My Upbeat Experience
Where do I begin to tell you all about the most beneficial and enjoyable few days spent working as a radio producer? I have been on Cloud 9 since the experience and cannot wait to share my story with other IWA members.
What started as a normal day browsing through the usual social media sites, I stumbled upon a retweet on Twitter. The tweet was a call out for potential radio producers to volunteer for ‘Upbeat On Air’, a pop-up radio station located in St. Patricks Mental Health Services which would be broadcasting from the 6th -10th of October for Mental Health Awareness Week. This would be the perfect opportunity to be involved in something I had studied and was my life's aspiration. I contacted Brian Greene, the Station Manager of Upbeat On Air, who asked which side I'd like to be involved in and of course I jumped at the chance to help out in production.
When it came to it, I was really nervous about being on the production side of live radio broadcasts with some well-known faces (or should I say voices) in the industry.
The week before I started, I travelled to Dublin to be trained in. I thankfully got a refreshers course in the production side of things. Aspects of the production which I had learned in college all came flooding back. I had so much fun that I volunteered to come back again on the following Friday to pick up additional pointers and tips. By that Saturday I was exhausted, but for the best reason.
As soon as I got to the radio station to begin my first day, it was already alive with upbeat music and chat. Despite being as prepared as possible, my nerves kicked in terribly.... sweaty palms, the lot.
Then I was introduced to a gentleman called Ronan who had many years experience and was going to help me during the week. When Ronan saw how nervous I was he said, "Think of it this way.... at least it's not air-traffic control". My nervousness decreased a little. I then met with Paddy Cullivan (from the very talented Camembert Quartet) with whom I would go on to produce for the week. Most of my first day was spent observing but I did get involved.
The role I took on-board was producer. This role involved working at a sound desk with separate faders for mics and music. My responsibility was to make sure the mics were on and volume up at an audible level for the presenters using them. I also had to let the presenters know how long there was left in a song or ad break before they were back on air. This is because they may be talking to the guest they're about to introduce to make the guest comfortable.
On my second day I got stuck into it while being given verbal prompts. Some of the many names and faces in the industry who took part in this amazing radio station were Alison Canavan (model and frequent panellist on my favourite chat show, Midday on TV3), Geri Maye (Winning Streak), Ruth Scott and Paddy McKenna (from Weekenders on 2FM) and Eoghan McDermott (host of The Voice of Ireland) who all kept listeners entertained for 5 days.
There were many topics spoken about on how to improve and sustain positive mental health such as healthy eating, exercise and therapies. During one of the shows I was involved in producing, Medical Director of St. Patrick's, Dr. Jim Lucey gave an interesting insight to the history of the hospital which was founded by author Jonathan Swift over 260 years ago. He recognised that people with mental illness needed a specialist service to provide care, treatment and a voice.
The Hospital is Ireland’s largest, independent, not-for-profit mental health service. It is beginning to be recognised under many health legislations such as the provision of quality mental health care, the promotion of mental health awareness, the protection of the rights and integrity of those suffering from mental illness.
My personal favourite of the therapies was the Animal Therapy. I met a lovely lady by the name of Anne Davey who brought her dog, Socks into the studio to talk about the work she does and how Socks' good nature has helped the lives of many who attend St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services. Since finishing up with the station I have been in contact with Anne and Socks who have both invited me up to visit them in any future sessions.... I'm really looking forward to that.
There were many guests on various shows such as Eleanor McEvoy, who gave a beautiful performance of her song, “Go Now”, and more wonderful performances by Brian Kennedy and Paul Harrington. I must admit I’m a sucker for “Rock n’ Roll Kids” but sadly Paul didn’t sing it.... maybe it would be a bit predictable I guess. Other guests included Caroline Grace-Cassidy, Dil Wickremasinghe, Emma Hannigan and Tara Flynn (who have all been panellists on Midday).... yes I do love that show. Tara spoke about her latest book “You’re Grand – The Irishwoman’s Guide to Life” and was yet another person to grace us with her AMAZING rendition of the Karen Carpenter song "This Masquerade".
Bressie also made an appearance. I had spoken to a few people who help out in St. Patrick's and they told me that having the station there for those 5 days did wonders for the people who were using their services. It was something new and exciting and gave the people something to look forward to in their day. There was one particular girl that I met who had asked me when Bressie was coming in. The minute Bressie did walk into the hospital the sheer excitement in her face was brilliant to see.... I can almost hear the bouncing hormones of many females out there too.
Sadly Friday came and it was time to say goodbye to Upbeat. As I finished my 1-4pm slot and left the premises, I found myself starting to well-up. The 5km bus journey back to the hotel was excruciating but once I got there I let it all out.... a cathartic experience you might say. That night, we all went out to celebrate the wonderful 5 days which were had. It was the best way to finish such a fantastic UPBEAT week.