Jan 102013
 
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No Quarter Given Website

I’ve been thinking about how the No Quarter Given Show that learners on my final year radio production module can be developed. We have been producing programmes that are broadcast each week on DemonFM, every Saturday from 12 to 1pm. A small group of learners have been consistent about developing and producing the content, but it doesn’t feel like it is enough, and the momentum that we gained in the early stages of the programme is in danger of falling back and slowing down.

I’ve taken a bit of a plunge and set-up a blog site at www.noquartergiven.co.uk that will interface with a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. The aim is to post and share content on the site and the pages, and then link them with the DemonFM site so that the content can be reformatted and pushed on as a podcast or as part of the DemonFM website.

I’ve not done any design for the site or the pages yet, other than to use a temporary image and logo that can fit into Twitter, Facebook and an iTunes feed. We will be linking the site to as many feeds and RSS accounts associated with the Leicester arts scene as we can. There is a lot of content that is generated in other site that we can reversion and use to supplement the original content that we produce.

The aim is to develop the site as a multimedia site that uses every form of media – video, images, audio and written content. I will be hosting the site myself, which will mean that I’ll be able to develop the capability of the site at my own pace and using the independent resources that are available to me. It also means that I can give users an email address each if they need it.

I hope this little expedition pays off, and that it allows the learners and other contributors to widen their net, and to take a much broader view of what they are able to produce. Who knows, the more that opportunities there are for sites like this to interconnect with each other, the more we can grow and support the arts and media in Leicester.

Jul 252012
 

If you could sum up the range of cultural activities that are on offer in Leicester, what would be the best word or phrase that you might use? Can such a diverse set of events, performances, exhibitions and talented individuals be brought into a singe phrase or word? Some cities and art movements have achieved this. I’m thinking of The Factory, Andy Warhol’s creative space in 1960s and 70s New York. Or Factory Records in Manchester in the 1980s and 90s, with its associations with the Hacienda Club. They each have a connotation that there is a group of people who are passionate about their art. This was combined with a clear sense that the experience that they promoted was social, intelligent, international but aimed at generating a wide appeal.

Fast forward to Leicester in 2012 and the focus in so many forums is on how artists, performers, writers, photographers, musicians and sound designers (and many more) can showcase their creative and commercial talents in a way that gets a wider audience, and provides the people involved with a living. From Dusk To Dawn‘s website is a hub for creative talent in Leicester, and manages to connect people from different backgrounds and with different aspirations in an interconnected network of creative businesses.

DemonFM has run a show for the last two years that aims to cover events in Leicester’s Cultural Quarter. In the past we have covered events taking place at the Curve Theatre, at Phoenix Arts, at De Montfort Hall, and the many other arts and culture venues, including De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges festival. This year we are looking at renewing the Cultural Quarter show for a new generation of producers and volunteers on the station. With a new name and a new approach, our aim is to reflect the growing sense of community around the creative and cultural sector in Leicester, and to provide a platform where issues are discussed and broadcast as part of a weekly show that will be broadcast on DemonFM.

Kirsty Monroe, Nathan Human and myself met at the Phoenix for a coffee and chatted about what we want from the programme. The first thing we’ve done is decided that the foundation of this programme is going to be based on social media. Using the FD2D site as a central network – the programme is being produced in association with FD2D – we want to collect ideas for stories to be told and discussed on the show by following hashtags in social media. A couple of ideas for these tags range from the mundane to the ridiculous. What do you think of #onthepulse, #coolture #lestart #noquartergiven or #doleicester?

At the same time we are determined to ban some words. So we can’t use ‘culture’, ‘arts’, ’embedded’, ‘accessible’, ‘relevant’, ‘sector’ or ‘engaged’. These all sound like terms that are used in local government strategy meetings, and come across badly on a live radio programme.What other words should we ban?

The next stage is to get out and about and record some content and to put together a couple of pilot shows. Watch this space and follow #noquartergiven for ideas.

Jul 232012
 
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BBC 5 Live Olympic Coverage

BBC 5 Live is running trails that claim that with the BBC you won’t miss a moment of the London Olympics. With the launch of BBC 5 Live Olympic Extra to supplement the main BBC 5 Live station and 5 Live Extra – as well as all the online content that the BBC is churning out – this is going to be a huge chance for radio to do what it does best. Radio and sports coverage go hand-in-hand, and can often be more exciting than sitting about watching the television pictures, or even sitting in the crowd. It’s all in the commentary, the sense of occasion and the excitement that the presentation teams deliver.

At this Olympics communication and broadcasting technology has moved on. The development of mobile communication links, often via mobile phones, is going to be brought to the fore like never before. Reporters and presenters will be able to link to more events and get into hidden-away places more easily than television can. At large events like this radio’s ability to bring live feeds directly and unobtrusively from the track-side is unrivalled. Plus, you can listen to the radio while you are doing other things. The big screen might be seductive, but you can’t go walking or driving with a television on your back.

