All Posts By

Iain

Live Shows and Podcasts and Shiz

By | News | One Comment

Hello everyone

I’ve been busy and ignoring the website. Apologies. The tour has been going well, well, well, I mean there have been 2 dates and they’ve gone very well. The podcast has been a delight…maybe I’m revealing too much about myself, I dunno? And the radio is the radio!

Oh, and I recorded an episode of Pointless with Keith Chegwin.

So, here are the remaining dates. There IS a London show on October 8th I just can’t announce where yet. It’s North London though. And then, once these are all done, that will probably be it. I haven’t got into the groove yet and don’t know if I ever will. I’, not sure this lifestyle is for me. There has certainly been no ‘buzz’ or ‘performing high’ and while I’ve enjoyed meeting everyone who came, the anxiety outweighs the joy. Maybe that will change. Doesn’t matter.

So, here are the remaining dates and the podcasts. Enjoy!

 

10 September
Komedia, Brighton
£15/£12 concession
KOMEDIA TICKETS
0845 293 8480

 

11th September
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

WORCESTER TICKETS

01905 611427

12th September
Arts Centre, Swindon
£13/15 tickets
SWINDON TICKETS
01793 524481

18th September
The Junction, Cambridge
£15/13
CAMBRIDGE TICKETS
01223 511511

26th September
Rondo Theatre ONSALE NOW!
St Saviour’s Road
Bath BA1 6RT
BATH TICKETS
01225 463362

10th October (2 shows) BOTH SHOWS SOLD OUT
7pm & 9:15pm
MAC Birmingham

NEW DATE 17th October
Luton Library Theatre
LUTON TICKETS

22nd October
Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton
TOTTON TICKETS
02380667683

The First 5 Episodes Of My New Podcast – Iain Lee Vs Radio

By | News | 2 Comments

Ah man…I am weeks away from the first date of the Iain Lee Vs Radio tour. July 8th in Maidenhead is looming and I am panicking. What if no one comes? What if it isn’t funny? What if I do a wee wee on stage?

All of these things are possible. I turned 42 this week, and this is just what I need at this time of my life. Fear. And self loathing.

Anyway, to help shift a few tickets I thought I’d do an occasional podcast. This is the first one, I recorded it in bed and, well, I couldn’t be bothered to get up and do it with my good microphone. Man, if I can’t be bothered to use my good microphone to promote my show, then why would YOU be bothered to buy tickets?

You will come, won’t you?

I might sell t-shirts.

 


8th July

Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead

Website https://norden.farm/events/iain-lee-vs-radio

01628 788997

 

NEW DATE 1st AUGUST 

The Horsebridge Arts & Community Centre

Whitstable

Kent CT5 4HS

Tickets Horsebridge Comedy

 

10 September

Komedia, Brighton

£15/£12 concession

http://komediabrighton.ticketsolve.com/shows/873529274/events?show_id=873529274

0845 293 8480

 

11th September 

Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

01905 611427

 

12th September

Arts Centre, Swindon

£13/15 tickets

Swindon Tickets Click Here

01793 524481

 

18th September

The Junction, Cambridge

£15/13

www.junction.co.uk/iain-lee

01223 511511

 

26th September

Rondo Theatre ONSALE NOW!

St Saviour’s Road

Bath BA1 6RT

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/173205

01225 463362

 

10th October (2 shows)

7pm & 9:15pm

MAC Birmingham

http://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/iain-lee-vs-radio/

 

NEW DATE 17th October

Luton Library Theatre

http://www.lutonculture.com/whats-on/whats-on/2015/10/17/iain-lee/1532/?from=%252Fwhats-on%252F%2523search

 

22nd October

Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton

http://www.totton.ac.uk/hanger-farm/whats-on-at-hanger-farm/iain-lee-vs-radio.aspx

02380667683

Iain Lee Poster

10 – Just a Girl by Katherine Boyle

By | How To Do Radio, Katherine Boyle, News | One Comment

Iain and I went to talk to students at the St Albans Girls school this week, and because they’re…ahm…girls, we thought it might be an idea if I let them have the inside track on what it’s like being a woman working in media.

These young women listened to our guff

I was a bit uncomfortable about that, if I’m honest. Who am I to speak for the experience of a whole gender? Sure, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride over the years, but I’m not sure how much of that’s related to being the proud owner of a cracking set of ovaries. Maybe I’m just a div*.

That said, it turns out I have been the recipient of a fair bit of bullshit over the years, stuff my male colleagues won’t have encountered. I’m not just talking about hiding in the stationery cupboard to avoid a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ co-worker – although I have been there, done that and sadly, there was no t-shirt for my trouble.

No, the bovine excretia to which I’m mostly referring came in the form of well-meaning ‘pearls of wisdom’ such as these…

 

“What you need to understand is, statistically**, women don’t like listening to other women.”

“The trouble is, Kath, clever women can sound a bit…stuck up.”

“It’s women’s voices, you see, they can so easily become shrill when pressing a point.”

And my personal favourite…

“What you need to remember is that the average listener has trouble distinguishing one woman’s voice from another.”

Yes.

Really.

Of course this is all utter balls. But this was the stuff I was getting from various sources during the late 90s and well into the 00s from people (not just men) who thought they were doing a newbie a favour. And if my experience is anything like that of other women trying to make it in radio, where surely your voice and the contents of your head are more important than your genitalia, no wonder there’s been a big push to get more women on-air – they’ve been benevolently talked into support roles for years!

Actual picture sent to me by a listener who thought I needed to know my place.

Sad to say, I swallowed the guidance offered so breezily and spent far too long struggling to be acceptable despite the terribly off-putting matter of my womanhood until I got some really great advice from two broadcasters I really rate, and get this…they were (and still are) both men!***

They convinced me that the hang-up I’d been labouring under wasn’t mine, or even the listener’s. Your audience responds to authenticity, regardless of whether it comes in a package with a packet or a hoo-ha.

