Being back on BBC Radio Norfolk with Stephen Bumfrey yesterday was a blast. But I’d been more nervous than I can ever remember being when I walked down into Norwich. Three years since I’d been on “proper” radio, so maybe it’s understandable. In the end, I needn’t have worried. When we finished, I checked my phone, and we’d got lots of lovely feedback. It felt like I’d never been away, and the chemistry was still there, even after not having seen each other for such a long time.
There is a certain beauty in sitting in a professional radio studio, with one eye on the presenter you’re talking to, and one eye on the studio clock behind that presenter, always aware of the seconds ticking away, always aware that programmes are slotted together in a certain way, and that when the clock hits a certain time there are only x seconds left until you need to stop talking, and stop talking with a decent wind-up rather than cutting yourself off in mid-sentence. None of this over-running by a few seconds/minutes like we can afford to do on Radio Stradbroke, because there’s only an offline stream to follow us at 1pm. I’m very fortunate that I learned this quite early on when I first got the opportunity to be on people’s radios across the country. That day when I sat in a darkened studio in London and did 13 interviews with 13 different local radio stations down an ISDN line is fresh in my memory, and taught me that I had to be precise yet personable, that I had to listen to certain inflections in unseen presenters’ voices that would be cues to finish talking in the next seconds. I remember being so excited to do that succession of interviews, and buzzing for days afterwards.
A lot of people don’t realise that radio presenters don’t just pitch up five minutes before their show starts, nor that they don’t just make it up as they go along. The fact is that they put in as much work off air as they do on air. A four-hour programme will take four hours to prepare (on a good day). The systems in professional radio studios are vastly more complex than the primitive 1-mixer and two computers set-up I have here in the office (and I must admit I’d dearly love to learn how to use one of those complex desks they have), and rely on split-second timing. Even I often need three hours to put together my 3-hour shows, especially the New Music Friday shows which involve a lot of hunting around for something good to play. And however spontaneous radio sounds most of the time, it is spontaneity within an existing framework (yesterday, I was scheduled to be in the 15:20 slot, and we started our segment at 15:19:45, which is damn impressive – you can listen again here for a month after the show went out – and I have linked to the point at which we start talking). I do try to think of links between records. Yesterday, I tried to think of complete sentences and phrases to use once I got on air. And I had two sides of notes with bits highlighted that I could glance at so I got all the credits in for the artists involved in the making of Marina Florance’s Annie C. And the reaction to that song in the studio was amazing, better than I had expected. Goosebumps and silence. That’s how a good song is defined. And that made me very happy indeed.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 191