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Radio Festival 2017

Last Wednesday on what was the hottest day of the year so far and in fact the hottest summer solstice in 40 years, I made my way up to the British Library at Kings Cross to attend the Radio Academy’s Radio Festival 2017. I had been extremely lucky in being able to win tickets to the event and was happy to be joined by the brilliant Jade who I originally met at the Sound Women Tech Training event last year and have stayed in contact through the same industry social media groups.

The event was arranged to take place last month however, the previous night saw the horrific Manchester attack took place and the decision was made to postpone the event, partly as many of the guests and attendees were suddenly needing to work; part of the unexpected territory that comes with working in broadcasting.

Back to June and managing to deal with multiple train issues, a ridiculous chest infection and the unusual heat I made my way up to the British Library.

The British Library was an ideal venue to host the event as it is home to the UK’s sound archive. Where better to celebrate and explore the best in radio and audio? The British Library has recently been granted funding for the “Save Our Sounds” project to archive radio and old audio. By digitalising this, it will preserve the audio heritage of the UK. In October later this year, the British Library will be hosting a new exhibition titled “Listen” which will allow visitors to explore 140 years of sound recordings.

The Radio Festival is sponsored by PRS and PPL and Jonathan Morrish gave an opening speech before the main programme began. Praising the extraordinary resilience of radio in the face of huge human, social and technical changes and how radio will go from broadcasting the tried and tested in order to bring comfort and familiarity in troubling times to news music and experimental audio to push the boundaries of audiences and the medium.

“Radio is a voyage of discover; it binds communities”


The host of the event was Colin Murray who’s background in radio includes BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5 Live and Talksport. Colin was a fantastic host in keeping the event flowing seamlessly between each session and being incredibly entertaining but most of all, his passion for radio could not be contained and was emphasised in every word he spoke. As he said;


“when it’s in your blood, it never leaves you”.

He’s also was brilliantly funny throughout the day and one of the loveliest guys I’ve had the pleasure to meet. He has such a genuine love for radio.

The day was made up of multiple talks and panels and similarly to the posts about the Women in Media Conference I attended earlier this year, I’ll post about each one separately so you can pick and choose those of interest. (This will be done over the next few days due to work commitments and still suffering with the aforementioned chest infection. Think of it like a series of posts and focus on the excitement of the next instalment rather than me not having enough time/lung capacity…).

In addition to the different talks, the Radio Festival will also present Radio Academy Fellowships throughout the day to those who have earned recognition for the work they have done to support and transform the industry.

In summary of the whole event though, the topics were really varied and the guests were absolutely incredible. To be able to listen to the experiences of radio veterans such as Nicholas Parsons to newcomers like Matt Richardson, meant there were engaging perspectives being shared at all levels. The only downside to the event was how short some of the sessions were and how this lead to some being rushed where they really could have done with more time to allow the in-depth discussions to flourish. This is the problem with an event trying to fit as much as possible in one day. In this sense, the Women in Media Conference was better in the sense each session had the time to allow people to get to grips with a subject and to engage with the guests or panel properly.

A definite highlight of the day was magicians Penn and Teller treating us to a surprise performance. As someone who has watched Penn and Teller a lot on television, seeing them live was incredible and absolutely fantastic. Definitely need to sort out seeing them perform at one of their shows.


 The key thing I think I took from the day probably wasn’t from the talks themselves, although I did learn a lot of valuable information, but from the chance to talk to those in the industry during breaks and after the last session. One of the issues I have had since working in radio (something that I still cannot believe I can legitimately say) is that I love the work I do but the anxiety I experience whilst doing it. This has been a common theme in a lot of the social media groups I am a member of but being able to converse with others who have the same issues and fears regarding this was beyond helpful in not only legitimising my feelings and not feeling a fraud for not enjoying every split second of working in my dream industry. Although it feels rubbish, it’s okay to have those feelings and thoughts of not knowing whether you are doing the right things or panicking that you’re not good enough. It’s almost like an evolved version of impostor syndrome and you know what, a lot of people who attended the event have experienced that before.

So the advice and looking ahead to the next challenges and innovations were great but knowing how often the issues of anxiety and impostor syndrome in the industry, particular for women, comes up it would be great if this was an area that got explored more too.


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