13 May 2014 at 10:03
Awards ceremonies are strange beasts, particularly if you’re shortlisted for an award. You can’t really enjoy it until your own particular award has been doled out. Last night’s Radio Academy Awards were no different (yes, they used to be The Sonys but Sony ended their sponsorship last year). LBC were up for ten different awards, an achievement in itself bearing in mind Radio 5 Live hadn’t got as many nominations as us.
I only did two hours of my normal four on Drive yesterday and at 6 I hightailed it to the Grosvenor House Hotel with my producer Matt Harris and our political editor Theo Usherwood. And guess who the first person we bumped into was? The one and only James Whale. It was brilliant to see him again. He then introduced me to David ‘Kid’ Jensen and Steve Penk, a radio legends in their own right.
LBC either won or got a bronze in the first four awards that we were nominated for. The magnificent Tom Swarbrick won a Gold for his documentary Slavery on our Streets, and it also won a Bronze in another category. He then won National Radio Journalist of the Year, an amazing achievement at his tender age. Tom is one of life’s nice guys with a wonderful sense of humour, which he brings to the radio in his own unique manner. I had the pleasure of working with him when I was doing the Sunday morning show and Nick Ferrari must know how lucky he is to have him as his Breakfast Show reporter. To win 3 awards in your career is quite something, but to win three in one evening is going some, even for someone as talented as Tom. It couldn’t happen to a nicer or more talented guy.
Chris Evans was hosting the event for the sixth time and kept it going at a good pace. And so we eventually got to Interview of the Year, the award I was shortlisted for, along with Iain Lee (BBC Three Counties), Winifred Robinson (Radio 4), Becky Milligan (Radio 4) and Stephen Sackur. At last year’s awards I was also up for an award but didn’t make the final three. Bearing in mind the names I was up against I was pretty sure I wouldn’t this year either. The interview I was nominated for was the one I conducted with James in Woolwich shortly after the Woolwich murder had taken place. James was an eyewitness. For a full account of what happened you can click HERE. Here’s a brief taste…
I’m writing this forty five minutes after coming off air from possibly the most challenging four hours of radio I am ever likely to be faced with. So forgive me if this is at all rambling or disjointed. Sometime after 3pm this afternoon Jay Louise-Knight, our travel reporter came over to my producer Matt Harris and said there was an ongoing incident in Woolwich. It looked as if someone had been killed with a machete or samurai sword and that armed police had shot the two people behind the attack. Eavesdropping, it was clear to me that this was a story which would dominate my four hour Drivetime show. At that point it had never entered my head that it could be a terror incident. As details started to come in I tweeted out asking for witnesses to phone our newsroom – frankly it was more in hope than expectation, but at around a quarter to four I noticed Matt was deep in conversation with someone on the phone. As the clock edged toward 4pm I wondered what on earth he could be talking about seeing as we needed to head down to the studio. It soon became clear. “Do a short intro telling people what we know – then get into the call quickly. James was there. He can tell us everything.”
And indeed he did. I’ve done some emotional interviews in my time. As it went on I thought to myself: “He’s still in shock”. It was gripping listening and in some ways very upsetting. I suspect I wasn’t alone in trying to hold my emotions in check. And for once I succeeded.
Here’s the audio of the interview.
Well, I didn’t win, but I did come second and got a Silver Award. I’m not going to lie. I was disappointed not to win. Who wouldn’t be? But to lose out to Winifred Robinson, a brilliant broadcaster is certainly no disgrace. Yes, I wanted to win for myself and for LBC but I know how much it would have meant to Matt and Laura who have both been so integral to whAT I’ve done at LBC. Matt was sitting beside me, but Laura left LBC a couple of weeks ago to head back north. Coincidentally yesterday was her first day in her new job at BBC Radio Newcastle. I’d have given anything to have rung her and told her we’d won. But it wasn’t to be.
We also won a Bronze and a Silver for Call Clegg and a Special Award acknowledging how our phone-ins with politicians have changed the way they are held to account. We were also up for Station of the Year, but lost out to BBC Radio Ulster.
It was a great evening, nice to meet up with old friends and acquaintances, especially fellow Hammer Mark Sandell from the World Service with whom I exchanged some superb West Ham gossip. My lips are sealed.
Just finally, a word to acknowledge a few people who have been there for me all the way during my career in radio. Jo Phillips, producer of the late lamented Sunday Service, set me off on this magnificent journey back in 1999 and has been a tower of strength ever since. Jonathan Richards, who saw in me something that others hadn’t and offered me my break on LBC back in 2010, and along with Chris Lowrie and John Cushing supported me brilliantly in my early days. Louise Birt who grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and made me a far better presenter than I ever thought I could be. James Rea who gave me the chance to host the Sunday morning show, and then Drive, and who has led LBC to great things in the last two years. Richard Park, Ashley Tabor and Stephen Miron, who run Global Radio, for their unstinting support. All my production teams, especially Matt Harris and Laura Marshall who got me through my first year on Drive.
In the last year I’ve had a Sony nomination for Speech Broadcaster of the Year, won a Silver Radio Academy Award for Interview of the Year and been named Radio Presenter of the Year at the 2013 Arqivas. I suppose I must be doing something right, but I still feel a complete amateur! I still finish every show thinking “another day I haven’t been found out!” I wonder if that’s common among other presenters!
Anyway, thanks to everyone who has been in touch since last night. I’m really overwhelmed. I know blogposts like this can come across as incredibly self-indulgent, especially when you only win a Silver, but it’s the only way I have got of paying tribute to everyone who has been so supportive to me in recent years. So please forgive me if you’re about to use a sick-bag…