 

Which is why I now know that rather than nodding, smiling and trying to overcome a barrier that wasn’t there, I should have responded to the helpful hints offered back then with the following ten little words…

Jane Garvey

Fi Glover

Jenni Murray

Victoria Derbyshire

Shelagh Fogarty

 

 

 

*Undeniable, I’m afraid

**I was never shown these statistics.

*** One was the fantastically free and creative Ronnie Barbour, the other was the bloke who owns this website…although I’ve totally forgotten his name. Ewan? Owen? Anyway THAT guy.

 

Tickets on Sale NOW for Iain Lee Vs. Radio

By | News | 54 Comments

Well, it’s happening. My first speaking tour is actually going to take place. Nice, small and very friendly venues. I’m so lucky with all of the places I’ve been asked to play. Absolutely gorgeous, just right.

There aren’t too many dates at the moment (a few more coming) but I am very nervous. To be undertaking my first ever solo show, let alone an actual tour, at the age of 41, seems a bit of an exercise in self flagellation. Still, I know the show works, and I am very proud of it.

My friend Simon Roberts has helped put the thing together and will be joining me to help with the technicals. Also, schedule willing, Mackenzie Crook will be joining me via satellite link up (actually Skype. And also, he may not, so, you know, don’t hold me to it).

I’ll be hanging around after all the shows to have a chat and have pics and stuff, if you want. You may also smell me.

The Poster!

The Poster!

It’s about 85-90 minutes, plus an interval. Me chatting about radio and playing some brilliant bits of shows by other people, but really funny bits. James Whale, Anna Raeburn, Big George and others all pop up.

Anyway, here are the dates. A couple more are coming along and I will post them here when I get them. They’re small venues, so I suggest if you want to come, get them quick.

I am talking to a few other places including London and Manchester….

Looking forward to meeting some of you.

 

 

8th July

Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead

Website https://norden.farm/events/iain-lee-vs-radio

01628 788997

 

NEW DATE 1st AUGUST 

The Horsebridge Arts & Community Centre

Whitstable

Kent CT5 4HS

Tickets Horsebridge Comedy

 

10 September

Komedia, Brighton

£15/£12 concession

http://komediabrighton.ticketsolve.com/shows/873529274/events?show_id=873529274

0845 293 8480

 

11th September 

Huntingdon Hall, Worcester

01905 611427

 

12th September

Arts Centre, Swindon

£13/15 tickets

Swindon Tickets Click Here

01793 524481

 

18th September

The Junction, Cambridge

£15/13

www.junction.co.uk/iain-lee

01223 511511

 

26th September

Rondo Theatre ONSALE NOW!

St Saviour’s Road

Bath BA1 6RT

https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/date/173205

01225 463362

 

10th October (2 shows)

7pm & 9:15pm

MAC Birmingham

http://macbirmingham.co.uk/event/iain-lee-vs-radio/

 

NEW DATE 17th October

Luton Library Theatre

http://www.lutonculture.com/whats-on/whats-on/2015/10/17/iain-lee/1532/?from=%252Fwhats-on%252F%2523search

 

22nd October

Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton

http://www.totton.ac.uk/hanger-farm/whats-on-at-hanger-farm/iain-lee-vs-radio.aspx

02380667683

Iain lee Vs. Radio – my first ever live tour

By | News | 10 Comments

I used to do a bit of stand up when I was younger. Not much. It was always a means to an end. I didn’t have an outlet and doing stand up at least gave me 5 or 10 minutes a few times a month to stand on a stage and twat around. I wasn’t very good. As time went on I began to learn to trust myself and my instincts a bit better and I sometimes, only sometimes, had good nights where people laughed and I got away with it. I couldn’t write material – any I had was nicked or very flimsy to say the least – but I got a sense for winging it.

As soon as I got on the telly, stand up went out the window. I didn’t enjoy it and it was just too hit and miss for me to stick with it.

A few years ago, I had another crack to see if I was missing anything. I wasn’t. Again, I got a few laughs and had a nice little routine end set piece where I would do a really bad pun about Gurkhas that would go down terribly, and very very slowly, I would put my coat on, strap my bag over my shoulder, put on my headphones and walk out of the venue. Generally in silence or maybe to some catcalls. This ending could last as long as 5 minutes. It was so uncomfortable. And I loved it.

I hosted my own evening, Set The Agenda. A monthly cabaret night I started with my friend James. After a while, he left and I took on the hosting duties all by myself. I loved it. Had very little material planned, a few things here and then. Again, I was learning to trust my instincts and just go with the flow man. Unfortunately for the evening, I found the stress of booking the acts, selling tickets and nearly getting the shit kicked out of me by a local coked up hard man just a little too much.

So, what the hell am I doing about to start work on my first ever solo tour? I mean proper solo tour. 80 minute shows, an interval, just me on the stage?

I don’t know. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

First things first, THIS IS NOT STAND UP.

The Poster!I can’t stress that enough. I am not a stand up and I will not be doing stand up comedy. No gags. No one liners. No snappy puns. I won’t be telling jokes about pushing into queues, getting on aeroplanes or how funny my kids are.

Iain Lee Vs. Radio is kind of a talk/lecture/relaxed/groovy/evening/slideshow/whatever/love in/experience.

There are some funny bits, trust me, some very funny bits, but it isn’t, you know, laugh out loud funny. It’s sort of…well…I don’t know how to describe it. I play some of my favourite buts of radio by other people (a few bits of me but not too many) and share why I like them, how radio works, how I got into it and why I don’t like Anna Raeburn. And that’s it really.

Here, let me show you an example. This clip is not in the show but this is the kind of clip that would be in the show. It’s John Inverdale

Isn’t that beautiful? And I have a whole collection of these bad boys. Mostly stuff that actually went out on the air.

I have a projector, a computer and maybe a live link up or two with some famous faces. If the show is running short, there will even be a Q&A, although in the back of my head that feels like a cop out.

