Sunday, 27 November 2016

Under review

The big exclusive for the New Statesman magazine this week was their interview revealing the supposed "return" of Tony Blair - whatever the hell that may or may not end up meaning.

But it turns out that buried deep inside was a piece rather more surprising - and flattering - to me.

On Friday afternoon, on a whim I did one of the searches I do on Twitter from time-to-time for "Radio Norfolk", just to see what people are saying about us and our programmes. It rarely produces anything much of interest, but this time I came across a link to the online version of a piece in this week's edition of New Statesmen - "A Luchtime in the Life of Radio Norfolk".

On the contents page, the sub editor makes it sound a lot worse than it is!
New Statesman is a magazine that I'd certainly heard of, and know has a good and serious reputation, but had never actually had cause to ever pick up a copy of myself, nor seen anybody else ever reading. Nonetheless, their imposing nature made it seem unlikely they'd reviewed one of our programmes. However, not only had they, but it turned out that rather bizarrely their radio reviewer Antonia Quirke had written a piece all about my own little weekly programme - Treasure Quest: Extra Time. Specifically, the edition from last Sunday, the 20th of November.

It seems an odd choice to review, being a spin-off from a much better-known and more listened-to programme. It's also rather embarrassing for the station, as you'd hope if a major national magazine were going to cast its eye over one of our shows, it'd be one of the really good ones. Certainly if I could have chosen, I'd rather she'd have done one of our "big" editions of Treasure Quest itself, or one of my documentaries.

I had to initially look at the things through the cracks in my fingers, but actually I did all right. Her description of me as "usually equable" suggests she's a regular listener, so I think she went fairly easy on me. The review seems to be laughing with rather than at the programme, anyway, and refreshingly despite being a review of a Radio Norfolk show, there is not a single mention of Alan Partridge! (And I wasn't once described as "moribund...")

Overall it's a flattering piece, and certainly enjoyed her description of me / the show as "...part-smiling, part-peevish." Slightly odd to see myself referred to as "Hayes", like some sort of Billy Bunter-ish schoolboy, but they say that all publicity is good publicity, and it could have been a lot worse!

Actually, this isn't the first time my radio work has been reviewed in a national publication, nor is it the unlikeliest one in which such a review has appeared. The journalist Louis Barfe used to live in our broadcast area, and writes a radio review column for The Lady magazine. In 2012 he reviewed both an edition of Treasure Quest (mentioning that the clues "...would have been rejected as too cryptic by the producers of 3-2-1") and my documentary Radio in a Roundabout Way (kindly calling it "a fascinating programme made with care, as I'd expect from BBC Radio Norfolk"). He's also, I discover when looking back for these pieces, been kind enough to mention Treasure Quest a few times since even though he's moved away!

Closer to home, the Eastern Daily Press's radio reviewer Stuart Lake did a nice piece about Treasure Quest in 2009, calling it "a wonderful example of a local radio programme." He also did a preview of the 5 Live version of my Ayrton Senna documemtary in 2014, a programme which was also previewed, and made a "today's choice", by the Radio Times's radio editor Jane Anderson, which I found particularly thrilling having been a reader of the magazine for as long as I can remember. You feel like a proper producer when something you've made has had a write-up in the Radio Times!

Jane Anderson's Radio Times write-up of the 5 Live version of my Senna documentary, from 2014
In terms of my writing, I've had a few nice comments on the Alice Flack stories on Amazon, and back around the turn of the century I there was a glowing review by Julie Rogers for a short story I'd written in one of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's "Cosmic Masque" collections. However, as said review appeared in the society's own publication Celestial Toyroom, it probably wasn't the most independent piece in the world!

Julie Rogers' review from Celestial Toyroom of a short story of mine in Cosmic Masque 26
Overall, I've had very kind verdicts on things I've made down the years, this week's included. So I can't complain at all - I've been very fortunate! I just hope I continue to be as lucky as and when I eventually get a novel out there... But I'd be happy if it gets noticed by anybody at all, in any respect, if and when that happens!

Oh, and I did go out and buy a copy of New Statesman for the first time after learning I had been reviewed in it, of course! Thanks Antonia... I did play Forever Autumn in the end, though!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Programme Pieces

A couple of new bits of my writing have made it out into the world this month.

Last weekend we held our eighth annual Treasure Quest Live stage shows in aid of the BBC Children in Need Appeal, wherein the cast and crew of the Sunday morning show I produce on BBC Radio Norfolk take part in various games and features on stage at the Norwich Playhouse, all in aid of the charity. I produced the two performances, which raised over £4500. Of this total, £785 came from donations for a printed souvenir progamme I put together.

It wasn't the most spectacular souvenir in the world, but it did turn out much better than it could have done given that as well as writing the bulk of it, I also did the design myself and put it together in Microsoft Publisher. I'm no designer, so it didn't look amazing, but it was functional enough! Our boss, Peter, came up with the clever idea of not putting a set price on it, just letting people make whatever donation they wanted to the charity in return for a copy, and it worked really well, raising much more than I had ever hoped or expected.

Also out this month is the latest Doctor Who Magazine "bookazine" special, Invasions of Earth.

Just one piece from me in this particular one, the episode guide entry for The Christmas Invasion, a story I love a great deal so it was a pleasure to be asked to do the piece on it. Next month, DWM's end-of-year "yearbook" special is out, and fingers crossed I should have a lengthier feature piece in that, with which I am rather pleased... More on that as and when it appears!