I’m going to listen to as much of the Olympics as I can on my portable DAB radio. I’m going to keep some notes about what stands out in this coverage and what lessons we can learn for Radio Production at De Montfort University. After all, this is not only a showcase of great sporting talent, it’s a showcase of broadcasting talent as well. If you have ambitions to be a broadcaster, then I’d recommend that this is a great opportunity to listen and learn.

Jul 202012
 
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DMU Technology Graduates 2012

Yesterday was the first De Montfort University Graduation Ceremony that I’ve been to at the Curve Theatre in Leicester. It was a great opportunity to celebrate the achievements and commitment of the graduates from the Faculty of Technology. The venue was packed and the theatrical nature of the event was great. There was a real sense of occasion and a willingness to encourage the graduates and their families to show their support for one another. This wasn’t stuffy in any way. It was easy to follow, and each student got their opportunity to shake the hand of the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor Andy Downton. It was clearly well designed to lay down a marker showing the progression of a whole group of talented and enthusiastic people who are no longer students, but graduates.

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Simon Walsh Gowned-UP

It’s always a good opportunity to spend time with colleagues, who like me seem to enjoy the dressing-up.

Afterwards, Simon Walsh had organised a chance for a drink with some of our graduates and their families in the Font Bar, which is just on the DMU campus. In years gone past the campus was always empty during graduation week, but now that the DMU car parks are being used by the graduates and their families, it is great to see so many people about in their robes and their suits. The campus really feels alive for graduation.

So having a drink gave Simon and I an opportunity to catch-up, connect with people we’d heard about but never met. It was great to see so many people relaxing and chatting, and it gave me a good chance to talk to the parents, siblings, grandparents and friends of the students I’ve been working with for the last three or four years. It’s only when we sat and chatted like this that I felt the force of the pride and backing that our students have received from their families. Everyone who I spoke with was really proud of the personal achievements of everyone, the chances that they had, and the memories they are moving onward with.

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Ryan Reflecting on Three Years

Indeed, it made me realise how much I and my colleagues have to raise our game in the future and deliver an even better service. One that goes beyond the traditional approach to learning, skills and personal development and sees each individual as someone with potential and a fair chance to do well in life based on merit. What I realised when I was sat chatting is that it is all about promoting a sense of community, identity and belonging. Our students and their families really care and have a strong sense of esteem tied with what they do.

It’s great to be able to share that pride and to show in return how proud I’ve been of the work that our students have done. It’s not an even road, and we do have zig-zags along the way, but I can really say that the graduates from BSc Radio Production & Technology are clearly stepping up to the mark. The focus for the future that this group of gradates is now concentrating on is about finding meaningful work in the media industry. The growing sense of confidence and entitlement that this is even possible, and not just a vague dream, is humbling. It’s been my dream for some years now that our graduates are able to easily make these first steps in to a life that they will find rewarding, and it’s great to see it coming on in such a unified way.

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Elle’s Award for Best Media Technology Project

The group mindset of these graduates is that they believe they are capable and entitled to work as professionals in the media industries. The level of professionalism and engagement, based on a mindset that is about innovation and discovery is really exciting – and these guys have it. This batch of graduates clearly get the idea that they have defined and sought after skills that will enable them to produce compelling and interesting radio and audio content. At the same time they are able to do this with a strong grasp of the process and practical realities of the media professions. They know that they have to be entrepreneurial, and they know that the have to embrace new technology, new ways of working and new ways of thinking in order to be successful.

I’m certain that the foundation of skills and knowledge that they have acquired during their time at DMU will help to take them on a journey that will be very different from many gradates of other media courses. When I was asked what the job prospects are like for these graduates, I can honestly reply that I think they are very strong – even in the midst of a recession. This is a generation who are going to figure things out their own way, and who only need the space, encouragement and support to do so. Of course, there is no automatic stepping-stone into the media industries, but if you want a clear example of graduates who are capable of getting meaningful and rewarding jobs, then this is a year to look at.

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Sam Harris Celebrating

Both Simon, myself and my colleagues in the Faculty of Technology don’t want the journey through DMU for these graduates to end at this point. W are very keen to keep in contact. We could never do this easily before, in the direct way, but now it’s possible and easy with Facebook and other forms of social media. We definitely need to be getting on with making plans for some alumni events. Then I’m very keen to organise more family and supporters events as well. Graduation has proven to be a great opportunity to talk with so many people and hear them express their pride in what they have achieved and their believe and confidence as they face the new discoveries of the future.

Oct 162011
 

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Oct 142011
 

Here is the role profile for the Intermission Show Strand Producer:

  • Role: Co-ordinate and facilitate day-teams by maintaining communication links, chasing actions & noting common operational issues (snags).
  • Main Duties: Act as SPOC, update forum & Facebook pages, co-ordinate content scheduling & team availability.
  • Reporting To: Module leader. Keep informed of team issues, resource requirements and training/development requirements.
  • Attributes: Good listener, able to keep detailed records, project management planning, co-ordinate information, calm, well organised.

Application Process: Submit a 1-page CV and 1-page covering letter to Rob Watson by Wednesday 19th October 4pm.
Interviews will be held on Friday 21st October 9am-11am

Oct 122011
 

Here’s the groups for the Intermission Show on DemonFM.

