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The Story of Brave Men

This week has been an exciting one in Jersey.

Among other things, we had a Royal Visit.

HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) did a whistle-stop tour of our lovely island. And although we've had a very damp week, actually on Thursday we were blessed with glorious sunshine, so that was brilliant especially for all the islanders, including hundreds of children, who came out to greet her.

The Princess Royal opened our newest school (the fabulous Les Quennevais School) and a new sports training facility, and visited the Jersey Zoo ... she's the patron of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Waterloo memorial St Saviour's Church JerseyBut for me, her most important duty during the day took her to St Saviour's Church where she unveiled a very special memorial plaque in the church.

In St Saviour's Churchyard in Jersey there are many interesting stories. In 2018 I spent many months wandering around the graveyard with the then Rector of St Saviour, the Rev Peter Dyson, who was investigating the people laid to rest there.

This resulted in a series of 26 episodes broadcast by BBC Radio Jersey and it was fascinating. I learned so much.

As a result of his research, Peter found many dozens of men who are connected to the Napoleonic era... the Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars, including the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Men were found who fought on the British side and even one who fought under the French emperor. It's thought St Saviour's is the resting place of more Napoleonic and Peninsula Wars veterans than anywhere else in the world. It's astonishing that so many veterans of these campaigns eventually found their way to Jersey.

In 2020 a book was published which outlines their stories - 'Napoleonic War Veterans Buried at St. Saviour’s Church, Jersey' edited by one of the world's leading experts in the period, William Mahon.

Napoleonic & Peninsula Wars memorial Oct 2020In Autumn 2020, a memorial was placed in the north Lady Chapel of the Church but the unveiling of the plaque was a year delayed because of the COVID19 pandemic. Finally, this past Thursday, June 24th 2021, that memorial was unveiled by The Princess Royal ... there was a special church service and colourful celebrations including lots of children and members of the Jersey community.

In October 2020, just before Rev Peter Dyson retired as Rector of the parish, I returned to the churchyard at St Saviour's Church to talk to him about the memorial, some of the stories it told and the importance of the research.

This was played in two parts on the BBC Radio Jersey Sunday Morning Breakfast show on October 4 2020.

Here is the complete story. 


*images from St Saviour's Church Jersey Facebook Page

 

 


Bring Me Sunshine

Those of you who live in the UK and who are maybe of a 'certain age' will be aware that for many decades in the previous (20th) century the comedy scene was dominated by some brilliant 'duos' and probably the most successful double act was a certain 'Morecambe and Wise'.

The Morecambe & Wise Show and especially their Christmas 'specials' became a national institution and for many years dominated the Christmas Day BBC television schedule, watched by many millions. The 1977 Christmas episode was apparently watched by over 28 million people!  Their shows, featuring the two of them, gags, comedy sketches and songs were such a hit that big stars of the screen and stage were lining up to be included in an episode, even if it meant having the 'mickey' taken out of them.

Eric morecambe statueI'm thinking about them today because it was on this day - May 14th - in 1926 that comedian John Eric Bartholomew, OBE was born. He WAS Eric Morecambe - he took his stage name from his home town, the seaside resort of Morecambe in the county of Lancashire in North West England. There's a statue of him in the town overlooking Morecambe Bay, a bronze sculpture which was unveiled by non other than the Queen of England in summer 1999!

Eric had started performing in talent shows at an early age and when he met up with another young performer, Ernie Wise, they became close friends and, eventually, comedy partners.

After the Second World War, they served their apprenticeship in shows and on stage across the British Isles and on radio, before eventually coming to the notice of television producers and finally securing a contract with the BBC to make a television show. It was the start of an astonishing broadcasting career.

The comedy duo worked together from 1941 until Eric's death from a heart attack on May 28th, 1984. In 2002 he was named one of the 100 Greatest Britons in a BBC poll, securing his place as one of the most prominent comedians in British popular culture.

