Networking Event – An Invitation from Chris Burns, Chair of Sound Women

Chris Burns

Chis Burns, Chair of Sound Women

How often have you been told that you should network more? And then thought to yourself well that’s all very well, but who with?

Tim Davie, Director of Audio & Music at the BBC, will be hosting a networking event for Sound Women on Tuesday 19th June in the Media Cafe at BBC New Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1 from 6pm – 8pm.

Tim will be joined by senior colleagues from across the audio industry – including BBC and commercial radio – who will be on hand to meet you, talk radio, and share their own networking tips.

And we’re delighted to announce that Heart Breakfast’s Harriet Scott and BBC Radio 1’s Edith Bowman will be our special guest speakers.

Tim Davie

Tim Davie – Director, Audio & Music, BBC

The event is free, but a small donation to Sound Women on the night would be welcome.

Numbers are limited, and to ensure a good cross section of the whole industry we will also be limiting the numbers of applicants by sector.  Tickets will be made available on Wednesday 6th June at 8pm.  You can book your place here.

So you get the most of out the session Sound Women will also be running a networking workshop prior to the event on June 19th, at 5pm.  If you would like to apply for this as well, please sign up here.  Tickets will be made available on Wednesday 6th June at 8pm.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Chris Burns, Chair of Sound Women

  • Please note you need to have a place at the Sound Women Networking Event to be eligible to attend the workshop.  A ticket to the Workshop will not guarantee you admittance to the Sound Women Networking Event. If you would like to attend both, please ensure you apply for tickets to both. While the networking event is free, there will be a charge of £10 for the workshop and a £1.25 application fee.
  • In order to ensure a fair allocation of tickets across the industry we have a made certain numbers of tickets available for the Networking Event to different areas of the industry.  We have 80 spots for the Networking Event and have broken the allocation down into the following areas:
    BBC – 20 places
    Commercial –  20 places
    Community – 10 places
    Freelance – 10 places
    Indie – 10 places
    Student – 10 places
    Please make sure to select the ticket appropriate to your industry area.
  • Tickets for the Networking Event and for the Workshop will be made available on Wednesday 6th June at 8pm
    If you have any questions about the event then please email

Radio 4 Extra’s Mary Kalemkerian hangs up her headphones

by Liz Jaynes

I’m sitting in a studio with Mary Kalemkerian and it dawns on me that this is probably the last time I’ll do so…

For those that haven’t encountered the pint-sized, bold Scot who is Mary K, she’s the Head of Programmes at Radio 4 Extra, the BBC’s digital station for drama and comedy.  After successfully launching the station in 2002 (then called BBC 7) she’s been it’s beating heart for the last ten years – in 2008 winning the prestigious Programmer of the Year Award at the Sonys.

I’ve worked with Mary for seven of those ten years, but that’s all about to change.  After a successful career that has spanned four decades, Mary is hanging up her headphones and quickstepping into the sunset.

In her final week at the BBC, she found time to chat to Sound Women…

With you as Head of Programmes, Radio 4 Extra has consistently held onto the Number 1 spot and been the highest listened to digital station.  Were you disappointed that you didn’t win a Sony at the recent awards?

It was a big buzz making it into the top three and being nominated for Station of the Year.  We were up against the World Service and Liverpool’s Radio City, a fantastic station.  I was pleased that City got it. If another BBC station had got it over us I might have been disappointed, but the fact that we were in the top three made me feel really good.

Part of the key to Radio 4 Extra’s success is that you are great at persuading people to do things. What’s been your greatest coup?

This is quite a hard one…  I think maybe getting Alan Bennett to write BBC Radio 7’s first commission.  He wrote a monologue for Thora Hird, it was the very last thing she ever did. It was written especially for us, and that felt excellent.

How did you persuade him?

A lot of it’s to do with your relationships with people.  Fostering good relationships is really, really important.  I’ve always treated writers and performers with a lot of respect.  I’ve always tried to share ideas and nurture them.

Your radio career started to take off after the age of 40. Are you proof that age is not an issue in radio?

I don’t think age is an issue.  I think it was at one time but I was still getting interviews in my forties and fifties.  It might be different on television and I’m not on screen, but nobody ever asks my age at all.

What changes have you noticed happening in the radio industry during your career?

Technically there have been massive changes.  The advent of social media.  I think things are less laddish now.  If you look at Radio 1 in the 70s and 80s, I think it was a laddish community.

