Yesterday I drove up to Newcastle to take part in the twelfth Mentally Sound Radio Show. Initially, I was only scheduled to do a ten-minute update on my ongoing challenges (most specifically my upcoming darts marathon on behalf of Grangetown Netball Club the Jenny Wallwork Foundation—Jenny having appeared as a guest on Show 11), but as things transpired I was invited to co-host the show for a second time—an offer I was only too happy to accept.
The reason for this blog is to try and give some indication as to just how far the show has progressed since my first involvement back in August last year—some things haven’t changed though... viz. the two microphone set-up which can make things awkward for presenters and guests alike, but this is radio; and so long as what goes out on air sounds good, I suppose it hardly matters what is happening behind the scenes....
Anyway, my “debut” show (it was Show 6) included quite a few pre-recorded segments, one or two of which lasted in excess of fifteen minutes each. Nothing inherently wrong with that (taking the quality and relevance of the content as a given), but what struck me was that the “real” interaction was happening off air, particularly the discussions I was having with Steve (the show’s host) and Wayne.
A massive amount of planning goes into each show and I absolutely accept that radio demands the preparation of and adherence to a strict schedule, but responding to a pre-record bears little comparison with that instant reaction you get to live conversation. True it makes it harder for the host to manage the running order, but the flip side (in my opinion... for what it’s worth) is a product that really engages with the listeners.
Yesterday’s instalment included three or four songs (I really should be able to count by now...), and a two-minute recorded introduction to Lexie’s fascinating piece on anorexia nervosa—but the rest of the show was built around live conversation with the guests (and a bit of what I believe is called “banter” between host and co-host).
Yesterday’s guests were brilliant. As well as Lexie, there was Colin (with whom I’d had a lengthy chat prior to the show) who’d travelled over from Liverpool to talk about his work based around football therapy for people experiencing mental health problems. Colin’s own life experiences as well as the remarkable work he does made for genuinely compelling listening.
In fairness you could have built a two-hour show entirely around the links between mental health (or mental strength) and sport—but as the show progressed, it became clear that the same could also be said about some of the other subjects that were covered.
Those topics comprised intriguing research into the possible causes of schizophrenia, the superb work being undertaken to support local carers, information about dementia (this segment included a truly captivating and moving story—please do have a listen to the podcast when it becomes available). Ricky popped in for his regular news update and picked what I thought were particularly interesting stories; and finally there was some information about a role-playing game that thankfully resonated with Steve... because I didn’t understand it at all!
For a time, it felt like the guests were coming in and out on a conveyor belt—thankfully Victoria had everything under control—but much as the high proportion of live content put a bit of added pressure on Steve, he made everyone feel comfortable; and the obvious interest he had in the various subjects afforded a really natural flow to the conversations that hopefully came across to those listening.
In short, I thought yesterday’s show was excellent (despite my participation), and those whose involvement has spanned the past twelve months deserve a huge amount of credit not only for the way the show has developed, but for the very real difference Mentally Sound now has the potential to make.
It was a pleasure to be involved.