The Students are in town..


Image from Bradford City of Film

The Student Radio Association is hosting it’s 2012 conference in Bradford. I think I came to a student radio here when I was at Uni – indeed it may have been the one when I won my student radio award – back in 1992. Then again, it could have be en Hull – we went there too. Wherever it was, it wasn’t as big as this conference.

In fact, there’s very little I remember from that conference, apart from a talk from a record plugging company, a panel with Liz Kershaw (who presented the awards) and a load of drinking. And I think we borrowed a few traffic cones. But that could have been the conference at Hatfield Uni. Again – its blurry. And I’m sure they borrowed them back when the conference came to Canterbury..

The conference in Bradford is a whole world away from that one:
There’s a search for the voice of the awards (previous entrants have ended up being used as Radio 1 station voices). There’s Demo Factor – where students face a judging panel to give them real honest feedback. Plus panels from loads of industry professionals ranging from news to show production to engineering and of course marketing and promotions (10am on the Tuesday btw..)

What’s exciting from events like these is that people are still excited by a career in radio. Sure, some want to be on air but many want to get involved in producing radio too. And it’s great to see a whole host of former student radio people who now work in radio giving up time to contribute to panels and discussions. There’s a full list here

The most important thing you’ll learn at events like this is the power of networking. Talk to people. Listen to people. And remember that those people will sometimes know the people that you really want to get to know. Build relationships online with these people – you never know when they could be a doorway to the one introduction that gets you into the job that you really want.

And don’t steal the traffic cones.

A Demon of an Opportunity

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Media department of De Montfort University in Leicester. I was there as a guest of Rob Watson, who runs the Media Technology Degree.

Every year, they invite a load of industry practitioners from various areas – from business, to engineering to creative – to talk to the students about their real world experiences. We were on a panel called “It’s all going interactive”. You can read more about it here.

My fellow panelists were  Andrew Dudfield – who manages navigation for BBC Online and Chris Skinner who is a freelance producer for shows like Dave Gorman on Absolute Radio and The Bugle Podcast. We all shared some of our experiences in getting into radio, and I also shared some audio tips on creating and developing audio brands.

What was good to see was the enthusiasm from so many of the students. What also really amazed me was the opportunity they have available to learn new skills.

Rob showed us around the facilities of the department – and there’s a jaw dropping amount of learning spaces. From fully specced Pro Tools HD suites to acoustic engineering workshops; a green screen studio; AVID suites and even a mixing studio with a huge analogue NEVE desk.

And then there were the facilities on offer to the students who work on the student/ community radio station – Demon FM. All of the students on the course have the opportunity to get involved – planning, producing and presenting shows. They have 4 production booths for pre recording and prepping shows. Plus an office/ talks studio too. And they’re equipped with access to all the IRN feeds and news management tools to be found in any big newsroom. To be blunt – a wealth of opportunity they are unlikely to have to hand in many real world stations.

The temptation for many is to emulate what already exists. Some want to produce station sound that emulates Capital or Radio 1. Some want to be just like Chris Moyles or Greg James. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, this will probably be the one station that they get to work in where they can pretty much do what they like. Test out some new formats,
devise new ways of doing things, write some experimental drama, broadcast some sound art, or try out some comedy. It’s precisely the place where you can try and fail.

I really hope that they realise that this is their chance to experiment and create something fresh and exciting, learn some new skills and think differently. And then hopefully reap the rewards that should follow when they create something extraordinary.