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  • Writer's pictureDavid Lloyd

Radio 1's Inspired Christmas Move

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

In the words of Tatum McGreal on-air earlier today: “You definitely won’t know who I am.. all this week we’re gonna have a full line-up of new presenters…all random people”.

Tatum is one of the 35 presenters being given a shot on Radio 1 between Boxing Day and New Year.

Their stories are fascinating. From the many with track records on university, community or local stations to those who’ve cultivated their talent digitally. There’s Birmingham’s Jacob Edward, ‘the first non-binary person’ on Radio 1; four from Northern Ireland including a lucky tattoo studio owner from Dublin; YouTuber and activist Lucy Edwards; and Radio 1’s first blind presenter. Laura Crockett makes her way from kmfm and Tatum McGreal drops in from Radio Wave in Blackpool and Summaya Mughal from Radio Nottingham - alongside some gifted Student Radio Awards winners like Gabriel Green and Joe Pilbrow from Smoke Radio.

The timing is brilliant. All the regular Radio 1 jocks want some time off, so the listening experience is interrupted anyway. Listeners accept that – and this strategy fills holes constructively and creates an exploratory environment where the listeners feel part of the experiment.

Like most good ideas - it is both simple and more complex to engineer than it might seem. In identifying the right blend of talent to take a chance on – and then the resource intensity of baby-sitting their performances over a period when so many full-time staff would otherwise be taking a break is not an easy solution. On commercial stations and BBC stations alike, we know the demands of helping someone new do their first show – it’s a lot easier to bring in someone familiar. But that’s not the point. This carries risk - thankfully one which Radio 1 is big and confident enough to take - even if some individuals are not as good as hoped or put a foot wrong. The programmes are solidly-produced with strong underlying formats. I imagine the best of their full-time colleagues will be nothing but generously supportive.

And – when it’s all over – the network will, I imagine, be feeding back to the presenters on their performances. So, even on Boxing Day, Radio 1 head honchos will likely be hiding in corners at their Auntie’s with AirPods in, discretely dipping in to hear how it’s all sounding. One link from each presenter is likely often enough to comfort.

This is exactly what the BBC should be doing - just the right home for the most promising young broadcasters ready for the next big step. On Radio 1, they can talk to the audience with whom they identify most closely.

Each one of these presenters will also reach out to their own friendship networks – spreading excitement about their shows – and about the medium itself. In today’s world, Radio 1 may never quite enjoy 10m+ audiences again – but their blend of now focused programming complemented by these sorts of initiatives will retain maximum scale and maximum BBC values contribution.

Remembering to this day my first live show in 1980, I can only imagine the pressure of this week’s well-produced national radio debuts. Listen to them dipping their toe in the water, getting the functional link out the way, then heaving a sigh of relief, before wading in a little deeper for a substantive link – and then starting to thrash around and enjoy themselves. Whilst your first big show rarely shows you off at your best (and it’s great they chose to allow the talent more than one show), it certainly offers a steer. I suspect we have already heard some voices we’re going to hear more of nationally - and we look forward to the performers outside peaktime too.

Some clips from the programmes so far are here. I’ll keep it updated as the days roll on (Full shows on BBC Sounds).

I imagine linguists will be fascinated to hear the vocal styling too of this convenient showcasing of the future authentic generation of on-air talent. Rightly, so far away from the BBC of yesteryear – not only the accents – but the frequent glottal stop, unflapped-T and some slight th-fronting. It’s simply how the Radio 1 generation speaks now. Just as today’s Capital presenters hammer out the T in their fine brand ‘CapiTULL, whereas for decades it was swallowed (Capi-tle).

The initiative helps Radio 1 identify future talent. One imagines too that the network will be finding out not only how good these people are - but also how they work with colleagues, their attitude to work and the way they take feedback. The cleverest amongst them will be cherishing the entirety of this opportunity.

Well done, Aled – and all those who’ve put effort into this – but most importantly to all who are on-air. Have a good show. I suspect you’ve had better nights’ sleep.

Hearing Gregor Davidson pause at the end of a link (1349 Boxing Day) and then simply saying "…on Radio 1" almost moved me to tears. You could hear how much saying just those three words meant to him. How many of us, whatever the generation, have said those into a microphone just for fun – and dreamed.

Radio Secrets is a comprehensive guide to contemporary presentation and production techniques in all formats, from writing to delivery, across radio and podcasting.

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