Morecambe and wiseEric and Ernie brought so much pleasure to so many people - myself included! 

And so, to celebrate all the laughs and joy they brought into my life and the lives of so many others, today I want to share with you the iconic song they adopted as their signature tune and with which they usually ended their show, often accompanied by a silly dance. 

I love it! It's so optimistic!

I defy anyone not to have their spirits lifted when they hear and watch  ... 'Bring me Sunshine' ...

Enjoy! And, if you feel up to it ... Smile!

 

 


The Hidden People

I've been thinking recently about how many people there are in the world who seem to be 'hidden from view'.

In a culture that appears to be a bit obsessed by people who are able to make a big 'noise' about what they do - including 'celebrities' who seem to dominate our media and social media and whom many people believe are the role models we should be following  - it is easy to forget that actually it is not THESE people who often make the difference to our lives.

During the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and especially during the first  'lockdown' it seemed, for a while, we got away from all this. There was a real emphasis on and people really began to recognise the contribution to our lives of people who we may be inclined to take for granted. People in the 'background' who not only keep the wheels of our communities turning, but at the time were even putting their own lives at risk so that we could be safe.

You know who I'm talking about? The nurses and doctors and medics who looked after us when we were ill and dying. That band of brave hearts, and masses of volunteers who are now making sure we all get vaccinated against this dreadful virus! Then there were those who kept the shops open so we could still get essential supplies and those who kept transport going. Teachers who kept the schools open especially for the children of those 'essential workers', those who ran foodbanks and delivered provisions to people who couldn't get out. Neighbours who checked on the people around them, people who drew rainbows and painted on pebbles, just to make us smile and feel happy.

Every Thursday evening we clapped for those who cared for us. People really showed their appreciation for those who had gone the extra mile and had shown so much kindness.

It was so refreshing!

One of the things I hope will be a legacy of the pandemic is that some of that kindness continues, along with our appreciation of people who in the past may have been 'invisible' to us.

Time will tell if that actually happens or whether we'll go back to our old ways of just taking people for granted.

In the meantime, as a reminder to me, I share this thought which I have found helpful.

And I just want to say ... to all those who make MY life better, more comfortable and easier to live, even if I don't know who you are and what you do ...  THANKS! THANKS! THANKS!

Bless the hidden people


The Ralph Mollet Diaries

On the eve of Liberation Day in the Channel Islands I'm continuing to dip into a radio series I recorded in 2019/2020 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of this momentous historic day last year.

It was a brilliant experience for me, as I worked closely with the experts at Jersey Heritage who selected 50 Objects from the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

Objects selected told us so much about living life under German Nazi occupation. How the population kept food on the table, made do and mended, resisted the enemy, lived day to day life. We heard how life was for German soldiers based in Jersey, and how islanders entertained themselves and there were documents that showed the plight of islanders' health and food supplies, and official documents showing how the German forces kept control over the islanders - registration cards, posters warning against sedition.

If you read this blog yesterday, you'll know that we heard the tales of slave workers brought to the island as forced labour on numerous fortifications which Hitler ordered to ensure the British and their Allies were unable to win back the islands, if they had invaded. There were stories about people who were sent off the island to work and internment camps, some of whom never returned. And we learned about the lives of groups like Jewish people who lived in fear throughout the occupation.

I learned so much about that period of Jersey's history including some of the 'big events' during the era starting with the German bombing raids on June 28th 1940 which killed islanders just before the enemy invaded the island on July 1st that year.  Jumping forward more than four and half years we re-lived the arrival of the Red Cross ship 'Vega' with vital food parcels and supplies for an island that had been cut off from the rest of the world since D-Day in June 1944. By the end of that final year of the war, Jersey and the rest of the Channel Islands were in a desperate situation and the Red Cross parcels really were a life-saver.

Our 50 Objects included official letters and private documents and even diaries and, for this penultimate 'dip' into my series, which ran weekly on BBC Radio Jersey for a whole year in the run up to and as part of our contribution to Liberation75 on May 9th 2020, I'm turning to a diary.

