Me and radio go back a long way. (I know that it should be ‘radio and I,’ if the grammar police are reading, promise.)
I did work experience at my local BBC, where the sports reporter, now a national pundit, told me that to make it in the industry, “you have to be persistent, not a pain.” Words I never forgot and what got me into the industry. Think, don’t give up but don’t be a stalker either.
Fast forward to 1996, instead of a 10,000-word dissertation for my degree I chose to do a 30-minute radio programme on women’s football (no brainer, right?) That saw me don a pair of footie boots and train with the local ladies team. Suffice to say I struggled with the warm up and on the pitch they didn’t “encourage,” the challenges I made. I was threatened with a red card within minutes of being on the pitch and don’t think it was long before I got subbed.
That was pretty much the end of my football career but was thankfully just the start of my love affair with radio.
A year after graduating, after going into my local commercial radio station and volunteering to learn the ropes, one of their newsreaders left and they offered me her post. I’ve never been so excited about getting a job. I worked my notice at the weekly newspaper I started at and still living at home, took news scripts from the station to practice in my bedroom.
Script after script, with the sign off: ‘I’m Tamsin Parker, it’s two minutes past two,” at the end. I practiced that much, I’m pretty sure that when I read my first bulletins, the first few all had the same time check!
I can still remember reading my first live bulletins from the tiny news studio, I was so nervous – I’d be in the studio practicing for at least ten minutes before the hour. 23 years on and thousands of bulletins later, it’s second nature now but I still get a buzz from pushing the microphone fader up. There’s nothing quite like radio.
I’ve covered some local stories you never forget, the first and second murder stay with you always. National stories too – even now I can still remember running into the studio to break the news that TV presenter Jill Dando had been murdered and getting the call to ask me to come in to announce that the great Sir Stanley Matthews had died.
There are amusing memories too: interviewing David Bellamy down the line in the studio, with the rest of the news team doing impressions through the glass trying to make me laugh, interviewing Mister Methane who used to make tunes with his own wind (sorry, I hate the word f**rt) – honestly, like that’s even a thing!
You can interview, celebrities, footballers, MP’s and business leaders but often the stories that stay with you are the human ones, the ones where people have a real story to tell, where they’ve overcome adversity, or have made a real difference to peoples’ lives. Hearing those stories and being able to tell them is always a joy.
My radio career has spanned two decades, which is incredibly fortunate. The industry has changed immeasurably during that time. We had one newsroom mobile between the newsroom when I started and only one computer with email on in the engineer’s office, press releases were faxed in, scripts were printed off and I don’t even remember what portable devices we used to record on – that’s how old I am!
I’ve met some incredible people, told some amazing stories and worked with some hugely talented presenters and journalists. If you’re just starting out or are still working in radio, never take it for granted and enjoy every second. Radio is like being part of an exclusive club, a club I’ve always loved and a medium I know I always will.