After working at essentially the same place (companies bought and merged etc) for a third of a century, I was made redundant at the end of August 2020. This was for all intents and purposes, my first job after leaving school. I was very lucky. I have been very lucky for my whole career. I worked in a job which many would consider being a paid hobby, doing what I love and being paid for it. That said, the end of that season of work made me stop and take a view. It was something that I’ve not really done before, probably not really had the time or the inclination to sit and navel gaze. It is only when the days spread out and unread email count reduces to zero that you can then spend some real meaningful time considering not just what you are going to do next- more on that in another post maybe, but also just what exactly you have done up to now. Taking stock was something I thought might be interesting.
A now famous post from Dan O’Day came to mind- Dan is a very well known US radio and communication consultant and someone I’ve met now a few times over the years. For the basics and nuts and bolts of radio Dan has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge and probably an audio example of it too. The post from Dan, he himself says is, “the most popular thing I have ever written” is here. It came to mind when I was taking stock of all that I’d done in the various roles I had held up to September 2020. Much of what Dan mentions rang a bell, and matched what I had experienced during my career so far. Dan’s post is elegantly written and whilst it was in my mind when I was taking stock, I didn’t want to lift or copy either here and that’s not the purpose of this post, or my taking stock of where I have been.
To begin at the beginning. Well, actually the real beginning was playing with a Bush radio at home and spending hours up and down the dial, then building a studio in my bedroom and doing “shows” to a speaker in the kitchen, but fast forward a little. I began in hospital radio in my home city whilst I was still at school. I remember well the very first time I visited Radio Link in the City Hospital in Derby (neither of those exist today!)- I said almost nothing for the entire visit. I arrived around teatime and found the studio under Ward 2 of the hospital where the person I had contacted, the late Keith Hook, was editing an interview he had recorded with someone on a Brennan reel to reel tape deck. The station was not on the air at the time as it started broadcasting at 7pm each evening and so this was the “prep” time. Little did I know then that this would be the first step in a journey that I would be taking for the next 40 years! Truth is I almost didn’t go back a second time. I was nervous and shy- hence not saying much but because of that I was also very nearly not invited back either. It was also two bus rides, or an hour walk from home each way- or later in my time there it was a 30 min bike ride each way in the rain.
This, though, was the start of me satisfying my thirst for radio. I stayed at Radio Link for about 9 years, becoming Head of Programmes and doing a Breakfast Show- which was a first at the time as the station only broadcast in the evening and weekends- despite the bike ride at 4am!
That was where it all began. Thats where the roots were first planted.
Having sent demos and been rejected from a lot of stations I finally joined Radio Trent doing my first show on my birthday at the end of December 1986.
This isn’t a history or a story of my career, its a stock take, so what did I do?
During my time I did breakfast to my home town, did overnights in a haunted building (great when the lift moves at 3am and you know the building is empty), filled in for everyone on the schedule (except the classical, rock and arts shows- yes those things existed), carted commercials, wrote out PRS forms, carried records to the studio in a shopping basket (still don’t know where I got that from), did an album chart show, broadcast live from LA, went to New Orleans twice and San Diego once, drove around a lot- to Harlow, Wrexham, Gloucester, Birmingham and everywhere in between, to Bristol and Swindon lots, flew to Glasgow lots, stood in Cardiff Castle in the rain. Trained new people (lots), coached older experienced people, found new talent, created presentations (lots), magic Excels, experienced 132 ratings releases- Jicrar and Rajar. Did hundreds of OBs, stood on a lot of stages, started a lot of events, cut a few ribbons, sharpened a lot of chinagraph pencils and cleaned a lot of tape heads. I’ve also made a lot of friends and learnt everything from them.
I made a lot of mistakes. Embarrassing mistakes at times, like the first album chart show I did when CDs were just coming into use and so I took in my own CD player to play something from a CD for the first time. I forgot to pull out the transport bolt which locked the laser in place when you moved the unit, so live on air pressing play… silence! In the same show, partly down the the CD incident, I mis-timed it and left only 1 minute for the number 1. Every chart I’ve ever done since that day was timed out to the second with pie charts and nothing taken for granted. Lesson learnt.
Everything I’ve done over the last few years has helped to form a view on things which happen today. Lessons learned from previous experience and used to formulate a plan of how to address the issue in front of me today.
I’ve said that I have been lucky and I really believe that to be true. I’ve also said to many people over the years that this should be fun. The chances of working where I worked, doing what I’ve done are remote. It has always been hard to get a job in my industry, and so it just has to be fun when you get there.
Stock taken. Onto the next thing…