Object 47 - RALPH MOLLETT DIARIESAnd not just any ordinary diary. This was the personal journal written across the Occupation by one Ralph Mollet, who was the Bailiff's secretary during the period.

The Bailiff in both Jersey and Guernsey is the chief justice and also the president of the legislature or States Assembly of elected representatives. The role goes back to the 13th century, Bailiffs are appointed by the British monarch and they undertake official and ceremonial duties.

Before the invasion by the German Nazi forces in July 1940 there would also have been a Lieutenant-Governor in both jurisdictions, but as the official representative of the British monarch it was thought best for them to leave the islands before occupation. So the Bailiff role became even more important. He was the main point of civilian contact for the German Commandant and the occupying authorities. The Bailiff also represented the interests of islanders to those authorities and got involved in diplomacy and negotiation, pleading causes, including the supply of food and medicines. In fact, it was the Bailiff of Jersey who intervened in winter of 1944 and eventually managed to persuade the Nazi German forces of the need for the Red Cross to sail into Jersey on Dec 31st of that year with those vital supplies.

From 1935 to 1961 the post of Bailiff in Jersey was held by Alexander (later Lord) Coutanche, and working alongside him was Ralph Mollet, attending many of those official meetings and engagements. Throughout the 1940-45 period Mr Mollet kept journals and they really are a window on his world, as he stood on the sidelines of history. 

Linda Romeril, Archives and Collections Director at Jersey Heritage, opened Ralph Mollet's diaries for us ....

50 Objects - No47 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

Ralph Mollet also documented his experiences just after occupation in Jersey Under The Swastika.  But his original diaries are held in the Jersey Archive. They are a phenomenal documentation of the era and an important and fascinating record of the time that Ralph and his fellow islanders spent under enemy occupation.

If you want to listen to the feature on the Ralph Mollet diaries via the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below.

BBC Radio Jersey - Breakfast on BBC Radio Jersey, 01/05/2020, 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - Object 47 - 01 May 2020


A Registration Card

All this week I'm turning back the hands of time more than 75 years to the days of Jersey's Occupation.

On Sunday (May 9th) the Channel Islands will celebrate 'Liberation Day' ... that May day in 1945 when five long years of occupation by the enemy finally ended.

If you've followed my blog especially this week, you'll know that the Channel Islands - Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark - were the only places in the British Isles to be invaded and occupied by enemy forces. Increasingly over the years, as we heard yesterday, food and other supplies began to run out, especially after D-Day in June 1944 when the British and their Allies invaded northern France and began the push back against the German enemy.

Although it was a turning point in the war, the Channel Islands were not taken back so that meant they became cut off. That affected not just the residents but also the German forces who were still stationed here.

It was on May 8th 1945 that the Germans finally surrendered and the Second World War came to an end, at least in Europe ... the day is known as Victory in Europe - VE Day  And the next day the Channel Islands was liberated, marking the end of a particularly traumatic period in history.

A year ago, across 2019 and 2020, while I was working for BBC Radio Jersey, I recorded a very special series in partnership with the experts at the Jersey Archive. They selected 50 Objects from the Jersey Heritage collections held at the Archive and the Jersey Museum which tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation years in Jersey. This was not just an interesting exercise for me, but also a great way to help the island celebrate 'Liberation75' in May 2020.

If you listened to the audio yesterday you'll have heard a bit about the way islanders managed to keep their food cupboards stocked through desperate times. It's just one of the objects in the '50 Objects' series which tell the story of the resilience of the population, making do and mending, coping under intense pressure.

Object 27 - Registration CardThe series also included stories of slave workers, transport, children, those who resisted the occupying forces and official and personal letters, diaries and documents. 