You’ve said you went for a lot of jobs but you didn’t get them until you decided to be yourself.

Exactly.  When I first went for BBC interviews, because everyone else spoke posh, I though I wouldn’t get a look in.  I would try and sound ‘RP’ and I shouldn’t have done.  It put a strain on me at interviews.  I always knew when I was boring them with it.  The minute I thought: ‘if they want me they’ll have to take me as I am’, I was more successful.

What advice can you give women working in radio today?

If you’ve got a passion to be a producer, stick to that but don’t be afraid to veer off the path.  Know what your strength is.  Some women might be quite technically minded.  A studio manager is a great route to becoming a producer.  Try out things, something might grab you!  Do not be afraid to try something out.

By Liz Jaynes, Promotions Producer at Radio 4 and 4 Extra

Beryl & Betty: We’ll stop when we’re past it, and we’ll let you know when that is…

By Ruth Barcroft

As a journalist working for the Sony gold award-winning BBC Radio Humberside I can’t tell you how delighted we all are at the success of Beryl and Betty and the creative genius that is their producer, David Reeves.

Over six years they’ve brought joy both on and off-air. When they’re pre-recording their weekly show, it’s impossible to walk past their studio without being beckoned in for a gossip and a giggle. Beryl and Betty bring their East Yorkshire spirit and vibrancy, David translates this into hilarious and heart-warming radio waves, and the nature of the show dictates that whatever happens, happens.

So how did it happen?  Sound Women, this is the story of two female broadcasters, who came together with a male broadcaster, and with the support of their bosses, created radio gold.  On paper it sounds easy.  Indeed the idea of getting “real voices” to front a show is so simple, David says “I can’t believe nobody thought of it before. The fact that they were brilliant and we have chemistry is what makes it work”.

But this isn’t merely a tale of talent and luck either. How, for example, did two OAPs with (clearly) no previous presenting experience, get past the template of DQF-driven BBC broadcasting?  Perhaps it helps that theirs is an entertainment show with a niche audience, “tucked away” at the weekend?  And although it’s still subject to the same compliance, perhaps there’s more freedom – and therefore more fun – than with the flagship programmes?  Certainly the pure “joy” of the programme is something which the Sony judges emphasised in their decision to award gold.

One thing’s for sure, as David says, “This show has never been about ticking boxes”. And although he also doesn’t consider it a risk, some may think otherwise.  BBC Radio Humberside’s Station Editor, Simon Pattern, dared to be different. But Simon says he can’t take any credit.  “It was a simple choice – to trust a producer who had the instinct that it could work and then support them to do that.  I see my role to try and encourage… and to create a space in which creative and yes, sometimes risky, ideas can be grown”.

And so within that space and freedom, ideas did grow. For several months prior to his Sony entry David gently pressed for the publicity and recognition he believed Beryl and Betty deserved.  His goal was to break the mould, and ultimately his vision and determination paid off.  So what’s the new mould?  And will Beryl and Betty change things for women in local radio?

As a female thirty-something, who’s been presenting for the past ten years, I’d like to think so.  In the wake of Sound Women’s launch last year, the picture for female broadcasters, particularly in local radio, was bleaker than ever.  Here at BBC Radio Humberside there still aren’t any women presenting during the week between 6am and 10pm.  It’s grim to even entertain the thought that female presenters are only suited to late night and weekend output.  Simon Pattern says “If we have failed to encourage or help grow women into on air roles – and I agree that the evidence to support this looks compelling as an industry – then the challenge should be to find out why that could be the case. If there are genuine barriers they need knocking down”.

And so the discourse continues as to what exactly those barriers are and how we generate more equality across broadcasting. In the meantime, they may not realise it, but it’s taken the friendship of two elderly women and one man, a chicken dinner-or-two and a smattering of the Buble to give that glass ceiling one hell of a smash. Surely, local radio broadcasting can never be the same again?

I asked Beryl and Betty how it felt to be older women on the radio?

Beryl – I’ve never heard a radio station with older people like us…
Betty – We’ve lived… Though her life was very different from mine.

Are you feminists?

Beryl – Oh yes, definitely!
David – Are you sure? It’s a bit of a loaded question…

Do you remember anything of the suffragette movement?

Beryl – My gran told me about it… To this day I wish people would vote. You should listen to the parties’ policies and vote for who you agree with. People gave their lives for our right to vote.  Of course governments make mistakes when they’re in power… We all do.

