Friday, 13 February 2009

In a BBC cellar

I spent quite a lot of yesterday glancing at the pictured clock and the white light underneath it.

This is on the wall of the NCA Studio at BBC Swindon/Wiltshire (the two 'separate' radio stations are really just two studios in the same building). The white light means the link is live.

If I'm honest, I'm being a little over-dramatic when I say 'in a BBC cellar', because the studio is on the first floor, but it has a splendid feeling of isolation, that wouldn't go amiss as a cellar. The NCA Studio is the network studio - thanks to the wonders of ISDN, it can connect up with any other BBC studio in the country and the occupant can (in sound quality terms) appear to be in the same room as the interviewer. Yesterday I had six interviews on Ecologic through the day with various local radio stations from BBC York to BBC Devon, all conducted from this small (and a touch chilly) room.

It's not the first time I've done this, and as always the BBC staff made me feel very welcome. You'd expect them to think 'who is this upstart author, no one's heard of?' but, no, they're very friendly and helpful.

Once they'd settled me in the blue chair and plied me with drink (water and coffee, I mean, it isn't that kind of green room), they pretty much left me to it. Every now and then the magic box clicks into life and another local radio station appears on the headphones. As you can see, it's no palace, but it still feels rather special.

Having said that, having an interview down the line is always second best to the real thing. I had mentioned I was a touch disappointed that I'd got interviews with six other regional stations, but not my local one. In a gap in the chats, one of the Swindon/Wiltshire presenters, Mark O'Donnell kindly fitted in an unscheduled interview. Though recorded rather than live, this was in a real studio with the sort of setup you usually see when a radio station appears on TV. Although the remote interviews were great, speaking face-t0-face with Mark was better, because it was a real conversation - it just works so much better when you can see the other person.

My first job after leaving university was at British Airways, and I always find two other organizations - the BBC and the Met Office - remind me hugely of my early BA days. It's like coming home. I had a great day, so thanks to all at Radio Swindon/Wiltshire and the other stations we linked up to.

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