Between July 1940, when the Occupation began, and May 9th 1945 - the original Liberation Day - the German occupying forces had to find a way of keeping track of and controlling the island population, and so they implemented a Registration Card system. All adults had to be registered, carry their card and produce it on demand. Not to do so had dire consequences.

But as we discovered when we looked at 'Object 27' in the 50 Objects series, although they had to comply, some islanders managed to use their registration card as a form of passive resistance.

And when Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive, Stuart Nicolle, picked out a registration card for us to look at, it was personal...

 

50 Objects - No27 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to the feature on the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below. The features were broadcast every week on a Friday morning on the Breakfast Show just after 0830, with repeats. 

Ashlea Tracey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 27 - Dec 13 2019

 

 


A Sugar Beet Press

On Sunday (May 9th) here in the Channel Islands  we will celebrate 'Liberation Day'.

It's the day back in 1945 when the islands were liberated after five years of enemy Occupation.

If you know your history, you'll be aware that between 1939 and 1945 the world was at war with the 'Axis' powers headed by Nazi Germany.

By summer 1940 Germany had managed to take large parts of mainland Europe including France, and just a hop across the water Hitler had the Channel Islands in his sights. On July 1st 1940, with no resistance from British forces because the islands had been 'demilitarised', German troops landed in the islands and so began five years of occupation. The islands were the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by enemy forces during the Second World War.

The Occupation of the Channel Islands meant islanders were largely separated from the rest of the world, and certainly England and Great Britain. Under Nazi occupation, islanders were forced to conform, although not all did. Some, including those who resisted the enemy, were sent to internment and work camps in Europe never to return. 

Life was never easy for the islanders but when the Allies re-took France in June 1944 in what has become known as 'D-Day' - landing just across the water from the Channel Islands in Normandy - Jersey and the other islands, and the remaining German troops, were cut off from the main German army and supply routes. 

The final year of Occupation, especially, was dire. But even before food and medical and other supplies became sparse after the connections with the French mainland were cut, islanders had experienced years of rationing and restrictions.

Object 15 sugar beet pressAll this week in my blog I'm dipping into a series I recorded for BBC Radio Jersey and Jersey Heritage. I started recording in spring of 2019 and we ran a feature every week from May/June 2019 right through to and beyond May 9th 2020 when we celebrated Liberation75.  Our focus was 50 Objects held in the collections at the Jersey Archive and the Jersey Museum which tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

There were documents, official and personal, posters warning people against opposition, toys created for children out of nothingness, tales of how the population entertained themselves, stories of bravery and of day-to-day survival and ingenuity as people made use of anything they could lay their hands on to just keep themselves fed.

And so we come to today's 'object' ... just one of the stories we heard about how islanders found ingenious ways of feeding themselves and their families.

The story is told by Val Nelson, Senior Registrar at Jersey Heritage ... 

50 Objects - No.15 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you wish to listen to the audio feature on the BBC Radio Jersey website please click on the link below

Ashlea Tracey - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 15 - 20 September 2019


An Unused Ticket

This week, in the run up to the celebration of Liberation Day in the Channel Islands I'm dipping into a fascinating series I recorded for radio which ran across 2019 into 2020 and told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey through 50 Objects held in the Jersey Heritage collections.

The series culminated around May 9th 2020 when we marked the 75th anniversary of the Liberation ... it was part of BBC Radio Jersey's contribution to Liberation75.

Yesterday I explained that on July1st 1940 Jersey and the other Channel Islands including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark were invaded by the German Nazi forces - Hitler thought it would be the next step to invading Great Britain.

The invasion came at the end of a turbulent few weeks when, by June 20th,  any remaining British forces were withdrawn from the islands, so leaving an 'open door' for the enemy to invade.

On June 28th, being unaware that the islands were undefended, there was a German bombing raid on Guernsey and Jersey in which 44 islanders were killed  - nine in Jersey and the remaining poor souls in Guernsey. The BBC broadcast a belated message that the islands had been declared "open towns" and later in the day reported the German bombing of the Channel Islands.

