And the winner is…

This week has seen the radio and audio industry awards, The Arias from the Radio Academy, give out its latest set of gongs. Congratulations to the winners and commiserations to the losers and all who felt “robbed”.

I’ve had a long history with awards during my career- winning a few, judging very many, and attending a fair few too. Sadly I was unable to attend this week’s event, despite the invitation, as I was caught in a diary clash which just meant to was impossible to be in two places at once, no matter how I tried!

I’ve had many conversations with colleagues about the value, importance and effort involved in awards entries. For the uninitiated, The Arias are the Radio & Audio industry premier awards and rose from the ashes of the Sony Radio Awards which preceded them. I remember way back at one of the last Sony Awards evenings, which coincided with a release of Rajar I remember and I think it was Chris Evans who said from the stage whilst hosting, “Which would you rather have? A Sony gold win or a Rajar win?”. At the time I was lucky enough to be sat on a table with Ashley Tabor-King from Global who was directly opposite me on the table and we both caught each other’s eye at that exact moment and mouthed “Rajar” in sync. It was, and I think remains, a no brainer in terms of that choice, but that doesn’t mean an award win is meaningless.

Nobody should enter any awards lightly. The level of effort to mount any award entry is quite frankly, huge. Anyone who has done it will know that it isn’t something you relish. It involves a lot of gathering of audio (that you banked and forget where you put it months earlier), writing and rewriting paragraphs and then sub editing it down to get within the word count and trying to be as economical with words to hit the magic number without losing the impact of what you are trying to prove! Even after all of that effort, if your audio entry doesn’t stand up then you know it will be all for nothing- its a radio and audio awards not a writing awards! There are a few times when compiling entries that the team I’ve been leading and I have decided to cull a few options and drop a few entries after a few weeks work, having taken stock and decided that it just isn’t going to pass muster. Even the most organised and forward planned teams I’ve been involved with have found the day of hitting submit as stressful and challenging as ever- every time. Every year also sees the deadline being extended for submission right at the last minute!

This year I judged some awards- not just the Arias and I won’t say which categories of course, but found it huge fun. The breadth of content, talent, effort and creativity was just breathtaking. We should be hugely proud of the ability to produce some amazing content within our industry and the really high bar we have when it comes to standard. It really is the cream of the crop. I know there are probably many more possible entries which didn’t get entered because of not having the material too, and so its a rich stream of content we have in UK Radio and Audio.

Where is the value?

Being held in great esteem by your peers, highlighted and championed as producing good work is something to enjoy, savour and relish after all. From a very personal perspective it also have great meaning- probably far more to the individual than any Rajar win might be in actual reality. Winning an award of very personal, and it follows you for the rest of your career. You will always be “award winning”, and whilst ratings success is equally great, the number of people who can claim and award win is far smaller and therefore from a personal achievement perspective its more favourable. The fact that its been chosen and decided by your fellow practitioners is also a key factor… “people who know what it is like to do what I do, think I do it quite well actually”, and that is massive. So if you have an award in your downstairs toilet, or tucked under your stairs, or if you are holding a newly won award today- bloody well done!

The world of radio and audio is also quite small. I’ve often said that “Radio is a village” and so having a few of the great and the good in one room is a fabulous experience from all. Meeting old friends, introducing yourself to new ones and catching up with people is a fairly rare event. All the more reason why I was disappointed not to be there this week! I remember a Sony Awards once when the former lead singer of The Undertones, Feargal Sharkey was at the Radio Authority. Feargal and I had met only a few weeks earlier when he visited Nottingham and came to Trent. We had kind of hit it off in a way and seemed to have developed some rapport. After the awards I was standing at a table when Feargal approached and we were chatting, and then John Peel appeared and joined in. Here I was, chatting with the lead singer of The Undertones and the legendary John Peel (who arguably was responsible for his band’s success and has lyrics from Teenage Kicks on his tombstone). Pinch me! Equally I remember when Terry Wogan won Gold for breakfast, beating out Jo & Twiggy at Trent into Silver and sitting having a most bizarre, but delightful, conversation with Terry at the Radio 2 table who seemed to be apologising for his win. Rarified air in the radio village.

In a world of added value, only focussing on what makes a difference and adds to the bottom line, its all too easy to dismiss awards ceremonies and the winning of awards as self-congratulatory nonsense. Unnecessary fluff, expense and froth which you can do without. Maybe there is a bit of that from time to time, and I can certainly see that a gathering of media types saying how great they all are and patting themselves on the back can be painted as something less than important or even unsavoury. Equally getting the critical approval and endorsement from ones industry colleagues who understand what it takes to make something decent and well respected, is part and parcel of what makes it “well respected” in the first place.

Take a bow!

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Published by Dick Stone

Radio...its always been radio.

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