One of the tasks I set myself as part of my series of challenges on behalf of “Time to Change” was to have a go at radio presenting; so the offer not only to co-host a two-hour show, but for that show to be based around mental health was far too good an opportunity to miss.
The “Mentally Sound” show is transmitted once a month, every second Friday, and as yesterday was indeed July’s second Friday, I headed up to Newcastle to the studios of Gravity Radio North East, which are based on the top floor of a ridiculously high building near the city centre.
The programme is in its relative infancy (this was show no.5), but behind the scenes there is a small, but dedicated team, who are determined to raise the profile of what are hugely important issues through a combination of live guests, topical discussion and pre-recorded inserts... and a slightly less relevant (but nonetheless enjoyable) tune or two along the way.
What is particularly good about the show is that its concept and aim have a very real personal significance for some of those involved, and the knowledge and insight, coupled with a very evident passion and drive will hopefully see the programme evolve and reach an ever wider audience.
With Gareth and Victoria having completed the pre-show preparations, I sat down in what was a decidedly warm studio, opposite the presenter Steve, who had briefed me as to my involvement in proceedings... well we’d chatted about wrestling! Last but absolutely not least was Wayne, who has forgotten more about all things technical than I will ever know....
Which was just as well because as the show started, my microphone wasn’t working!
In fairness, it could always have been a pre-arranged plan: “Don’t switch it on until you’re sure he’s not going to be crap!”
Anyway all was soon well; Steve and I chatted for a few minutes about my experiences and challenges, before the first of the pre-recorded interviews. Ricky then came into the studio to give a live news update... which was then used to prompt a discussion/debate between the three of us, with seamless links from Steve allowing the second microphone to be redirected between Ricky and me without any unnatural break in conversation. At least that was the theory!
A second live guest, David, then came in to talk about his writing... in particular his undeniably intriguing dual-themed book about King Arthur’s legend and mental health, all apparently set in a modern nightclub.
You might just want to read that last paragraph again!
After the remaining inserts, there was a chance for Steve and I to have another brief chat before he wrapped up the show. Interestingly, some of the best conversation probably came off-air and Steve, Ricky, Wayne and I all continued transmitted debates whilst the audience listened to the pre-recorded material.
I realise that at this relatively early stage, there is some assurance that comes from having the majority of content ready at the press of a proverbial button, but maybe as the show develops it would benefit from a greater proportion of live interaction? If one of Mentally Sound’s aims is to encourage people to be willing and able talk about any aspect of mental health, then hearing views and lived experiences being openly and naturally shared would be a really positive ambition.
All in all I found the whole experience both enjoyable and rewarding; and I am grateful to everyone associated with Mentally Sound for allowing me to get involved. Hopefully it won’t be the last time I can contribute to the show... but for now, I need to get back in training... the netball court awaits!