Look, it’s my first tour. It may be my last. I’m playing about a dozen small venues across the south, south east and the midlands. The rooms hold between 50 and 120. I’d really like to see you there. I’ll even hang out afterwards so you can smell me and have a picture taken. I’m doing a sort of work in progress tester in Croydon on Saturday 14th. It’s sold out, so don’t come unless you have a ticket. Honestly? I think the show may run a bit short on Saturday but that’s all part of work in progress. There’s always the trusty Q&A if all else fails (do you think it’s a cop out? I genuinely don’t know)

Can’t tell you the dates and venues yet because they are still being finalised. I’ll post them up here as soon as I can.

Thanks team

x

 

5 Monkees Tracks I Could Quite Happily Live Without

By | News | 21 Comments

I absolutely love The Monkees. My first records were a scratched copy of I’m A Believer and a beaten up old copy of the first album, sans cover. This must have been around 1976 when I was 3 years old. I loved them. I constantly tried to record the B Side to Believer, Stepping Stone, on my old Dansette by dangling a microphone inside and hitting record and play on my tape recorder. It never occurred to me to have the microphone outside the wooden box, you know, by THE SPEAKER!

Micky, Davy, Peter and Michael have always been my companions. They’ve been with me every step of the way (a joke there for fans of their mid 80’s career). I loved the TV show, had my mind blown by the movie Head and have spent pretty much all of my life banging on about just how good they were. The fact that they didn’t play their own instruments on their first or indeed last few records is no longer relevant. We all know the Beach Boys didn’t play on Pet Sounds now, so a lot of the musical snobbery has gone.

And these guys created some of the best pop ever. How could they not? It was written by Neil Diamond and Carole King, played on by Glen Campbell, Neil Young and the band retrospectively called ‘The Wrecking Crew’. Daydream is THE perfect pop song – lush, catchy, sentimental and just the right length. Pleasant Valley Sunday is a cynical psychedelic barrage of angst disguised in a sugar cube, and the aforementioned Stepping Stone is pure pro to-punk.

But…

…they did record some utter shit.

Not much. Changes, the last album of the initial Monkees run, features just Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz and is a tired rag bag of songs that other artists wouldn’t touch. A lot of fans hate it. That’s a shame. I love it’s world weariness. Ferry Ride is just achingly beautiful and Oh My My is pure sexual filth. The 1987 album Pool It! may have the worst title of all time and a hideous cover, but listen to Dolenz belting out Midnight? Jesus, it’s just incredible. And Since You Went Away submitted by Tork is hilarious and triumphant in one fell swoop.

But…

…they did record some utter shit.

So, here for your aural displeasure are the 5, count em, worst Monkees songs of all time.

5 – She’s Movin’ In With Rico

Kicking off with what some may consider, from the 1987 reunion album Pool It!, I give you the absolutely piss poor She’s Movin’ In With Rico. Pool It! SHOULD have been huge. The Monkees were riding high on the back of their 1986 reunion tour. It was one of the biggest grossing tours of all time and catapulted them back into superstardom after years in the wilderness. They’d already had a top 20 hit of sorts with That Was Then, This Is Now, not technically a Monkees song as Davy had a strop and refused to sing on it. And it was another hissy fit from The Manchester Cowboy that through this album of track, or at least one of the reasons.

Basically, the 3 guys (Nesmith was too busy to rejoin, he wasn’t being snobbish as some have said) were having a love affair with MTV (created in part by Nez trivia fans). The new music channel had helped kickstart the reunion by showing all the eps of the TV series back to back. Both sides won. Then The Monkees were booked to appear at some MTV do, Davy didn’t fancy it and buggered off. Without telling MTV. Boom. The boys were banned from the channel and any promotion they may have got was out the window.

That’s all well and good, but even MTV getting behind the album wouldn’t have helped this song. What is it? Is it a joke? The Monkees doing cod reggae? What the…? It is a mind numbingly bad choice of song for this group to cut and one can only wonder how strong the Frodis was in the 80’s if anyone thought this was a good idea.

4 – Writing Wrongs

Michael Nesmith. What a guy. I was lucky enough to interview him once. A genius. Seriously, His mum invented Tippex (OK, she was a genius) he invented MTV, the music video and country rock. Listen To the Band has got to be one of the best songs of all time. His voice, ah man, it is just so sweet. Rio! Papa Gene’s Blues. Yes please. Hell, I even paid $100 to meet him for 90 seconds and get him to sign my Head box set (just his name, mine would have cost an extra $40 – fact) and do you know what, I can’t hate him for any of those things.

I can hate him for Writing Wrongs. It’s from The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees – an interesting album that kind of signified the beginning of the end of The Monkees as a pure pop act. Sure it’s got Daydream Believer and Valleri on, but it also has some far out experimentation. A lot of which works. Auntie’s Municipal Court is a joy and Magnolia Simms (both from The Nez) is wonderful.

It clocks in at 5.08, not in itself a crime, but the majority of it is filled with a laborious keyboard solo that turgidly drags along and makes you want to eat your own fingers. I couldn’t give a stuff about Bill Chambers, or his mum, and the drawn out, painful vocals leave me wanting less. Awful.

3 – Laugh

This is from the second album, More Of The Monkees, a record the boys didn’t even know existed until they went into a record store and saw it in the racks. The cover is an embarrassment, a picture taken from an advertisement for what can only be described as fugly clothes. It’s a real mixture of songs from different writers and producers. There is no coherent sound, and while it sold over 5 million copies, it’s not one of my favourites. The obvious choice from that LP for this list would be The Day We Fall In Love. Yes, the spoken word ‘song’ may be a bit schmaltzy, but fuck it, Davy can do schmaltz. And if you have the stereo version, ditch the vocals and listen to the music, it’s actually quite charming.

No, Laugh is terrible. Davy’s vocals, for me, tread a fine line between wonderfully powerful pop voice to annoying and nasally broadway. Ah man, I just pissed off a load of Davy fans. Sorry! I love him. I cried when he died, but he could be a bit grating sometimes.

Anyway, I think this song is meant to be a joke and a comment on the social scene in the sixties. ‘Laugh, when you go to a party, and you can’t tell the boys from the girls’. Right, OK mate. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Terrible singing, production, lyrics, tune. Bin.

2 – Star Collector

Oh, bloody hell. In for a penny, in for a pound.

