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Radio Festival 2014 – A delegate’s view

Posted on Sep 01 2014

Radio Festival 2014 – Media City – Steve le Fevre

As a festival virgin the event was a circus of experience, from the frankly bazaar (fellow on a trade stand selling microphones, who couldn’t get them to work) to a totally life-changing session with an evangelistic Tim Smit-he of the Eden project! There was a bloke with impossibly long hair talking in terminology I couldn’t understand. Oh … and there was Iggy Pop.

Media City is a Blade Runner complex of glass fronted buildings housing BBC and ITV, and the Lowry Centre, a theatre complex which hosted the festival, and satisfied my collegue’s requirements for postcards of the ‘match-stick’ maestro’s work.

This reporter would love to give a precis of the first day-‘Techcon’- but it was conducted in a foreign language save for the occasional word like ‘DAB’ illustrated by a temperamental powerpoint that made our Radio Car look smooth, and a demo of the latest ‘apps’ – sadly, like the microphones, those largely didn’t work either. But this day was for techno-brains much more adept than mine.

Things, for me, got decidedly better. John Humphries and Nicky Campbell shared stories of interviewing techniques and politicians. “When your back is against the wall the only thing you can do is turn around and fight-John Major”, and their favourite interviewers – Frost beaten by Brian Waldren in the Humphries jury – ‘penetrating, informed and personal!’

There was much debate on social media and blogging – a very impressive performer was Carla Buzasi of Huffington Post UK, with a cautionary word…’blogging allows your voice to be heard without being shouted down by a phone-in host’. Lesson is, we have to embrace twitter/facebook and blogging or die! Shelia Fogerty said twitter was the “lifeblood of news-stories”

Vanessa Feltz told us where she draws the line in giving of herself on- air. She would talk at length about her daughter giving birth after lengthy labour, but wouldn’t mention the …well, ‘cos that’s personal.

Mel Greig, the Australian DJ at the centre of the prank hospital call arrived amidst paparazzi and faced what I thought was a very sympathetic interview from Daisy MacAndrew. She was still horrified by what had happened, but loved Britain and told the hall of producers and commissioners she’d love to live here. With two network TV interviews in the mix, it split opinion among us on her motives for coming to the UK.

There were two highlights of the festival, both truely memorable. Tim Smit who started the Eden project was simply inspirational. He decided at 37 to quit his job and live by instinct (he bought a pig) he wanted to ignore the background noise of other people, and corporate gobbledegook, and work with like-minded people (his gang). ‘If you love something-thousands of others will love it too-you’ve just got to let them hear it” He finished with a blockbuster ‘If you’re a cynic, do me a favour…go into a dark room, and blow your brains out’ – masterful!!

A similar tone of self-discovery and individual belief came from the surprise package- which of us didn’t go to Iggy Pop’s John Peel lecture expecting a car-crash? We instead got an eloquent, funny, inspiring and incredibly thought provoking essay. Added jeopardy came from whether he’d fall off the stage or walk into the cameraman as he moved around without, it has to be said, missing a beat as he discussed free music in a capitalist society. He worked in a record store at 18 and listened to all genres of music – so he would understand it. ‘The music industry is like a pond that’s very wide – and very shallow’. Artists seek brands and personalities that are then are ripped off by the moneymen, he reasoned, but if you are who you are – that’s hard to steal! ‘Be curious..comparative information is the key to freedom’. And, ‘if I want to make money-how about car-insurance…at least I’m honest’!

Government Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey announced his “digital Dashboard Summit” …. Er..yes, but Moment of the festival was when session host Fi Glover opened up to the floor ‘Lady with the nice scarf there … and please *gravitas* tell us who you are, and what you do” “I’m Helen Boaden” came the reply “I’m Director of Radio, and I’m your boss” …. Oooops!