Some islanders, especially those with means and those with family members living in mainland Great Britain had already decided to leave but during those last weeks of freedom, as occupation became inevitable, many decided that they could not stay in their island home.

By June 21st it had become clear to the government of Guernsey that it would be impossible to evacuate everyone who wanted to leave, so priority was given to special categories in the time remaining. In total, 5,000 school children and 12,000 adults out of the resident population of 42,000 were evacuated - a third of the islanders left. In Jersey, 23,000 civilians registered to leave but consistently the government encouraged people to stay and in the end only 6,600 out of the 50,000 population left on evacuation ships ahead of the invasion and the start of the five year long Occupation.

And so to today's story from my series '50 Objects' recorded for BBC Radio Jersey in 2019/2020.

Object 5 - an unused ticketEach of the objects, from the collections at the Jersey Archive and Jersey Museum, were selected by the archivists and experts at the Archive. It was a real joy to work with them over the year and to learn so much about this crucial period of Jersey's history.

The most interesting thing is that many of the items selected to tell the story of the Occupation and Liberation appear on the surface completely inconsequential.

Like Object Number 5 - a boat ticket ....

Linda Romeril, the Head of Archives and Collections at Jersey Heritage,  picks up the story of the Unused Ticket

50 Objects - No.5 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.

If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds - Object 5 - 12 July 2019


A Little Brown Envelope

This is a lovely time of year in Jersey in the Channel Islands - it's where I call home.

It's a time when colours are bright and the sunshine is beginning to warm us all up.

And it's also an important time, historically.

So much so that I'm going to do something a little different this week for my 'One Day at a Time' blog.

Let me explain.

On Sunday this coming weekend it's May 9th, a very important day in the calendar for Jersey, Guernsey and a couple of the other Channel Islands.

It's 'Liberation Day'!

If you're not already aware, during the Second World War (1939-1945) the islands were invaded and occupied by German Nazi forces - the Channel Islands were actually the only parts of the British Isles to be occupied by the enemy. 

The Occupation began on July 1st 1940 but it was the culmination of months of anticipation.

If you know your history you'll know that war in Europe broke out on September 1st 1939, beginning with the German invasion of Poland. The United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany two days later. The conflict would, of course, ultimately become global, but first Hitler was intent on taking over the whole of Europe.

After a period known as the 'Phoney War', eight months at the start of the war when relatively little happened in the way of conflict but during which Germany laid its plans, Nazi troops began to flood across the continent and gradually encroached on France. On May 10, 1940, they  invaded the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium in a 'blitzkrieg' (German for “lightning war”) and then their sights were set on France.

By the end of May 1940 many thousands of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and other Allied troops were cornered in or near a small coastal town in the top most northern point of France near to the border with Belgium, and between May 26th and June 4th 1940 during what has become known as the Battle of Dunkirk (Dunkerque)  an estimated 338,000 Allied forces were evacuated from Dunkirk, across the English Channel to England, as German forces closed in on them. The massive operation, involving hundreds of naval and civilian vessels, became known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”.

On June 22nd 1940 France surrendered, or at least agreed to an Armistice with German forces and that came into effect after midnight on June 25th.

Now, if you're not aware, Jersey and the Channel Islands is actually VERY close to France. The islands sit in the Bay of St Malo, and Jersey is the nearest to the French mainland - just 14 miles (or 22 km) away. On a good day from Jersey's East Coast we can see not just the French coast, but even houses and wind turbines on the French side of the small channel which separates us. 

For Hitler, taking the Channel Islands was a big deal. First, it was really close to France and now his army had the mainland, it wasn't much of a stretch to get to the Channel Islands.

But second, taking Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark would be a PR coup and, he hoped, strike fear into the hearts of the British people and their government in London, headed up by Winston Churchill.

Remember, this was all when Hitler was in the ascendant, he seemed 'unstoppable' as he raced through Europe and was now almost in waving distance of the British mainland from northern France and the Low Countries. It's reckoned he thought invading the Channel Islands would be a signal that he was on his way!