This should be a great song. Written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin at the height of their powers. A song about star fuckers. One of the first songs to ever feature the Moog (pronounced Mow-g) synthesiser. But…it doesn’t really work.

Again, another example of Davy trying to do Anthony Newley, instead of doing Davy Jones (honestly, I love him. Go and dig out the lost classic It’s Nice To Be With You. Delightful). And yes, Dolenz is playing the third ever Moog, but, let’s be honest, he aint got a clue what he’s doing! That cat is as high as a kite. And while his frazzled brain may be getting off on all the crazy sound effects, it just annoys the hell out of me.

I think I should maybe mention that the first time I heard this song was when I was 14. It was still pretty hard to get Monkees stuff then and I didn’t have Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd., the majestic album this track comes from. My friend Psycho Bob T had a weird compilation that had this song on. He lent it to me and because I was so excited to have a Monkees song I’d never heard before, I recorded it 12 times in a row to make it easier to listen to. I may have made myself hate this song.

1 – Your Auntie Grizelda

Oh fuck off.

This is terrible. Poor Peter. A wonderful musician, an earnest guy. He would keep turning up at Monkees sessions hoping to get a crack at a song. Boyce and Hart, the main songwriters and producers would let him have a go, and then get another Monkee to record the song once he’d gone. This, from the second LP, was Tork’s big break. A chance to sing lead vocals. And…well…neither the song or Tork were up to the job.

I read somewhere this commentary on a nasty aunt was meant to sound like 19th Nervous Breakdown by The Rolling Stones. It doesn’t. It sounds shit. And the amazing thing is, they keep playing this bloody song on tour. Every tour since 1986, they’ve wheeled this one out as Peter’s solo spot. Let me tell you something guys, no one likes it. This is the toilet or bar break tune. Let Peter do Lady’s Baby, Come On In…there aren’t many tunes he did but they are all better than this monstrosity.

OK. That’s my list. I’m expecting some hate and I’m sure I’ll get shunned by some of the fans (Monkees fans are ze craziest people) but please remember, I love The Monkees. It was as struggle to come up with this list. And boy, it was cathartic.

My names Iain, and I’m a Monkeeholic.

9 – Want me and Katherine to come and talk to your pupils?

By | How To Do Radio | No Comments

Katherine and I went to Coventry last week at the invitation of Mark Brown, a lecturer at the City College. He’d responded to a message I;d posted on Twitter offering our services to talk about working in radio. I don’t quite know why I did it, and I certainly hadn’t run it past Katherine to see if she was cool with it. It just popped into my head. So I posted it. Boom.

Mark got in touch, as did a couple of other people. He asked if it was a serious offer or was I taking the proverbial. It was, I wasn’t. He told me about his class – a group of media students between the ages of 16 and 20, some of whom wanted to work in radio, and who he thought would benefit having a chat with some ‘professionals’.

Anyway, we arranged a date and Katherine and I thought about what we could tell them. How would we fill 45 minutes? Well, quite easily it turned out. We outlined a little chat about how we got into the industry, what our day entails and the relationship between producer and presenter as we see it. Played a few clips and answered some questions. That was that.

It seemed to work. The students looked at us the whole time (no one took out a mobile phone or looked like they were falling asleep) and we enjoyed ourselves. So, not completely selfless. But, I guess the idea behind it is ‘giving something back’. That sounds a little pretentious, so I won’t dwell on it, but it’s true.

Anyway, we have another chat at a school in a couple of weeks. And we are keen to do more. If you want an award winning presenter and an award winning producer to come to your school or college to talk about working in radio, send me an email iain@iainlee.com and we’ll see what we can sort out.

What I Mean When I (Don’t) Say I’m Depressed.

By | News | 247 Comments

Last week I had the worst run of depression I think I’ve ever had. It was certainly the worst I can remember. I managed to get myself out of bed and get to work…but that was it. And even then I nearly called in sick every day.

I present a radio show and man, was I ever just going through the motions. It felt like I was sitting in the studio watching myself present a radio show. I was in control of me, but I was operating myself through a three second delay and doing a terrible job. I was faking it to make it. I was acting what I thought Iain Lee should say and do.

After the shows, I came home and crawled into bed. Nothing unusual there, that’s what I tend to do. But I then spent all day in bed. I slept for a couple of hours, woke up, lay in bed for a few more hours wide awake, padded downstairs for a coffee, then back under the covers until the morning. Repeat.

What made it more painful was my kids would come into my room, intent on creating the joyous mayhem that children do, and I simply had nothing for them I couldn’t give them a single thing – no affection or love or interaction. ‘Daddy isn’t feeling very well’ was pretty much all I could say as I sent them on their way.

That of course broke my heart, filled me with shame and self hatred and sent me even lower. Great little cycle there, thanks head.

While I was lying in bed, I just felt, and this is where it gets hard to put into words, er, useless, low, meaningless, lost, spent, sad, tired…it’s a toughie and none of those descriptions really sum up the pure bleakness I was experiencing. I hated myself and everything I had achieved and simply wanted to stop existing. I didn’t want to die necessarily, I just wanted to not be.

There are some of you reading this nodding and going ‘yeah, that’s me!’ and probably just as many scratching your heads and thinking what a twat. Stop being such an idiot and get on with things.

Ah, the old ‘pull your socks’ up brigade. If only it were that simple. I’d love to pull my socks up and get on with things. Ignore this little voice in my head that tells me I am worthless and no one likes me and actually I only make things worse for people. Some days I can. Some days it’s just too loud. And sure, my life is actually pretty good. I have a good career, financially I’m OK, so what have I got to worry about?