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Intermission Show Production Teams

Oct 112011
 
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Myers-Briggs Personality Testing

At yesterdays TECH3013 Advanced Radio Production workshop we gave some thought to some ideas about how to move forward with the Cultural Quarter Podcasts for DemonFM. The first thing that we did was a Myers-Briggs personality test, which I blogged about when I undertook the test recently as well. What was interesting was the way that these results where spread across a wide range of personality types. Usually when I’ve collated the results from this they have been clustered in the bottom right-hand corner. There is a tendency for media courses to attract extroverts who are good a leading other people. What was fascinating on this occasion was how far spread the results where across a wider range of personality types. Hopefully this will make team-working easier to manage because their will be more complementary and less antagonistic personality types working against one another.

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Cultural Quarter Perception Analysis

The next thing that we did was to analyse the project of producing the Cultural Quarter Podcasts on the basis of their positive or negative connotations. It is fair to say that there has been a certain amount of anxiety about this project, as a good number of students thought that we would be reporting on ballet, opera and literary festivals. When we went through some of the options and discussed the idea of culture in Leicester, it seemed to open-up a wider range of possibilities for people to go off and produce some interesting content.

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Cultural Quarter Production Teams

So the final thing we did was to establish who would be working in which groups, and what roles would they play. The initial breakdown is in three areas – Presentation, Production and Technical. I then set the challenge that we want to have a completed Cultural Quarter Podcast broadcast on DemonFM and posted to the DemonFM website by Friday 21st October, with a review session of the material on Monday 24th October. I was expecting a squeal of pain at such a tight deadline, but to my surprise there was silence. Shocked silence perhaps, but a good sense that the teams will have to move quickly to undertake this work.

The main point of contact and shared information for this project is the Members Message Boards on the DemonFM Forum. I’ve started a thread that will provide us with some space to share some ideas and documents. We are going to use Facebook – the TECH3013 group only – for discussion and alerts.

The main question now is who do we talk to, what’s going to be interesting about what’s happening in Leicester, and how will we package this into something that has pull with the DemonFM audience?

Oct 102011
 
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James Walshe Radio Lab Lecture

I never thought that I’d see more than sixty students sit through more than two hours of a lecture without becoming restless. But tonight, James Walshe, Radio Programmer at Kerrang! achieved what I thought was impossible. James came to the Queens Building to talk to Radio Production and Media Production students at De Montfort University about working for a commercial music station, the role of a programming producer, and the things that people have to do to get work in the radio industry.

James gave us a series of very powerful observations about managing and producing radio content, about running shows and working with presenters, about developing distinctive and creative ideas, about using radio as a friend and a companion, and about treating radio as a theatre of ideas.

I liked the way that James started off. First the bad news – radio is boring! By which he meant that most of what we listen to on the wireless has been devised and developed by people who learnt their trade in the days of tape, and who are barely literate when it comes to using a computers. James was emphatic that it pays to be technically literate these days when working in a radio station. So the good news that James followed with was clear, because the technology that underpins radio has changed so much, we now have much more of a chance to do something about how radio works. As the technology of radio changes, according to James, the chances that new people with new ideas can come into the radio industry are increasing.

James spoke powerfully about how radio stations like Kerrang! are integrating multimedia websites, mobile apps and social media into their programming. James said that it’s difficult to know where the contemporary radio station ends and the online experience begins. James was very confident at making a prediction that the future of radio is mobile – i.e. tied in with the mobile phone, and that soon we will be consuming large parts of our audio content – be it music, talk, news, whatever, – on the move via our mobile phones. James suggested that we will move seamlessly from broadcast to webcast content, while at the time making interactive decisions that the radio stations can data-mine and use in order to provide a more dedicated service.

I asked James what he thought of students getting involved with our community radio station, DemonFM, and he had a simple message. The more experience that anyone can get producing content and working on a radio station, whatever type and for whatever reason, will give them a distinct advantage that will help them when they are applying for work in the radio industry. James’s overall message was that nothing can be achieved if presenters and content producers are not prepared to come up with new ideas and to think more creatively about how they can engage listeners with compelling content.

It was a very memorable talk. Full of great stories and given with loads of heart. Watch out for the next Radio Lab Professional Lecture. If they are anything like this they will be engrossing.

Oct 082011
 
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Myers-Briggs Personality Testing

As an interesting aside I’ve had students undertake a Myers-Briggs personality test as we try to identify productive working teams when hey are running radio production project, such as the Leicester Comedy Festival Podcasts. I’ve not taken the test for a couple of years, and I seem to remember that I came out as an extrovert the last time I did the test.

Imagine my surprise when I took the test again tonight and I came out as an ‘Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving’ personality type. The last time I was listed with Margaret Thatcher and Gandhi – this time I’m listed with Princess Diana & J.K. Rowling. Here’s my profile. I’ll let those of you who know me decide if it’s accurate or not. Have I mellowed with age?

At least it is good to know that your personality can change, but to have it confirmed that as I get older I’m becoming more introverted. As I sit here at home enjoying a nice quiet evening with a book and a glass of wine, I suppose I should have expected it.