Every time I write a blog post I always suffer from the same problem. Once I get started writing I’m fine. I can easily think of things to write. I always find it difficult knowing how to start. I sit at the computer for ages without writing anything. I’ve tried to just type the first thing that comes into my head, just to get me going, but generally the first thing that comes into my head is something completely inappropriate that is best left in my head for all our sakes. My theory is that if I start writing, then my brain will eventually kick in and I’ll eventually start writing something semi-decent. Then I can go back at the end, delete my warm-up introduction and replace it with something amazingly genius. The trouble is however that I tend to forget that part of the process, and so my first attempt remains.
anyway, this should be the point when my brain kicks in and I start writing something amazing and hilarious. … Failing that I could always tell you why I left
What a great idea.
firstly, I’ll try and summarise my time at Southside, starting with my first experience of the station. In case you haven’t read
of this epic story, we’re currently at the stage where I’ve tried to apply to numerous hospital and community radio stations in order to gain some live radio experience, but have been turned down on the basis that I am blind. I was also getting increasingly disillusioned by my visits to these radio stations, as they seemed more interested in time checks, traffic and weather reports and playing moreorless none-stop music in between. I wanted to do so much more than that. So imagine my excitement when I discovered Southside.
I rang the hospital radio station and explained who I was. I wasn’t a celebrity back then you see. Alex, the manager of the station arranged a time for me to come in and sounded enthusiastic. I hadn’t heard any of the station’s output so didn’t know what to expect. I probably expected another experience similar to my previous experiences, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I assumed my first experience of the station would be a brief introductory meeting with the manager. This had been the case for all the other stations. So I prepared myself for half an hour of discrimination and possibly a bit of uninspiring talk about how radio was all about weather, traffic, one minute generic links, and made-up texts from invented listeners. But no. This experience was completely different.
I entered the hospital and located the radio studios. I knocked on the door and was ushered into a cupboard by a teenager. The door was then closed behind me, and I stood opposite a man, seated behind a mixing desk. I was just about to say something when the man spoke.
“Well now we have David Eagle with us who is visiting the station for the first time. Would you like to take a seat David and ask our guest a question?”
This was more a statement than a question, so I sat down in the cupboard, which I realised was obviously actually a very tiny radio studio, and looked around to see where the guest was. There wasn’t anyone else in the studio. I was beginning to think I’d accidentally stumbled in to the section of the hospital that treats the mentally ill instead of a radio studio. I did however recognise the man’s voice as that of the station manager. There was a pair of headphones in front of me. I quickly put them on and spoke in to the microphone, wondering who the hell I was speaking to.
“Hello” I said. Always a good opener I’ve found.
“hello” came the voice at the other end.
There was a pause, and so I proceeded to ask my question.
“How are you?”
“very well thank you” came the response.
Then there was another pause. I waited for a few seconds expecting the station manager to take over, but he didn’t. “Maybe I should ask another question then” I thought. “Who are you” didn’t really seem appropriate, even though that was what I was thinking, as well as “what the hell is going on?”
“So, what have you been up too today?”
“Well” came the voice in my headphones, “we started filming the new series of ‘the Sky at Night’ today which was very exciting” …
”Sir Patrick Moore?
I was talking to Sir Patrick Moore?! There was a pause. It didn’t seem like Alex, the station manager was in any rush to ask anything himself and so I continued. At least I knew who I was talking to now.
“So, what can we expect from the new series then Sir Patrick?”
he started to talk. I was only half listening. I was stunned. I’d literally just walked in the building two minutes ago. I expected a general introduction with the station manager, but now I’m sitting in a cupboard with a mute radio presenter, interviewing Sir Patrick Moore on the radio over the phone.
Alex eventually took over the reins and continued the rest of the interview. After a few minutes, Alex bid Sir Patrick Moore goodbye and put on some music.
“Welcome to southside” he announced,. It certainly was an unorthodox introduction, but now I assumed we’d have a little chat about the station and where I would fit in etc. Alex didn’t seem to think that was immediately necessary. He announced that he needed to go into the other studio to retrieve the phone number of the next guest. By the time he got back there wasn’t time for any off-air chat. The song finished and Alex introduced the listener (and fortunately this time me) to the next guest. I think it was some woman I’d never heard of talking about her cosmetic products or something. I’m not an expert when it comes to cosmetics. I’m just lucky to have been gifted with the kind of face that really doesn’t need any enhancing. I was however prompted to ask the lady some questions and so I conducted my second interview. I’d been trying to get some radio presenting experience for years but to no avail. Now here I was on my first visit to the station talking to Sir Patrick Moore and a random lady about cosmetic products.
Then the programme ended. Finally, I had a reasonably sane introduction to the station. The meeting went really well. I was encourage to produce jingles and production items for programmes and they were enthusiastically received and played out on the station. Within a month of signing up to join the station I was co-presenting with Alex, interviewing all sorts of people. I spoke to
”Sir Jimmy Savile
”and David Vine.
We regularly spoke to television director
Who was directing the new DR who television series, and had also directed DR who in the 70s. These are just a few of the celebrities we spoke to. You can check out the vast and varied array of guests by listening to the back catalogue of over 100 podcasts. I’ll package all the podcasts together in one place at some point, because the website that hosted the podcasts has been taken over, and the main homepage has disappeared. It’s probably a ploy against me. The Internet is conspiring to purge me from it.
So, we’re interviewing all these amazing guests every week. We’re producing some really good content. My production material is being played out on the radio, and everything is going great. But then I make a shocking discovery. In order for the station to survive, it needed a little financial assistance. Every week the station would conduct a raffle to raise money for the station. Someone would walk around the hospital wards selling raffle tickets. One day the person who usually did this duty wasn’t available, and so I took on the role. I went around the wards telling people that we were raising money for the hospital radio station. Some of the people I spoke to commented that they weren’t aware there was a radio station in the hospital. I went round the whole of the hospital selling raffle tickets and discovering that no one knew there was a hospital radio station. I maybe came across a handful of people who knew that there was a radio station in the hospital, and this was merely because they’d been told the week before by the man selling raffle tickets. It became clear that no one in the hospital was listening. No one knew there was a hospital radio station, and if they did know then they had no idea how to listen to it. Since the station wasn’t broadcasting on FM, the station was only being transmitted to the hospital, so that meant we were sitting in a cupboard on a weekly basis, talking to amazing guests like Sir Patrick Moore, Sir Jimmy Savile and Nicholas Parsons, and there was no one listening and appreciating it. It seemed like complete madness. The station manager had managed to accumulate all these brilliant contacts and bring them on to a fantastic radio programme, but hadn’t managed to accumulate an audience. We were basically having private conversations with these people.
This realisation led me to set up the Southside Podcast. Now we’d gone from broadcasting to ourselves in a cupboard, to broadcasting online to the world. Not bad going really. I was already doing a few bits of Voice Over and production work and getting a tiny bit of money for it, so I decided to see if it was possible to expand this with Southside. We found a few companies who wanted to sponsor us and I wrote, voiced and produced adverts for them. This gave some extra revenue to the station and myself, and brought in a lot more money to the station than the raffle. So things were on the up. I’d now taken over podcasting presenting duties and was co-presenting the interviews with Alex. We seemed to be getting listeners too. Plus I was even getting some money for my work. So where did it go wrong? Why have I left Southside. Well it’s getting late and … etc. I’ll be back shortly to talk about that, but we’ll leave the story there on that incredible cliff-hanger.
I’m away all this weekend doing folk stuff, and so sadly you won’t get the rest of the story till sometime next week, so don’t wait up for me OK?