It’s amazing what can happen within a year.
On leaving the Radio Festival in Salford last October, the mood was positive,
but deep down things felt uncertain.
The uncertainty became public a few weeks later when it was announced that the Radio Academy would be making a few structural changes, and the more outgoing mood shown at this year’s festival proves that maybe there was a bit of an overeaction.
In short there are other ways of celebrating radio, than spending four hours in an expensive hotel in hope of getting a ceramic radio.
This year’s Radio Festival settled back to in to London, and the lovely location of the British Library which was perfect for a special performance from jazz pixie Jamie Cullum brought in to launch a special pop-up radio station combining the services
of both the BBC and Jazz FM.
See they can work together!
As with all new things, it can be quite a challenge, and save for one or two sessions overrunning, putting the crux of radio into one day all in one room was a good move
and something that can be worked on over the coming year
to make the 2016 festival even better.
In the meantime, a reflection on 2015’s event and a rundown of some of my favourite sessions.
Chris Evans – In Conversation
A good session at any conference is one that changes perception.
Many assumed that after five years on Radio 2’s breakfast show Evans may
be reaching his peak with the news of two big telly ventures.
This year’s Radio Festival gave the presenter a platform to explain how he manages
to fit it all in, and how all of it is done with the upmost care and love.
In his own words, ”We shouldn’t do anything a kid can do in his bedroom”;
an aspect of radio and television getting tougher by day with improved DIY video
and audio platforms.
Yet Evans manages to achieve it successfully, partly down to a hindsight that certain
projects have a shelf-life, with the TFI Friday revival this autumn being the last outing
for the show proper, in order to focus more on Top Gear.
Though if anyone saw the special earlier this summer, it could be argued
that the last half was a Top Gear audition as a whole.
In all seriousness, there’s not many Chris Evans around in broadcasting.
Individuals who don’t just take on lots of projects, but put the love
and a lot of hard bloody work into them.
Save for a cheap shot towards Radio X from the host of the talk, this was really inspiring.
A chance to hear a viewpoint on what young people want from radio, by a young listener
themselves, in this case Loren-Corbitt-Hassit from the Brit School.
Her enthusiastic response to Radio 1’s audience researcher Patrick Collins suggested
that when it comes to music they still want to be informed first on the newest stuff
out there, but also want to hear older tunes as well, but not in their own designated slot
such as Kisstory, or Nick Grimshaw’s “Nixtape”.
To their ears, R Kelly can be classed as nostalgic.
Spoken content is also pleasing, though if Loren’s words were anything to go by,
LBC shouldn’t be getting too excited about the prospect of younger listeners.
As explained in a later session, speech is pretty much covered via Youtube vloggers
leading the bosses at BBC Radio 1 into a bubble that it’s the be all and end all
of their future presenting talent.
Linking nicely to a question from the audience asking how Radio 1,
(in two years today), will celebrate it’s 50th milestone in 2017.
If it’s still going the way it’s doing so at present, there will be a lot of utterances of
“ask your mum/dad”.
Janet Street Porter – “Humble Pie”
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this talk on first hearing about it.
After it had finished I stood up to applaud.
The former head of “yoof” programming at the BBC managed to say out loud
what I (and possibly many others) have been thinking about the BBC effectively
celebrating a wet dream, seemingly aiming solely for middle class audiences.
Not just that, but the corporations ongoing celebration of average via branding
exercises set up for the sake of it.
Porter’s speech also reflected the problems of “too many meetings and too little action”
something that has caused the sitcom W1A to jump the shark as such, and it’s about
time someone laid in to the blandness and forced innuendos of the Bake Off.
Whilst television related, radio is also in need of a kick up the bum, and it prompted
thoughts asking what the point is of the “BBC Music” brand.
Granted it did give us the superb John Peel Lecture from Brian Eno earlier
in the festival, but the BBC had managed to do so without the umbrella brand
and as part of 6 Music alone.
Does the viewer/or listener really care about subsidiary brands, as opposed to the stuff
that’s going on them?
Hopefully the audio of all the sessions was recorded, as Porter’s speech will make
a lot more sense in her own words than in my summing up.
Overall a badly needed wake up call to the upper echelons of the BBC.
Nicky Pattinson – Selling Ideas and Yourself
One of my ones to watch this festival. Only I didn’t expect it to be as bonkers
and hilarious as it played out.
The “mad woman from Yorkshire” as many delegates (and Nicky herself) referred
to after the festival, gave a lively much needed air of energy seeing as the festival
was nearing it’s end and overunning.
The talk explained how in circumstances potentially of no return, it is genuinely possible
to make a positive difference by focusing on what you’re doing good now,
not what you’ve done badly in the past.
An area I have struggled with in the last year admittedly, putting all the energy into
just one thing that has a higher chance of not materializing, instead of spreading
it about over other projects.
With no holds-barred, and a lively approach, Nicky Pattinson has to be given a
longer slot at next year’s festival.
Other talks worth mentioning of worth, Richard Curtis from his New York kitchen
updating on the progress of Radio Everyone (and Fi Glover’s great handling of the technical mess ups), Christian O’Connell’s probe into the harsh honesty of his listeners,
Paul Gambacinni’s interview reflecting on his arrest, and Phil Critchlow on how radio
has made it to the cinema screen.
Radio faces challenges in the coming year, a given.
But if handled with great energy and affection, it will continue to thrive and
the relaunched Radio Academy will allow it to be done so effectively, but in a way that’s also affordable.
I’m rather excited about it actually.