And that’s the thing. Depression, for me anyway, isn’t always about what’s going on in the external world. Sometimes it is. My dad dying, my mum being ill, being hauled over the coals for something I said or did at work – they can all have an effect. But it tends to be either really small things or simply nothing that sends me over the edge. Jesus, I found an ink stain on my favourite coat today and I could feel the well of blackness starting to overflow within me. It was insane.
I’m pretty confident that for me, the depression is primarily a chemical imbalance in my head. Just as there’s no logic to who gets cancer or asthma, the same goes here. Yeah, there are outside elements in all of these conditions or diseases that may have an impact, but, sometimes it’s just bad luck or bad genes or bad karma or whatever the fuck it is. There’s no point in asking ‘why me?’ although, ironically, that’s a pretty common question amongst depressives as we struggle with existential angst while trying to get enough inner strength to get up and go to the toilet.

I’m lucky. I had a REALLY bad week. Some people have really bad months or years. I tend to even out throughout the year. Sometimes I’m pretty good, sometimes I am like utter shit but generally I’m bouncing around in the middle. Just below the middle perhaps. Last week was an extraordinary and freakish one that I do not want to repeat. I’ve had this long enough though to know that no mood lasts forever. This too shall pass. I just have to ride it out. For me, talking, exercising, eating, listening to music…none of that stuff works when I am in it. It’s a disease of isolation and I need to hide. When I am in it, I just need to ride it out and know that I will reappear on the other side at some point.

I had a weird thing yesterday. I was doing OK. And then it hit me. And I could feel it hit me. Just before midday, this wave of bleakness swept up my body and there was nothing I could do. I went down under the surface and let it sweep over me. It may sound odd, but it was kind of beautiful. Does that make any sense to anyone? A beautiful bleakness? It only lasted a few hours. I was well enough to move downstairs a bit later and put a film on. Something shifted and I had a rare moment of feeling powerful and invincible before it sort of evened out. I’m bouncing around a bit at the moment, mainly down, in fact I’m typing this in bed, fully clothed, wearing the coat with a stain on it. Does anyone know how to get an ink stain out of a jacket?

I have absolutely no idea why I’m writing this. I suppose partly because I believe that journaling ones feelings and moods is a helpful tool and I had enough energy to drag my computer out of my bag. Maybe it’s to partly explain for last weeks shows being a bit crap (although, if I’m honest, right now I don’t actually care about work). I suppose it’s to let people know that this is OK. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Or scared of. Well, be a little bit scared. This disease can be fatal. But it’s real and people have it and people come through it. Don’t be embarrassed (although the thought of actually posting this rambling online is making me very anxious) and let people know you have it. Those that do the ‘pull your socks up’ or ‘oh for Christ’s sake, get over yourself’ lines are probably not people you need around you. If you told a friend you had cancer and they said ‘just man up’, is that someone you’d want to hang out with?

Ah, I dunno. I’m not doing this for sympathy, I tell you that much. So, you know, thanks but no thanks. I’m doing this to show that you’re not alone. Although, I bet you feel very much like you are, whatever anyone says.

7 – Drop The Damn Donkey by Katherine Boyle

By | How To Do Radio, Katherine Boyle, News | No Comments

People can be very sniffy about local news.

Rightly so, sometimes.

About a year after I qualified as a journalist I got a gig on local telly. I was so excited I bought a new suit. My first job was to wear it while standing in the middle of a field, doing my best concerned face while a donkey called Sadie mooched about in the background. It had been rather windy in the Fens that week and a pylon had fallen over, leaving her stranded her in her paddock.

That was ‘the news’…seriously…not even a dead donkey, just one that looked vaguely brassed off – as did I.

Fast-forward 15 years and I’ve just about got over the excitement and am now producing a show with a strong seam of local news running through it, but which people say doesn’t ‘sound local.’ My initial reaction is to take that as a compliment, and that’s a shame, because what I think they’re getting at is that they expect local radio to sound parochial.

They shouldn’t.

Guess what? Not everything that’s local is news, and some news is too local for our show…now there’s a comment that could get me in trouble. What I mean is that we’re proud to be picky.

We only have three topics set up in advance. They’re always local, but we make sure they’re also universal.

We go for things that mean something to most people, regardless of whether they know the place or person involved. We apply the same principle as the national news outlets; choosing only the most important, interesting or funny material from our patch, so that someone who lives nowhere near the action will feel almost as connected to the subject matter as someone in the next street.

This means we also reserve the right to ditch the drab. So a man’s hat could blow off in Eaton Bray and you’d never hear about it on our show.

Unless it blew off with dynamite…

..then we’d consider it.

What I’m trying to say, and I’ve said this before, is that just because it’s happening in our patch doesn’t mean it gets into the show.

There are certain things we all care about, because it is happening or could easily happen to us or someone we know. Stories about health, education, crime and punishment generally push people’s buttons. Others need an extra ingredient to raise them from the realms of the parish newsletter.

Planning rows are one example. We could do a planning row every other day, but they’re seldom interesting to anyone other than people within a mile radius. We look out for the exceptions…like the stink kicked up when a wannabe Stringfellow opened a strip club slap bang in the middle of the otherwise quaint and traditional town of Ampthill. Probably the biggest scandal there since 1533.*

The listeners loved that one, because it’s the sort of tale that tickles the snob/ schoolboy** in all of us.

The same snot-nosed kid also loves to see the mighty fall – or at least make a wally of themselves – so a good grilling of anyone official will also float his boat. The listener may switch on half way through, they may not know what the hoo-ha’s about, but when they smell bullshine they all like to point and laugh at the perpetrator.

By the way officials, here’s a tip for taking the wind out of our sails:

Instead of trying to fudge your way out of a situation where you’ve clearly been caught out, just admit it and offer a solution. Honestly, the number of uncomfortable interviews that could have been avoided if the speaker had just said they’d ballsed up and they’d do X to make sure it didn’t happen again…

…actually I’ve just ballsed up by saying that, haven’t I? Ok guys, carry on fudging, it’s much more fun for us!

Anyway, back to Sadie the donkey, looking glum in her field. I guess the idea behind that is that the audience likes a furry, fun or ‘wacky’ story. I just think stuff like that’s a bit too knowing.

Would we do one? Possibly…but I can’t really think of recent example, so probably not…the closest we’ve got to a hilarious animal story was the time Fire and Rescue were called to save a dove from some netting at a supermarket, but that was less about the hapless bird and more about whether it was a waste of time and resources.

