Archive for July, 2013

July 16, 2013

iced badger

Yesterday I went to the funeral of a family friend, Katherine. She lived up the road from us and was a striking presence throughout my childhood, more so than most of my blood relatives.

Katherine was remarkable in many ways, but one of the stories from her sons’ eulogy was SO remarkable, I had to share it with you:

Once upon a time, Katherine found a dead badger at the side of the road. She picked it up off the verge, took it home and put it in the freezer.

She kept it in the freezer for many years, and every time her children had a birthday party, she’d take the badger out of the freezer and sit it in a high-chair in the middle of the room. Picture a dead badger partially defrosting whilst dozens of five-year-olds played Musical Statues around it.

The dead badger also attended dinner parties if there were thirteen people at table.

Sadly the badger has since been disposed of, because it would have been so perfect if it had been sitting in its high-chair at the wake.

Goodbye, Katherine, you revolutionary of party-throwing.

July 12, 2013

Women on Air report

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As a woman who works in radio and a woman who likes listening to radio and a person who wonders why women are a comparative rarity on the radio, Sound Women is a cause dear to my heart. (Obviously, since I make their podcast.)

Today Sound Women released their Women on Air report, which found that only one in five presenters on British radio is female. The proportion is even lower when you break it down by such factors as appearing on air regularly, during weekdays, during primetime, solo, playing an equal rather than subordinate part in a presenting partnership, etc etc. NB The report was specifically researching the gender split of presenters; there is also a known insufficiency of female guests, pundits and so forth. Hence the advent of Sound Women a couple of years ago, as recounted by founder Maria Williams in the first episode of the Sound Women podcast.

To me, the one in five number in the report is disappointing, but not at all surprising. Last year I was interviewed by Persephone Magazine and mentioned that I hadn’t ever really been aware of my gender working against me professionally until I entered the radio sphere. It was impossible to ignore the imbalance within the industry. For instance, a few years ago, Olly and I arrived to make a demo at a well-known radio station and, off-hand, I asked the producer how many female presenters they had.

“Errr… Laura does the weather?”

Weather, traffic, news – that’s the female representation on too many radio stations. And yet, so many people I’ve spoken to hadn’t even noticed how few women there are on air until I pointed it out to them. This is the case also with people in radio power: the majority of high-ranking radio execs are male, which means those who could fix the gender problem are not necessarily aware of the problem, and if they are, they are not personally affected by the problem, and therefore not particularly incentivised to address the problem. Happily, in response to the report, I have heard that various radio stations are already planning various schemes to increase the female voice quotient, and I hope these do end up making a palpable difference over the next few years.

But how did it reach the point where the industry has to be harangued to better represent fifty per cent of the populace?

Amongst many radio honchos, the justification for not employing female presenters is the received wisdom that people do not like listening to women – and specifically that even women do not like listening to women.

This ‘fact’ is apparently based on a piece of research, which nobody working in radio today seems to have seen, and if it ever indeed existed it was done decades ago – back when the majority of women on radio were played by Kenny Everett.

Aside from the difficulty of access to the industry and the alleged antipathy of listeners, there’s another possible reason for the paucity of female voices: many of the people I’ve spoken to for the Sound Women podcast have suggested that, in general, women tend to be less apt than their male equivalents to promote themselves, to effect similar confidence, or to be sure that their voices ought to be heard. IE the female talent pool is self-limiting. I wonder whether this is why apparently women are also scarcer in the field of podcasting. Unlike getting into radio, there are almost no barriers to becoming a podcaster: if you want to do it, you can just go ahead and do it.

So: women, speak up. And everybody else, regardless of your gender, be prepared to listen.

July 8, 2013

Sound Women podcast: episode 3

Owing to the aforementioned holiday, I’m behind schedule posting about the latest Sound Women podcast. But it’s here! You should listen because everybody could do with more Miranda Sawyer in their lives.

To respond to listeners’ questions about the radio industry, I deployed producer Laura Parfitt, maker of many excellent radio programmes. What I admired about the advice she gave was the stringency, the perfectionism and intellectual rigour. ‘Do it, and do it properly’ is a simple message that bears repeating.

Incidentally, while I was interviewing Laura in her living room, it sounded like she was emitting low growls every couple of minutes. This really threw me, until I realised her little dog was hiding behind her in the armchair.

Also on the show: Ruth Barnes of Amazing Radio and The Other Woman podcast interviews Adele Roberts about going from Big Brother 3 to BBC 1Xtra; and Emma Jane Bradshaw reports from the final act of this year’s Sound Women mentorship scheme. I’ve been thinking that I need a mentor, but really what I need is somebody to kick me up the arse metaphorically. Any takers? Never mind.

The Sound Women podcast is available at iTunes and SoundCloud; find out more about Sound Women’s excellent work at soundwomen.co.uk.

July 5, 2013

Holiday!

AMT-holiday

I’m just back from holiday, on which I saw bears and eagles, and bought a brooch shaped like a palm tree with boughs that ACTUALLY MOVE, as if said palm tree is being ruffled by a breeze.

Whilst I was away, we launched the Answer Me This! Holiday, our latest AMT spin-off album full of all-new questions about holidays. Because it is categorised as ‘Music’ in iTunes, even though it is an hour of speaking, it managed to reach number 14 in the overall album charts, a fact which will make me laugh forever.

To find out more about our smash hit Top 20 album, and to buy it if you are so inclined, click here.

SPOILER: this jingle is one of my favourite bits: