Today’s the 10th anniversary that World Radio Day has been marked. It was set up by UNESCO to celebrate how the medium keeps communities connected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel that this is as important as ever.
Whether on a local, national or a worldwide scale, radio has been innovative and evolved to allow a diverse range of voices to be heard. Evolution, innovation and connection are very appropriate themes for this year’s event.
“Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium.
This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.
Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.”UNESCO
I was at a conference run by the Community Radio Association at the University of Salford, about eight or nine years ago, when a guest speaker talked about communities around the world that would otherwise have not had access to the medium. By listening to radio there was a connection felt, by those invisible waves travelling through the air.
The talk had a profound effect on me – how a radio station’s content has the ability to directly impact people’s lives. Examples of this happening over years are endless and every station will have its own. Access to radio itself is the first step to this feeling of connection. For instance, Trevor Baylis’ invention of a wind-up radio relaying information to communities around the world that had limited access to electricity and / or batteries.
Then there are the calls to action that can be elicited by what’s broadcast. The most recent example of many that I can recall from the station where I work happened during BBC Radio Cumbria’s ‘Make a Difference’ campaign this week.
A volunteer from Silloth Community Hub, a shop where people pay what they can afford for food, had been speaking on Mike Zeller at Breakfast. Listening on his way to work was the manager of a local supermarket who was put in touch with the hub and agreed to make regular deliveries of food donations.
Radio has evolved to survive, listening today will sound very different to that of a decade ago, as the medium moves along to reflect the lives of the audiences that are served by it. It will sound different again in 10 years’ time too. Innovation is as apparent as ever currently, as stations adapt to keep broadcasting while staff work from home during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to do so.
Happy World Radio Day! #WRD2021
We’re more than halfway through England’s second lockdown now… or are we? Time will tell whether it gets extended or not. Here’s an update on how it’s been for me so far. Earlier in the year, I was self-isolating for shielding purposes. In lockdown 2.0 this hasn’t been compulsory so, while I’ve been staying at home as much as possible, I haven’t been keeping a weekly diary. Instead this blog post will be a whistle-stop tour.
I’ve been working from home for eight months. I joined BBC Radio Cumbria in August 2019, so I’ve actually now been home office based for the station longer than I was based in Carlisle. I’m still producing content for the breakfast programme, making audio packages and able to broadcast live reports.
When I eventually go back to the newsroom in person, it will feel quite a different place because there have been colleagues who have retired or left the BBC recently by taking voluntary redundancy. All will be greatly missed and I wish them the very best of luck in the future.
Outside of work, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been organised this year to have completed all my Christmas shopping well in advance. Although it is a stash of gifts that is getting perpetually added to, depending on the different things I spot! Even though non-essential shops are shut, for the time being, many have an online presence that you can support and buy items from.
There’s also the rise of Virtual Christmas Fairs. One of the biggest I’ve seen on Facebook has been set up by a woman from Kendal who is raising money for the NHS Morecambe Bay Trust charity. It has more than 270 online ‘stalls’ selling handmade products, via pages like Etsy for about 8,000 members on the page – and that number is rising.
More restaurants seem to be set up to provide take aways now. Recently, for example, I enjoyed a boxed afternoon tea which was put together to raise funds to provide elderly people in our village with a festive meal. I’m glad to have been able to support local businesses in this way, in what are extremely challenging times.
That’s not to say the kitchen has been empty. There may have been the trend of baking banana bread in the first lockdown but I feel that my culinary skills have gone up a gear, having baked a Christmas cake. I’m yet to discover how successful it is, because this will be ‘fed’ with brandy and iced in the lead up to the big day. With so much alcohol and fruit in there though, it hopefully shouldn’t taste too bad!
“The show must go on”, as the old adage of theatre goes. Although, during the coronavirus pandemic, this has been incredibly difficult for the arts and entertainment industry. Any ticketed indoor venue has to weigh up the social distancing and sanitising costs against any potential profit they can make by putting on a show with a reduced audience. For a lot of theatre companies, it’s currently not a viable option.
Therefore, for many of us, we have to think back to pre-lockdown times to remember the last occasion when we were sat in an auditorium together, watching a live performance on stage. However, this past week offered a chance to see the latter streamed live into our own homes. On Tuesday, this was supporting theatres across the north of the UK, where the doors have been closed to the public for at least the last six months.
The performance was Romantics Anonymous, put on by the Wise Children theatre company. The story is based on the French-Belgium romantic comedy film Les Émotifs Anonymes, which has been adapted into a musical by Emma Rice. The plot is predominantly set in a chocolate factory. It follows the lead characters: Angélique – a shy chocolatier, and Jean-René – the factory manager, as they fall in love despite their social anxieties.
All the actors have been in a bubble together, which meant there was no social distancing necessary on stage – they could sing, dance and kiss each other, just like in old times. The performance was streamed live from Bristol Old Vic and each night this supported theatres in a specific region of the UK or the USA, with the funds generated in the price of a virtual ticket. Theatres close to my heart, as well as geographically, that were hosting the show that I saw were Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, The Lowry in Salford and Home, Manchester.
It was great escapism to watch this musical; for a couple of hours, life felt normal again. The story was sweet, just like chocolate, and I particularly liked the stylised elements of the staging – there were hardly any doors used on set, for example. The car chase scene was also performed innovatively without a physical car, as such. No spoilers – but there was mini remote controlled version!
Another adage of theatre is “the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd” – or is it the other way around? There was a socially distanced show performed to a seated audience at the end of the week. However, for the majority of the shows, there may not have been an audience in person to see the performance but it will have been enjoyed by many people, viewing over a screen as part of 2020’s ‘new normal’.