Certainly when the islands were occupied on July 1st 1940 the Nazis took advantage of the situation, releasing film and photographs of the Nazi flag flying from government buildings, pictures of a British policeman opening a car door for a German officer.

The truth is, the Occupation of the Channel Islands was not the step into mainland Britain, and there was no battle because the islands had been demilitarised. 

In May 2019 while working at BBC Radio Jersey I began a fascinating project in partnership with the Jersey Archive, part of Jersey Heritage, in which the experts there selected 50 objects from the collections in the Archives and the Jersey Museum through which we told the story of the Occupation and Liberation of Jersey.

The series ran from May/June 2019 through to June 2020 and we produced 50 short features each one focussing on one object from the collections that tell us a specific story about that part of our history.

The features ran every Friday morning just after 0830 on the BBC Radio Jersey Breakfast Show. I loved doing this series and I learnt so much. Each of the features is on the BBC Radio Jersey website under 'Breakfast' or various presenters, but Jersey Heritage/Archive also placed each feature on Vimeo - the whole series is there!

So, all this week I'm going to bring you one of the objects as we make our way towards Liberation Day on Sunday May 9th. Yes, we received our freedom from occupation the day AFTER Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8th.

This year we celebrate 76 years of Liberation ... the series was made to mark the landmark Liberation75!

So let's begin with Object Number 1 ... and an inconsequential note on the back of a little brown envelope.

Object 1 ... little brown envelopeLet's go back to the spring and early summer of 1940, and for weeks there had been rumours and fears that the Germans were on their way. Jersey's government and the islanders looked across the water, listened intently to the BBC news and were aware of Hitler's surge across Europe. 

There were questions here and in London -  would the island be defended, or left to it's own devices? What would happen if the Nazis did make it across the stretch of water from France? Would there be street battles? Bombings? 

Some people had already decided to leave their island home, but others waited to see whether occupation could be avoided.

There was much speculation and uncertainty, but on June 19th 1940 the States of Jersey, the island's government, was eventually made aware of what the British Government were planning.

The information which sealed the island's fate is contained in a simple note on the back of an envelope, scribbled down by the Lieutenant Governor of the time (the Queen's representative in the island) during a telephone conversation with London.

It confirmed that the British Government had decided NOT to keep troops based in the Channel Islands. The islands were to be 'demilitarised' ... effectively opening the door for the German Nazi troops to invade in their own time.

As Stuart Nicolle, Senior Archivist at the Jersey Archive explains, it's a little note which changed the course of Jersey history ...

50 Objects - No.1 from Jersey Heritage Vimeo on Vimeo.


If you want to listen to this on the BBC Radio Jersey website - click on the link below

James Hand - 50 OBJECTS - the story of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 told through 50 objects held by Jersey Heritage - BBC Sounds- Object 1 - May 9th 2019


No News Today!

Many of you who regularly read this blog may know that for most of my working life I've been involved in the media business.

And for most of my adult life, news has been something I've been involved in - listened to, watched, written, read out for listeners and viewers, reported on in studios and on locations, investigated news stories and chatted to people making the news for whatever reason. I'm one of those people who when I awake in the morning I automatically reach for the radio and switch on, to catch the latest headlines and commentary.

The news recently, of course, has been dominated by the coronavirus - news of numbers, deaths, hospitalisations, vaccines - it's been relentless. And I have to say, even though I am by my own admission a bit of a 'news junkie', it has all become a bit overwhelming.

Prior to this pandemic, of course, here in the UK our news programmes and headlines were dominated for many many many months by ... yes ... BREXIT!  THAT also felt like a never-ending story! 

With our current rolling TV news channels, it does sometimes feel like it's just a constant barrage of relentless facts, figures, analysis, comment. Often things appear to happen really really slowly, so hour on hour it's the same thing over and over and over again, with obvious clutching at proverbial straws to try to 'freshen up' the newslines being delivered.