Who cooked the chicken dinner in your house?

Betty – My mum died when I was 15, so it was me, though my brother used to cook his own. I’ve got 10 children, so I had to cook for 12. I’d line up the plates and put the tatters out first, then the cabbage, then there was some who didn’t want that, but wanted cauliflower, then there’d be some that liked carrots but didn’t want turnip. They’re all faddy.

Beryl – In 1961 I think, I was ill with pleurisy so Stephen- bless him- had to do all the cooking. He brought up my dinner and I saw this green thing on my plate. I said ‘what’s that?’ and he said ‘cabbage’. I said ‘that’s not cabbage.’  It turns out he’d boiled a bit of lettuce thinking it was cabbage. He used to say to me “I hope I go first, because you could manage without me, but I couldn’t manage without you.” He could make a cup of tea, but that was his limit.

So his name was Stephen?

Beryl – Yes, that’s right
Betty – Mine was ‘big bald John’.

If they were to make a film of your life who should play you?  I hear Meryl Streep’s working on her Hull accent…

Beryl – Oh yes, Meryl Streep, she’d be good… And there’s Judi Dench – oh she’s a marvellous actress.  Either of them would do.

If the radio bosses said ‘sorry, we’re taking you off air for being old women’ what would you say?

Beryl – I’d ask what we’d done, as we can talk about anything.
Betty – We’re not too old. We’ll stop when we’re past it, and we’ll let you know when that is.

Interview by Ruth Barcroft of BBC Radio Humberside

The Sony Radio Academy Awards 2012: The Year of Betty and Beryl!

by Miranda Sawyer

Betty and Beryl! Without doubt, the award of the evening went to two older ladies from Radio Humberside, who, rightly, won a Sony Gold for Best Entertainment Programme. They got a standing ovation and one of the biggest cheers of the night. Who says older women are overlooked, eh?

B and B grabbed the headlines, but the Sonys were different in other ways. For their 30th anniversary, the awards introduced live music, from Jesse J, Gary Barlow and Alexandra Burke – who wore a Pink Floyd T-shirt, pop reference spotters. They also moved the stage from the centre to the side, stage location spotters.

Other than that, what was new? Well, without a doubt, the Sonys this year felt like less of a lad-fest. Plenty of female producers on the winners’ mic; awards handed out by both men and women. Victoria Derbyshire won Best Speech Broadcaster, a real toughie; Fearne Cotton scooped Best Music Programme. There were still entire categories, such as Speech Radio Personality and Music Broadcaster, without a single female nominee, but there had clearly been a behind-the-scenes effort to make the awards more representative, at least in their presentation. Fewer ‘what a lovely dress’ comments from Chris Evans, too. Though poor old Andy Grey can’t help himself, can he? When Keys and Grey won Best Sports Programme for their talkSPORT show, Grey, in his onstage speech, referred to the only female team-member as “beautiful”. Andy, she’ll survive without your adjectives. Really, she will.

What else? It was utterly great to see 6Music win Station of the Year. Just two years ago, it really did look like it would close. The campaign to save 6Music was an amazing thing. Not only did it work, but it brought a confidence and belief to the station and its listeners; the same confidence and belief that led to it winning Sony Gold. 6Music is proof that when people with passion organise themselves and shout about what they believe in, then those at the top will listen.

Which gives me heart for Sound Women. We only came into existence after last year’s Sonys, sparked into action after the tiresome boys-together atmosphere and lack of female nominees. There’s still some way to some way to go; but I like to think that last night’s Sonys, with their more inclusive approach, their rejection of old-school golf club ideals, were influenced by our on-going campaign. Onwards and upwards!

Get Betty and Beryl on 5Live!

Absolute Winner – What winning Sony Gold meant to Annabel Port

I’m standing backstage with my award tucked under my arm. I’ve just been photographed with Eammon Holmes and interviewed by someone who commented on how much I was shaking. I look around me and blurt out to the nearest person, ‘What do I do now?’ ‘Er….go back to your seat…’ they suggest with a hint of an eye roll.

Right, yes, of course. Back to my seat. And yet they could’ve said ‘Oh now you go off to be congratulated by the Queen’ and I’d have just nodded and left for Buckingham Palace. As I’ve just won the Sony Gold for Best On-Air Contributor and nothing now could surprise me.

