On air with Tina Watkin

Hostess with the mostess

Bradford writer Tina Watkin talked to Mark Cantrell about her work with BCB Radio to promote the activities of local writers

This article was previously published in Writing Magazine

Tina Watkin in the BCB studio
YOU don't need to be a famous author to get on the radio: just ask Tina Watkin.

That's not a sideways swipe, incidentally, just an acknowledgement of the work Tina has done for local writers, together with Bradford Community Broadcasting 96.7FM (BCB), over the last two years.

Tina is the presenter of the Scribe Slot, which goes out live every fourth Tuesday. The programme is a potpourri of poetry, prose, music and chat with local literary types.

Whether interested amateurs taking their first steps out of the garret, or the keen enthusiasts determined to taste success with their words, Tina has shown them the door - to exposure on air.

"People don't want to know you unless you've already got something under your belt," Tina says, "so the Scribe Slot exists for the non-professional writer to make a stand and climb the ladder. It's all about the process of getting a track record."

It's the gold dust of exposure, an emblem of kudos on a literary CV, like a poem included in a magazine, or a slot in a local open mic. Not only that, it makes for the kind of challenging testing ground every author needs to hone their words and their craft.

Writers after all are notorious shrinking violets about their work. Either they take coy to the extent of invisibility, or they react with outrageous arrogance. The root tends to be the same: a dreadful insecurity about the worth of their words. The Scribe Slot offers another medium to combat such insecurities.

"The programme gives people a bit of confidence," Tina adds. "Most writers have the doubt that their work is not good enough, but being on air gives a boost that other people want to listen to what they have written. We've found that quite a lot of people bloom as a result of the experience."

Originally, the programme began life as a mechanism for promoting the works and members of the Bradford Writers' Circle, which Tina also co-ordinates. Since its inception, Tina has steered the Scribe Slot into deeper waters to trawl for writers further afield. Nowadays individual writers and literary organisations across the district gain the benefit of airtime exposure.

"There's quite a wealth of talent at Bradford Writers' Circle, and at the time there wasn't really anywhere locally for people to be heard," Tina explains. "We decided that if we could find a way for unknown people to read it would be some kind of incentive to other people out there to actually have a go."

And the whole thing grew from there.

As you might expect, material on the programme features poetry and prose writing, along with interview style material about the authors and their work. Beyond that, the programme maintains an open approach to content and style, with the scope very much open for experimentation.

In the past, the Scribe Slot has featured short scripted pieces as well as work accompanied by the piano and contributors singing songs.

"It adds another dimension," she says. "Really we're an open forum in that if anyone has anything different that they want to bring along. Poetry is not just words on paper. It can be put to music."

That said, Tina points out that some things work better than others. On air, the visual cues of a person's face are naturally absent. This can make some work difficult for an audience to focus on. On the whole, she advises (especially for prose material) that it should not be too complex.

The synergy of creative writing and creative radio, plays its own part in creating a broader sense of the variety and diversity of writing in Bradford and beyond.

Originally, however, Tina's involvement with the radio was somewhat less literary in its focus. She began as just another interested amateur, who had never thought of radio until she found a leaflet explaining the station's community activities.

This being Tina, the leaflet sat in storage for two years, before she plucked it from obscurity and took the first step towards likewise plucking scribes. To think it was a visit to the Environmental Health Department Offices that led her to nip in and take the plunge.

What followed was a hands on course in radio, followed by a twelve week stint at the Kirkgate Studios in Shipley. She was the first voice to be heard on the half-hour programme Shipley Corner. Her radio work has expanded since those beginnings.

On several occasions she joined the all women's team Radio Venus both interviewing and being interviewed on a variety of subjects, and in May 2001 she began to co-host the Afternoon Stretch programme with Alan Keeling.

Bradford Community Broadcasting is one of only 15 'access radio' stations within the UK that has a full time broadcast license. A community organisation, it is run by membership and works to encourage local people to be involved in its running. Along with the training courses it runs throughout the year, it also works with community organisations, schools and individuals to enable ordinary Bradfordians to produce and present their own shows. Earlier in 2004, it celebrated its tenth birthday.

"We have a wide audience and we try to reach everyone, so we're open to anyone," Tina says.

This article first appeared in Aesthetica Magazine #10, June 2005. A shorter version of the interview also appeared in Writing Magazine, February 2005

Photo copyright (C) Mark Cantrell

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