I know that for a lot of people this past year, especially, has been quite depressing. A lot have simply stopped watching and listening to the news and have just 'switched off'. I've read comments from so many people who've said that they are just 'fed up' of hearing the same news lines and the same people talking about the same things. And I sort of get it. 

The challenge to current news providers is always to try to keep people engaged, but there is something in the argument that some of the methods of modern news delivery are rather jaded.

You know what I'm talking about. 'Experts' and so-called 'correspondents' unpicking issues endlessly and telling us what they think about it all is one of my personal bug bears, I have to say. Having worked in the news for so long, I'm aware that to be an 'expert' in any particular area is something that often comes with much time and great effort. And I'm not sure these days that everyone who stands outside an important building spouting what they've probably just actually been told to say by their colleagues back in the newsroom are real 'experts'. It sort of diminishes the trust in 'specialists'.

One big challenge is how also to keep people engaged with the news without just delivering scary statistics and frighteners? That doesn't always work either. One way of making news come to 'life' is to turn to 'examples' of people who are living through it. But even that can get a bit jaded because often the stories are framed in the same way - sad looking person filmed doing something that doesn't really relate to what the story is about (making a cup of tea/pottering in the garden, walking in a field), a rather sad little interview with a serious looking reporter, followed by the sad person doing something also unrelated to the story (leafing through a book/looking pensively out of a window).

Part of the problem is that the person's story is always framed through the news story and by the 'line' that the reporter is aiming for, and in the time allotted to them ... usually a TV news story is all done and dusted and shoe-horned into under two minutes. Radio can allow more TIME to really explore a subject, but the truth is much of the news delivery these days feels rather rushed. SO many stories, all covered rather superficially and only really for the purpose of illustrating the top 'news line'.

The other thing that people have often asked me is why the 'news' is so often 'bad.' I've tried to explain in the past that actually it's because 'bad' stuff happens really quite infrequently, so that's why it's unusual and makes the news. But these days I'm not so convinced by my argument. Years ago there was a bit of a debate as to why 'good' news couldn't be more prominent in a bulletin. Especially on a 'slow' news day, why can't our news be full of 'good' news? People doing great things, people making a difference in their communities. And not just covered as your typical 'And Finally ...' story.

On BBC local radio at the moment there IS a move towards more 'good' community news stories. Some bulletins are featuring 'Make a Difference' stories which celebrates the brilliant people in our communities. It was part of what I did towards the end of my time at BBC Radio Jersey and it's a great development.

But sadly, I think I may have actually to create my own 'good news channel' if I want to hear more positive news stories. The mainstream news media DOES have challenges ahead, although how one fixes a broken model is another issue and one that will take more than my ramblings to sort out.

But why am I talking about this today?

Well it's because on this day - April 18th - in 1930, the BBC did have a very slow news day and something rather unusual happened.

It was before television, so this was radio news. 

BBC microphoneIt was 8.45pm and all over Great Britain people tuned it for the radio news but instead heard the announcer simply say these words...

“Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” 

That was it. Then the rest of the 15-minute news segment was filled with some piano music.

Of course this was before the days of world media. And the BBC wasn't endowed with all the reporters and 'correspondents' we have today. In fact the BBC didn't create it's own news operation until 1934. It's really interesting to read about the early days of the BBC,  when their news gathering was rather constrained by the demands of the newspaper publishers who feared that broadcast bulletins would damage sales.

In those early days of the BBC - after the first news bulletin in November 1922 - they weren't allow to broadcast news before 7pm and the British government didn't allow the BBC to have its own reporters. They relied on stories and copy from the wire services like Reuters, the Press Association, the Central News, and the Exchange Telegraph Company, whose ‘tape’ machines spewed out their stories into the BBC News Room. The BBC news teams then chose what stories to run and by all accounts, they were determined only to choose the best stories. 