Admittedly, once that question had been put to the Area Commander we had some fun with it…

I guess what I’m trying to express is that local news doesn’t have to sound small. If you wouldn’t/ hear see it on the national news, maybe you should ask yourself whether it’s got a place where you are. How many people does it affect directly? How many more will it touch? And if you’re not bothered about it, be brave enough to admit it and give it a miss.

 

NOTES:

*The year Henry the Eighth sent his first wife Katherine of Aragon to be detained there while he shacked up with Ann Boleyn. You get the idea. It’s been a while.

 

**Yes I know I’m a woman, but I also have an inner schoolboy. His name’s Steve. I try to ignore him. He’s mostly an idiot.

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6 – Chapter 1 : Something On The Horizon

By | How To Do Radio, News | No Comments

OK, so I’m cheating again. While Katherine has been following the remit of actually writing about How To Do Radio, I am for the second time, digging into my unfinished book about how I got into radio. There aren’t really any suggestions on how to make radio better, but I hope it sets the scene slightly for how I ended up where I am now. I can’t stress enough how much I love local radio now and think it really is the breeding ground for new talent (also the graveyard for a few dinosaurs as well…) and also an incredibly powerful force.

Saying that, I wasn’t that keen when I started in it in the late 90’s.

With that in mind, here is half of Chapter 1 of a book I’ll never finish (unless someone is interested…?) Notice it finishes halfway through a sentence.

 

 

CHAPTER 1 :

Something on the Horizon 

Milton Keynes is a new town that came into being in early 1967. London was overflowing, so in an attempt to get people out of the swinging capital, a load of these new towns were created. I think. I’m not actually sure if this is right as I am literally nicking this stuff from Wikipedia, the home of the made up fact. I never trust anything I read on that site, mainly because for several years I was listed as being a gay cowboy on there. I can assure you, I have NEVER ridden a horse in my life.

When I tried to change the lie about being a gay cowboy and the rumour that I was Christopher Lee’s grandson (a pretty good rumour, that I actually started myself) I got blocked from updating the page. My own page. A page about me. Cheeky sods.

The internet is full of lies. This is NOT me.

The internet is full of lies. This is NOT me.

Anyway, Milton Keynes is a strange place. Some people love it, many hate it. They see it as cold and impersonal as it has an image of being all concrete cows and roundabouts. There are a lot of roundabouts, that is true, and there are some concrete cows, I have no idea why. But there are some nice parts of MK as it’s often and annoyingly abbreviated. There is a peace park that is very, er, peaceful. And there’s definitely lots of greenery scattered around.

I’ve spent far too much of my time in Milton Keynes as my nan lived there towards the end of her life, so I have a vague notion of the grid system (based on New York, although nowhere near as glamorous) and how to get around. Sort of.

Importantly for this story, Milton Keynes is where my radio career started.

My then ‘agent’, let’s call him Steve, got me an interview for the job. I should stress that if I were telling this to your face, I would humorously be doing speech marks around the word agent with my fingers. This would be to indicate that he wasn’t actually my agent, although he did occasionally get me work. Every time I asked him to be my agent, he always said he wasn’t interested in representing me. That was until I got offered The 11 O’Clock Show. Then he shoved a five year contract in my face. I promptly told him to get stuffed and signed with one of the biggest management agencies in the UK. Steve promptly sued my ass.

Milton Keynes was miles away from me, but I dutifully got the train from London and wondered exactly what I was being seen for. It was a local radio gig. I was a young and trendy comedian, starting to make my name on the comedy circuit (I wasn’t. I was actually pretty rubbish) and getting ready for my big television break that was surely going to happen at any moment (strangely, it wasn’t far off, and this job would prove crucial in me getting it). The point is, everyone knew that local radio was a joke and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Even the station sounded naff to my young, pretentious ears. Horizon 103.3. Sweet Christ, this was not what I was put on this earth for. I could see my future stretching out in a never ending line of talking complete bollocks to utter idiots. How prophetic.

That was in 1997. It’s now 2011 and I haven’t been back to either the studios or Milton Keynes since then. I got in touch with Trevor Marshall, the breakfast show host when I got my job there, and asked him to meet me at the old building for a chitty chat about radio and stuff. He was happy to oblige and met me there one sunny afternoon.

I always liked Trevor. He’s a short chap with a huge personality. Perfect breakfast host material. Talkative, funny, a little bit corny sometimes but a nice bloke. He had made me feel very welcome when I was forced onto his breakfast show by the programme controller Paul ‘Kenny’ Kenton. I never knew if Trevor wanted me there or not, but he always had time for me.

I owe Trevor A LOT.

I owe Trevor A LOT.

Going back to Horizon felt odd. Not having been to MK for years, I of course got completely lost. Even my trusty sat nav couldn’t quite find its way through the maze of roundabouts and weird little estates. But soon I was on a familiar road and even remembered the roundabout where I’d done a complete circular skid in the ice one year, in my crappy Ford Fiesta that my mum bought for me just for this job. That car was complete and utter shite. I should have known there were problems when, after my mum had paid for it, I went to collect it and it wouldn’t even start. That’s not good for a car, is it? Starting is quite an important factor when it comes to motion of said vehicle. But being stupid and eager to please, I took the salesman’s bullshine with a smile and waited while they put a new battery in. The very next day, on my first drive to Milton Keynes, at 5.30 in the morning, going up in the fast lane of M1, the car died. All power went. I bricked myself and had to do everything I could to get it onto the hard shoulder. Its 14 years since I bought that car, and it still annoys me today. I scrapped it in a fit of rage a couple of years later when I had a mental stalker who slashed the tyres. I’m surprised I kept it that long to be honest.

Anyway, I got to the old studios which are now owned by Heart, even though they don’t broadcast from there. Trevor turned up in a nice family motor. A far cry from the sporty little number he used to drive back in the day, I remember it because a – it was a nice car, but more importantly because b – it was branded with HIS NAME ON IT! I had never seen anything like it before. It said something like ‘Milton Keynes Motors Are Proud To Support Trevor Marshall’. I swear to God this is true. It was amazing! I was so impressed but would have been mortified to have had anything like that myself. I asked him if looking back, he felt embarrassed about driving that car.

