I suppose I had a fairly typical start to my ‘career’ – it’s the rest of it that isn’t standard fare!
I volunteered through a friend of a friend at the BBC as well as ‘selling’ myself as a freelance photojournalist to the local newspaper group. I wrote quite a few successful articles (taking the photos too!), two of which went national and effectively started making cups of tea at the BBC.
I watched and learnt and within a few months I managed to ‘sell’ my first feature as a reporter, which was played into a daily daytime programme strand and was offered my first series as a presenter.
I love visual work – TV and corporate work for all sorts of reasons. The whole creative production process has never ceased to fascinate me, whether that be film, TV, radio, social media and over the years I have simply enjoyed being involved. The challenge of ‘performing’ exactly as the client requires or as I hope to always do, even better than they imagined, gives me immense satisfaction. I love the whole technical process having worked on both sides of the camera and so bring that into my presentation as and when required. It enables me to ‘edit’ in my head and in terms of delivery, I love the ‘technicalities’ of presenting, the ‘art’ of presenting, the ‘diversity’ of presenting as you can jump from delivering hard politics to becoming an expert on the motoring industry to talking about the latest makeup brand. All of which require research, in my opinion, in order to deliver to the best of your ability. I also enjoy both pre-recorded filming and LIVE productions equally, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as that moment when the red light goes on. I have been blessed that I’ve been able to work across so many genres in numerous styles over so many different types of media.
It continues to be challenging each and every day. Just when I think I’ve got the world taped, a global pandemic comes along and I start again. Working on an international channel for the last 5 years, in a country that is deemed controversial made has me understand even more the wide gaps in cultural and political perspectives, decision-making, differing human rights beliefs, social ideologies, etc that exist in our world.
As a naturally pacific, egalitarian, feminist, anti-racist, LGBT-embracing activist, delivering suchlike news, editorialising perspectives that might oppose one’s own views is of course the job of a journalist, but being involved in important debates and stories that reflect atrocities and knowing that legislation in many individual countries and international law will not protect the innocent necessarily, has distressed me at times.
Knowing that the disparity between economic importance and human life is so great – and has been throughout history – is an area that has taught me so much but highlighted so much too. The most interesting side has been acquiring knowledge in these areas, being able to ‘educate’ your audiences as to different sides of an argument and highlighting both ‘good’ and ‘bad news to the world. Again, a very unusual position to find oneself in.
I have also had many years of working at the BBC and a number of smaller international outlets – all with differing remits, so my job as a journalist enables me ‘think’ and deliver in ways that one might not be normally asked to do. I now find myself with Times Radio covering domestic UK news in the main part. This is equally challenging, but the interest remains the same, to be the person who is able to breakdown complex information into appropriate ways for wide but diverse constituencies. Making it palatable and entertaining and delivering as well as I can, is something that I will never get bored of!
‘Famous’ and ‘important’ people beyond counting – Recently Brian Eno, Vivienne Westwood and Chrissie Hynde formed an unlikely but memorable trio of interviewees as I reported on the ‘Free Julian Assange’ rallies in parliament Square.
But in truth, it’s been the ‘Unknown’ who’ve left the really lasting impressions.
In 2017 when I was anchoring the main news programme for RT International in Moscow I met a woman who had founded and ran a refuge in Syria for women and children escaping imprisonment at the hands of various government and terror groups throughout the region, at great risk to herself. People’s bravery and self-sacrifice never ceases to leave me humbled and in sheer awe.
Most recently, I again covered the Syrian peace talks in Astana and I managed to get an exclusive interview with Staffan di Mistura – the UN envoy for Syria at the time and basically Mr Syria for many years – he was very very lovely !!
But famous? Peter Schmeichel, John Surtees, Les Dennis, Ioan Gruffudd, The Manic Street Preachers, Sir Terry Hands, His Royal Highness from Cambodia, Shobna Gulati, Jeff Banks, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Sophie Dahl and Martin Bell.
Recently I had the pleasure of briefly working with Michael Portillo on his programme in the early weeks of Times Radio and he was both impressive and rather lovely.
There’s been numerous CEOs from Business and of course lots of middle-aged white men in suits, otherwise known as politicians.
Syrian Peace talks, World Cup 2018, Berlin Protests, the repatriation of ISIS orphans, Donald Trump’s election. Other than the big landmark events, sadly I’ve certainly found myself reporting on a steadily increasing number of American mass shootings and the rise of the far right in Europe.
Well as I said, there’s nothing as ‘buzzy as the red light for live broadcasting going but it’s both a privilege and a buzz to be at the heart of big events whether they’re Victory Day in Moscow or massive music events.
Plenty! So many I can’t count, but most recently, regularly during breaking news situations where I had to get changed, slap on some TV make-up and get mic’d-up in minutes, only to be thrown on air with no preparation. There were a number of times when sorting out the microphone carried on to the very last nano-second where a tight, fitted dress made accommodating the microphone easily a bit tricky. So, there were times where I had to be unzipped by a sound man in a newsroom full of
journalists in order to be heard! After a couple of these occasions, the embarrassment disappeared.
And the last corporate shoot I did, where I thought I was filming a video, turned out to be a modelling shoot!! I had no idea, so had to channel my inner Naomi Campbell…. It worked out in the end, of course.
I’m juggling many areas of work at the moment, but it has been brilliant to be a part of the launch news team for Times Radio, particularly during a global pandemic and amidst such uncertainty.
To come from international news back to domestic news has been a challenge for sure, but one which I am enjoying immensely!
I’ve also just completed narrating an 8-part documentary for Channel 5/Channel 10 (Australia) and I’m currently moderating sessions with world leaders and policymakers for the Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit, driving discussions on how the 4th Industrial Revolution can help policymakers and world leaders affect global change to bridge the gap between rich and poor nations.
It’s all being done on digital-only platforms at the moment but last year I was the main host at the summit. All very varied but equally valid and interesting for different reasons.
I really don’t have a preference for either broadcast or corporate as all have their very different challenges and opportunities. The fact that I’m able to have such a varied week, month, year is a plus. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have the skills and experience to work both in
broadcasting and across industries outside of the media sector. I’m actually really proud to be the voice of the Russian Google – Yandex !!!!
Again, the variety is important for me. Live events have a ‘rough’ and ‘readiness’ that I embrace. The chance to use those ‘thinking-on-your-feet’ skills is not only daunting, but exciting at the same time – perfect for the adrenaline junkie. There’s nothing like having an live audience to sharpen and focus you!
But I loved the Mental Awareness campaign I did for iHasco and which won us an award!
Alongside my broadcast career, I have had a parallel career as an educator and trainer in formal education, crisis communication and for many corporates, where I have developed, written and delivered many tailored courses across a variety of sectors, including the military, media, education,
charities and the public sector.
I feel very passionately about ‘giving back’ some of the skills and experience where there’s demand, whether that’s through consultancy, formal education, ad hoc training etc etc.
I understand how fortunate I have been with my career so far and how competitive the industry is, but it’s also important to remember that even for those that will never work in broadcasting, the communication skills that I offer are transferable skills that can be used in every area of work and in life.