until the end of June, at the earliest. Longer than I initially expected.
The hardest thing to come to terms with is, when I do eventually finish my period of self-isolation, things won’t be like they used to. When I return to my usual work base in Carlisle, I won’t be able to hug colleagues who I haven’t seen for months. Instead, we’ll stay two metres apart. There’ll be leaves on the trees on the road leading up to our house, which I haven’t yet seen. People will be wearing PPE on public transport. The list goes on.
For some people, the prospect of not leaving the house for more than two months must seem daunting. The reality is that it’s just become a way of life for me now and I’m used to it. The key thing is to try not to dwell on the negatives. There are some positives to quarantine, like reading more books, re-discovering music (really listening, not just having it on in the background) and having time to reflect about ourselves. Life usually comes at a fast pace and, if anything, slowing down means we’re able to take stock.
Over the past week or so I was nominated on Facebook to post the covers of 10 albums which greatly influenced my taste in music. A challenge right up my street! I thought I’d elaborate a little about my choices. Here we go then, in no particular order:
I love the ‘chillout’ genre. To me, Zero 7’s first album epitomises everything I love about that style of music. Simple Things features the wonderful Sia Furler on many tracks. The very first radio interview I did was with Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker for Fuse FM, ahead of a great gig at Manchester Academy in 2009.
The track Eple was what first introduced me to the electronica genre of music. I feel this was when I was truly developing my own taste, rather than being influenced by my Mum’s Easy Listening or Dad’s Prog Rock. This is a brilliant album from the Norwegian band which has downtempo and house influences.
Wonderwall was the first single I bought. Back in the days when you had to physically go into a record store to do something like that. (It seems a world away from these current times of downloads and streaming! Sad to think the occasion of doing that is now lost, but the modern day way is more convenient and instant, I suppose.) Wonderwall is included in this album, along with many other iconic tracks. Listening to Oasis makes me think of my proud Mancunian roots.
Long before Coldplay were a band headlining stadiums, this was their first studio album. I remember being blown away when I first heard the track Yellow and followed the band since then. Their sound has developed, over the years, but there’s something still very special about this debut album.
I could have chosen any of Jamiroquai’s studio albums to be included in this list. A Funk Odyssey was what I heard that made me want to discover more about the band though. I loved their fusion of acid jazz with the pop genre. When I was with Fuse FM, I presented an overnight special feature the back catalogue of Jamiroquai’s music. Great memories.
The distinctive sound of French House music, which the Daft Punk duo are the masters of. There’s so many fantastic tracks on this album. Digital Love was the first I encountered by watching a music video channel. This album makes a good use of sampling from other songs. This is what has often encouraged me to seek out how the original pieces sound too. A ‘Discovery’ indeed. (I actually wrote about the sampling of George Duke in Daft Punk’s Digital Love in this blog, seven years ago this month. Time flies!)
I received M People’s final studio album on cassette for Christmas in 1997. It features the inimitable voice of Heather Small. There’s something so joyous about the band’s sound that I love and there’s a great cover of Roxy Music’s Avalon on this album. The band have another Manchester connection for me. I saw them perform live years later at the city’s arena, which is one of my most memorable gigs. We literally went down Angel Street to get there as well.
Another from the House / Dance genre. This album was recommended for me to listen to and I’ve been a fan ever since. It got me through a long coach journey to France as a teenager, listening on repeat! The individual tracks are all good but the album as a whole tells a story with music. I was lucky enough to see this performed live at Manchester Academy in 2010. Great to just lose yourself in while listening.
Well, what can I say about this masterpiece that won’t have already been said over the years? The full Tubular Bells remains one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard; there’s so much variety to it. It’s difficult to hear the beginning an not think of the film The Exorcist though, but there’s so much more to it than that. A truly epic listen. Play it loud!
I had to make a nod to my passion for musicals somewhere in this list and Grease was probably the catalyst for me. So many hits from the film but what’s great about the soundtrack album is that it also includes the Sha Na Na tracks from the school dance scenes. I had this album on cassette and have a feeling it may have worn out from being played so much!
It’s obvious, from looking at those choices, that 2001 must have been a pivotal year for shaping my musical tastes. Other years have great influence too, many dating back before I was born, and not just limited to this list. I don’t get it when people say music “wasn’t from their era”. The great thing about discovering music is you can listen to anything and develop an appreciation for it. In the Internet age, it’s easier to do than ever before.
Coronavirus: Week seven in self-isolation
“We’ll meet again”, Dame Vera Lynn’s war time classic song that’s been given a new sense of importance. People all over the UK and Europe commemorated the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe day) during lockdown, because of the coronavirus pandemic. I tried to mark the occasion as best I could, while staying at home. I even added to my baking repertoire with a batch of scones for an afternoon tea. How quintessentially British…
In my day job, I produced some items for BBC Radio Cumbria’s Bank Holiday programmes and news output this week. As ever, working from home, while sometimes challenging, is providing great structure to my days in self-isolation and offers a chance to immerse myself in the output.
Due to the wonders of technology, I was able to report live into the breakfast programme, for something we call an ‘illustrated two-way’ in radio. This is where the presenter asks the reporter questions about a news story and the answers are punctuated with audio clips. While these often sound like off the cuff chats, they actually require a great deal of research.
It was lovely to be back live on-air again, all from the comfort of my living room (while sitting as close to the router as possible) and connecting via a special app on my iPhone. The range of broadcast journalism work you can actually do while working from home is amazing. Something I’m very grateful for.
On a personal note, I was gutted to miss seeing my Dad on his birthday this week. It was a landmark one and, had circumstances been different, I expect my whole family would have been getting together for a celebration. Instead, it was subdued and I tried to make it as special as I could from afar. No delivery of a present can ever compensate for a hug though. The best way to think of it is that the celebrations are just being postponed, until life gets back to some sort of normality.
The weather’s been warm again this week and it’s been nice to spend time in the garden. I’ve planted some tomato plants in the greenhouse for the first time and they’re already springing into life. A reminder though, if you are spending time in gardens, there are ticks around. As a former ‘city girl’ I hadn’t much experience of this, until one latched onto my partner and I had to get it out. That saved a trip to the doctors, which would have been the first time either of us has been out of the house for more than 50 days.
Later today, (Sunday, 10 May) Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to address the nation. There’s all kinds of speculation about what this might be, perhaps relaxing of certain restrictions? We’ll find out shortly. Whatever it is I’m still going to be sticking with my precautionary self-isolation as best I can. As someone with two “underlying health conditions”, I don’t want to take any chances.
For many people, the lockdown has been difficult, I’m well aware of that. There are many facets to each individual situation. For me, the prospect of contracting Covid-19 and what may happen because of that is just as scary now, seven weeks on, as it was on day one when my self-isolation started.