‘It was a free car. I was 25 and it was a massive ego boost.’

‘So it didn’t embarrass you in the slightest?’

Pause. ‘A little bit. But it was a free car.’

The breakfast show was presented by Trevor and Helen Legh. They were The Morning Crew, a term that 99% of all local radio stations used to make their breakfast team sound more personable. It didn’t matter that if you drove 20 miles in any direction you would come across another Morning Crew with the similar set up of a nice bloke hosting and his friendly female side kick.

I really have to stress at this point, that this snobbishness and arrogance when it comes to local radio was how I felt THEN. Now, I think local radio is a great resource for the community and it upsets me how everything has become homogenised, as nearly all the real local stations have been bought by Globo-Tech and turned into one huge station, the only ‘local’ bit being the travel or the ads for Carpet Rite. Yes, a lot of local radio is still terrible. Smarmy types you want to smash in the mouth pretending they are your best mate, and irritating girls who can’t speak properly, all playing an overabundance of Robbie Williams and telling you just how great the weather is in your beautiful town, a town which you know is actually a dump, because you live there. But, it was a real breeding ground for new talent and general oddness. You don’t hear of Radio 1 or Capital leaving a 24 year old with only 15 minutes of studio training on their own to present a 4 hour show on Christmas Day, as happened to me at Horizon! No legal prep for me. No compliance or OFCOM exams to sit. Just a ‘this fader is for the news and this one is for the songs. See ya.’

I wasn’t even that pleased to be given the Christmas show. Most young bucks would have been over the moon to have had that opportunity. But I really resented it. Balls. I’d never worked on Christmas Day before. It was Christmas Day. No one worked then. That was unheard of. But I did it because I had no choice, and I had a bloody good crack at it. Instead of just playing whatever the hits of the day were and doing ‘shout out’s’, I tried something a bit more adventurous. It sounds naff now, and was a complete rip-off of something I’d heard Chris Morris do on GLR, but I attempted a prank phone call. Prank calls were a staple diet of radio presenters in the 70’s and 80’s, popularised by Noel Edmonds. He would phone up pretending to be from the local council and needed to commandeer the living room of the person he was ringing to stage a party for the queen. Or something. I can’t really remember. What I do recall though is that his calls were hilarious at the time, they would actually make a small drop of wee come out. When you listen to them now, it’s incredible to think they even produced a titter. They are so slow and meandering and, well, not funny. I guess that perhaps we have all got a bit too media savvy and that particular brand of comedy doesn’t date too well.

Not funny.

Not funny.

The prank had gone out of favour but was seeing something of a resurgence when comedy genius Chris Morris reinvented them with a darker edge. Ringing British Airways to ask if their aeroplanes were ‘sniffing the building’ when they parked up, was utterly absurd and wonderful. A lot of my comedy in TV and radio was based/borrowed/completely nicked from Mr.Morris and I’ve never hidden that at all. I was for a while called the poor man’s Chris Morris and for some reason I have never been able to shake that. Oh well, I could be called worse. In fact, I have been called worse (I refer you again to the quote I mentioned earlier from Time Out. They actually printed the complete word without an asterisk to hide the vowels! I didn’t know that was allowed).

My phone call on this reluctant Christmas special was nowhere near as clever or as dark as Morris’, but for me it was a minor triumph. Partly because I actually got the recording equipment to work (I hadn’t been taught this, I worked it out myself) but mainly because I felt I was subverting the genre. With this small step, I would bring all local radio crashing down around my ears and be lifted from the rubble on to the shoulders of the cool kids who would all hail me a creative genius.

I can’t remember the exact details, but I seem to remember calling a shop somewhere and pretending I thought the person I was talking to was James Bond actor Roger Moore. It took a few calls to get someone who was either stupid enough or bored enough to play along. I asked him what he got for Christmas and he reeled off some things, I then asked him what his favourite Bond film had been and I think he said ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’. I then probably ended it by saying something rude and slamming the phone down. Brilliant! In your face convention. No one can deny that I am a total comedy god with that superbly executed stunt.

Actually, typed out like that, it’s hard to see where the funny bit is. I’m a little disappointed that this one gag that I have always imagined as being the cornerstone of my comedy, is pretty poor. As no tapes of this exist (all of my Horizon stuff went missing when I sent it to Trevor and Helen for a compilation they were putting together) I have to assume that there was a brilliant gag in there that I’m forgetting. There must be. It can’t have been as rubbish as that.

Of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to do that now. Nowadays, there are bloody rules. There may have been bloody rules then, but as no-one had told me of them, I was blissfully unaware. Anyways, the bloody rules now state that you have to tell someone if you are recording them. And if you intend to broadcast the recording, you have to tell them that as well! That’s ridiculous. As soon as you’ve made someone look a tit, and then say ‘by the way, I’m recording this to be played out on the radio where everybody is going to think you’re a nob, is it OK if we use this recording?’ all you’re going to get in return is a torrent of abuse and a threat that if any of this ever gets broadcast, you will get your balls sued off. We once had a similar threat from a gentleman after we had revealed to him that he had been secretly filmed for the 11 O’Clock Show. My director at the time, a young James Bobin who recently directed a Muppet movie, took the decision that as we had been filming in Paris and this gentleman was actually from New Zealand, the odds of him ever finding out were nil. So his clip got used. And he saw it. And we got sued and there was a huge payout and all of the other stuff we had filmed on the continent was pulled.

BLOODY RULES.

The Christmas special was a one off. I don’t think I was allowed to do any other shows on my own. I worried it was because of the prank phone call or maybe it was to do with me missing the news every hour. But I’m not even sure that anyone at the radio station even heard it. I was there literally because no one else would fill that 4 hour slot.

No, most of my work at the station was being the sidekick to Trevor and Helen. I was ‘Iain in Black Thunder’. This was a title that I genuinely thought sounded quite cool until I mentioned it to one of my London mates. His response was ‘that is the gayest thing I have EVER heard.’ I didn’t mention it to anyone else after that.