I found out I was nominated on my honeymoon. I rang my dad to tell him. ‘Outstanding’, he said before hanging up and immediately calling his local paper, the Evening Echo, to give them what he believed to be the scoop of the year. It made it to page 36.

I was up against stiff competition including last year’s winner Mark Kermode and the legendary Moira Stewart so didn’t once dare to dream I’d actually win. This turned out to be a mistake. The reason why it’s good to dare to dream you’d win is that you might then have a vague idea of the speech you have to make.

Hearing my name announced as the winner by Eammon Holmes was a huge thrill mixed with huge terror that I’d have to stand up, walk up on to the stage and speak in front of all these people. It was all very surreal but I managed to thank everyone that I needed to and make it backstage before I embarrassed myself with the ‘what do I do now?’

I later went outside to ring my dad. We had a brief chat in which he promised not to ring up the local paper again. Before hanging up and ringing the local paper again. This time I made it to page 7.

Winning was an amazing experience. While I don’t think anyone’s main motivating force should be the winning of awards, it is incredible to have your work recognised in this way. I know On Air Contributor isn’t the most prestigious award, perhaps best reflected by the fact it was axed after 2 years. And there is a bit of snobbery about women who are sidekicks to a main male presenter. But as long as you aspire to do more than just giggle at whatever your co-host says, it’s a brilliant learning on the job experience. Especially if you’re lucky enough to work with a presenter as talented as I have, the radio natural, Geoff Lloyd.

The question I get asked most about my job is ‘when are you getting your own show?’ I finally have an answer as I’ll be soon starting my own weekly slot on Absolute Radio 70s. My award may have helped me in achieving this next step. So it would be great if more women were successful at the Sonys. I think the lack of women in top radio jobs is just a hangover of more chauvinistic times. And no hangover lasts forever. (Although I did once have one for 8 days. But that’s another story).

My Sony glory (allow me to use the word glory, the chances are it’ll never happen again) was not just a career highlight, but a life highlight. It made every second of hard work all worthwhile. My proud dad, in between ringing up the local paper to give them more quotes, told me it was in the top 5 best experiences of his life. And if that’s not enough to motivate you to make sure one day you’re up on the stage at the Grosvenor House Hotel, I’ll also add that physically the award is very hefty, so kept by the side of the bed like mine, could prove very useful one day for tackling intruders. Just don’t forget, after winning, you just go back to your seat. That’s what you do next.

Annabel Port is Absolute Radio’s Hometime co-presenter

North West Drinks and World Domination

By Producer and Talent Coach Kate Cocker

Two weeks ago we started Sound Women North West’s monthly get togethers in Manchester. We have started as a small affair. A venue in the city, that will let us have a bar for a couple of hours the last Thursday of every month for the foreseeable.  The plan… world domination?  Not quite.  But we should aim high right?

The plan is to create a space for women in radio in the North West to meet, create, support, find each other, inspire, have fun, and celebrate our achievements. The vision is that you can come here and share – which is what we ladies do best – and not be judged.

Watch a film about the first NW meet here

Sound Women North West started a few months ago inspired by the amazing work that was happening in London. Me, Jo Meek, Andrea Day, Jo Good and Vicky Warham found ourselves meeting in tea shops in Manchester’s Northern Quarter sharing experiences of radio and comparing the contents of our handbags (lipsticks, USB sticks and random cable adaptors covered in mascara!) over milkshake and cake. And after some deliberation, decided it was time to get the ball rolling in the North West by setting a time to meet regularly.

And so there we were on Thursday April 26th, sticking up posters and slicing up something that looked like cake in 2022s on Dale Street in Manchester. The venue is a real find. A lovely creative space that exhibits art, puts on films and has a bar. What more do you need?

Nothing it seemed. There was a strong turn out of women from all levels of the industry travelling from as far as Liverpool and Chester to meet up. The magic of bringing brilliant people together has already begun, sparking off ideas and collaborations and radio training and radio programmes. It is nothing but positive.

As the months go by and with the guidance of the people that come, we plan to create breakout workshops, invite speakers, organise formal discussion and have events that people who can’t make it at 6pm, can (eg Radio Ladies Wot Lunch). But we’ll do it like this for a few months first. The task of the ladies that came this month is to bring a friend next month… Maybe we are after world domination?

We’ll meet again 6pm on Thursday May 24th at 2022s, Dale Street, Manchester. Please come along, and if you can’t make it this month – come the next month!

If anyone would like to start a Sound Women group in their area please email