Obviously on April 18th 1930 there weren't enough good stories to make a bulletin!

I didn't grow up on this story ... it's something I learned about down the line. And I'm not sure that everyone who works for the BBC knows about it.  Some are aware and think it's just rather quirky. Click here to listen to a more modern take on what happened that day.

Even on a 'slow' news day, this would never happen today. Imagine if we switched on the BBC news channels to hear 'Good morning, everyone, today there is no real news for us to talk about, at least not sensibly. So we're just going to enjoy a film or some cartoons, or listen to some great music'.

Now ... THAT would be an interesting News Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Be Gentle

I am a very fortunate person. 

I have many friends, all over the world. People from lots of different parts of my life - my childhood, my school years, my church and faith life, my working life down the years.

And since social media became 'a thing' I've been able to reconnect with so many people with whom I'd lost contact. These days, no matter where we are in the world or whether we are living through a pandemic which so restricts our lifestyles, we can talk to each other, support each other, encourage each other, all via the magic of the internet.

I know lots of people find social media toxic, and sometimes it can be. But I have to say on Facebook I'm generally surrounded by good friends. By and large, positivity reigns.

Recently I've shared some news on Facebook - I'm about to leave my job at the BBC and have a new work adventure. Long story short ... my contract with the corporation was up for renewal and unfortunately the offer that was made to me would have added more responsibilities to an already busy workload, so I decided not to sign the new deal.

Which means that of today (Friday March 26th) I will no longer work for 'Auntie'. 

So, last Sunday I put a post on my Facebook page, just to tell everyone. Although it was only a couple of days since it had all been agreed, the news had already begun to filter into the atmosphere, so I thought ...'I'll tell everyone'.

I don't have a job to go to ... I'm planning to return to the freelance lifestyle that I once enjoyed ... and I'm not made of money,  so a lot of people might find a decision to just walk away from a job hard to understand. But I was inundated with lovely messages. Messages of support and affirmation and encouragement.

Maybe that says something about how people perceive me. Those who have known me for a while may be aware that I'm not adverse to a bit of risk-taking and daring to go on new adventures, but they also know that I don't take these steps on a whim.

Being a person of faith, I'm a bit of a Pray-er ... so I have prayed a lot about this. I've thought much about it, to the detriment of my sleep. I've made my usual 'pros and cons' lists, which involves making two lists - one of the positives of staying in the job and the negatives of leaving it, another of the negatives of staying the in job and the positives of leaving. If you get what I mean.

And I've chatted to a few people, not to help with the decision, but to weigh all my options in the balance.

SO - decision made - I posted on Facebook. And, as I said, got loads of support and, I have to say, a little advice from a few friends. And that counsel was the same over and over.

Give yourself some time. Try not to rush into the future without resting a little. After leaving such a busy job which has made so many demands on my time and my energy, breathe a little before launching into new commitments.

But I think the most useful and thought provoking message I received was this  

Be gentle

I love this.

Being 'gentle'  means so much.

I'm encouraged to be kind to myself and not beat myself up about what's past and the decision I've made, especially in those moments - and they are bound to come - when I'm wondering what the (......!) I've done by giving up a well-paid job!

Being 'gentle' on myself encourages me to forgive myself if I begin to doubt my decision, but also to remain humble and not to think arrogantly and unrealistically about the future, but instead to take things a little cautiously.

I'm encouraged through this piece of advice to find peace within myself, and to  seek stillness in my spirit. 

I could go on ... but I'm sure you get my drift.

So as I enter this new phase of life, thanks to all my friends for their great encouragement and support of me in my new adventure and for their great words of wisdom.

But thanks especially to my friend Alison Fox for this particular thought which she shared with me. Alison is, among other things, a counsellor and psychotherapist - so she knows what she's talking about! 

And, as I move into this new chapter of my professional life, I will keep her advice and encouragement in mind.

And if, today, this thought helps you, please feel free to join me!