Black Thunder was a black jeep that was covered in Horizon logos and had transmitting equipment in the back. It was an idea nicked from Australia, and had proven very popular over there. I’m not so sure it ever really took off in the UK, although there were dozens of Black Thunders all over the country. Each morning, maybe 3 or 4 times, Trevor would say ‘I wonder what Iain in Black Thunder is up to right now?’ I would then come on live from the middle of some shitty council estate or outside Next in the shopping centre doing something ker-azy!

It’s a struggle to remember what I did. Trevor couldn’t really remember either, that’s how captivating it must have been. The only stunt I can recall with any clarity is one where I had to climb around a table without touching the floor. You would sit on the top and then sort of swing your way underneath it holding on and then crawl under the table top but…oh I don’t know. I know it bloody hurt. I then had to try and encourage the people that had bothered to turn up to take part. That was the really hard bit. As surprising as it may seem, I am genuinely rather shy and hate going up to people in the street. But at least 5 days a week, that’s exactly what I had to do – approach strangers to see if they would like to take part in a ridiculous stunt.

‘What do I get?’ they would ask.

‘The chance to go on the radio and say hi to all your mates’ would be my nervous, unconvincing response. Then, as they inevitably turned away, I would shout out ‘You can have some car stickers.’

Surprisingly, car stickers would usually do the trick and see them scuttling back to have a go.

Sweet Lord.

It was an odd experience, me being someone who didn’t really care about the people I was approaching, and the people I was approaching not really caring about doing what I was asking them to do. It must have sounded a right barrel of laughs on the wireless. To make matters worse, you would always get a group of feral kids turn up just so they could shout ‘Piss off’ on the airwaves. There was nothing I could do. Even though they were only about 12 years old, they could totally have kicked the crap out of me.

The way we came up with these stunts was to look through the papers for the quirky news story of the day and then work something out around that. We probably got people to try and break the world record for eating dry crackers, everyone on the radio must have done that.

For some strange reason, I wasn’t allowed to use my name, Iain Lee. I should add here that at the time, my real name was Iain Rougvie. But no one could spell it or pronounce it. Go on, try and say it. Nope. Totally wrong. It’s pronounced like rugby but with a v. It’s stupid, and at the time I wasn’t really getting on with my dad, so changing it seemed the obvious thing to do. Coming up with a new surname, is well hard. You have to keep in mind that if you become famous, then this is how everyone is going to know you. I was never really keen on Iain, too many vowels and no hard letters, but I didn’t really fancy messing around with that. So I focused on the surname. Steve, the chap who was under no circumstances my manager, sent over a list of about 30 names once. They were all shit. He was putting pressure on me to pick one quickly, so I very nearly became Iain Cargo, the best of the dross he suggested. But I held out and eventually settled on Lee, mainly because it was my middle name anyway and wouldn’t feel like such a huge change to me.

I didn’t officially change the name until 2008. I decided I did not want to carry on the Rougvie name at all (I really wasn’t getting on with my dad at this point) so one, Sunday morning, I looked online to see about changing my name by deed poll. I thought I’d just have a look as such a monumental thing must be incredibly difficult and expensive. 12 minutes later, I was officially Iain Lee. Turns out it was well easy. All you do is type I what your name was, then type what you want it to be and then give them your debit card details so they can take £36 off you. It is the most empowering thing in the world. I got a huge rush of excitement from it, and I thoroughly recommend you all go and do it. If you don’t like it, you can always change it back.

Although the change wasn’t official until 2008, I had been using it for about 11 years before that for my stand up and was definitely Lee when I went to Horizon. However, there was a problem. Helen’s name was Legh. Which is pronounced Lee. People would get confused. What was going on? Were we married? Brothers and sisters? No, no, no, this would never do. Although Helen and I saw no problem with it, station controller Paul Kenton did. And my Lee had to go.

The four of us, Paul, Helen, Trevor and myself, spent a strange afternoon in Paul’s office trying to come up with a new name for me, not long after I’d spent quite a lot of time prior to this coming up with and choosing a new name for me. I knew from experience that this was going to be hard work and the end result would be a slightly disappointing compromise that would leave me feeling rather empty. We chucked around so many suggestions and none of them seemed to fit. Eventually, Paul got restless and asked ‘what’s your favourite group?’

‘The Beatles’, I quickly replied, trying to look cool. I did like them, but my favourite group has always been and will always be The Monkees. I even beat a Nolan and the bloke that wrote Cracker on Celebrity Mastermind with my specialist subject of the The Monkees. Seriously, I know more about them than anybody else. But The Beatles was my default answer when I wanted to look aloof, worldly and hip.

‘Ok’, said Paul, a plan forming in his evil mind (he wasn’t really evil, he was lovely, I’m just trying to make this more dramatic). ‘Pick your favourite Beatle, and have his surname as yours. That will work.’

It was obvious, but it was also genius. I grinned. My future was going to be set I was going to be Iain Starr.

‘Anyone except Ringo’, Paul said, almost as if he were reading my thoughts.

‘Er, OK. How about Harrison. I like George a lot. Iain Harrison could work?’

Kenton thought about it for a second then said ‘no, it doesn’t sound quite right. Pick another.’

Shit. They were genuinely my two fave mop-tops. ‘Lennon’ I squeaked, getting nervous now. Iain Lennon sounded rubbish to me, but certainly better than the remaining alternative.

Then, and I swear to God Paul said this, ‘No. That’s not right either. How about McCartney?’

Balls. I had totally been railroaded into being named after my least favourite Beatle. Don’t get me wrong, Macca is a genius, but he was certainly not who I wanted to be named after. But I was trapped. I’d been in that office for ages and I wanted to get out and go to bed (I used to sleep a lot). I feigned excitement and nodded. In the eyes of Milton Keynes, I was now Iain McCartney

However, I did see this as my get out clause. If this job was rubbish and I, as I suspected, was terrible at it, then no one would ever know it was me. It would be this new surnamed