Tune in tomorrow to the West Jesmond Breakfast Show
Most veterans of the wireless find it difficult to keep their heads together on air despite years of experience. So for a group of youngsters from West Jesmond Primary School to perform faultlessly as they broadcast across the playground is quite an achievement.
The next generation of Fearne Cottons, Chris Moyles and Annie Nightingales step up to the microphone each Friday morning from 8.35am to 8.45am to broadcast the live West Jesmond Radio show.
Pupils and staff from the school gather round the large speakers to tune in each week as a group of five budding young presenters discuss the latest events occurring around the school.
Beginning with a rendition of Viva La Vida, chosen by the children themselves, the show I witnessed kicked off by informing its eager listeners about a visiting author, before Emma, Mollie, Lydia and Inez reported on Maximus, the Roman soldier, who was a guest of the school this week.
Later, we learned about the football team’s recent 3-0 triumph over St. Oswald’s, a class assembly and a cake stall.
Perhaps the most astounding fact is that all the research, production and delivery of the script is carried out by the pupils, who form part of a 15-strong radio club, headed by Deborah Hainsworth.
She comments: “We alternate the students each week, depending on what is going on in the school, and it means the show is always different.
“The idea is to help people feel part of the school, it provides valuable skills and experience and, of course, it helps people get here on time!
“It’s a reinforcement of what is going on around the school – it’s an extra tool for communication.
“From the students’ point of view, it gives them the experience of organising themselves and creating their own content.” The project also helps them polish their multi-media skills, essential in the modern media world.
They must gather news, interview people, organise scripts, before combining pre-recorded material with live action reporting, while the final programme is also available online.
Derek Stuart, who operates the PA system, says: “Everything we do here goes on our podcast each week”.
Indeed, even the jingles which are featured in the programme are the product of the young heads coming together to trade ideas.
Organisation is one aspect of the undoubted professionalism which is clear from the opening lines, as Emma gleefully declares, “It’s always my job to say hello.”
“We have a list of events going on each week, and we use this to decide what we want to include in our show”.
Mollie adds: “Sometimes we have reports on films as well”.
Indeed, the radio crew are already forming opinions on the movie scene not far off their professional counterparts, with Avatar and Harry Potter, both critically acclaimed, high on their list of the best films of 2010. Jonathon Ross would be proud.
Marwa, meanwhile, operates the computer on this particular day, as she sets the pace and retains control over the bearings of the show.
Of course, like any other pro in the industry would confess, nervousness grips the kids before they go live. Although they no longer broadcast outdoors due to the winter chill, their presenting desk faces the window which overlooks the crowded playground, a sight which is bound to put butterflies in stomachs.
Yet, the programme has rarely encountered any problems since the school hit the airwaves last May, despite tight deadlines often making it necessary to learn the script at home overnight.
Inez admits: “Sometimes we feel nervous, and I quite often have to run from the metro station to get here on time!”
Nevertheless, the skills learned and the experience gained will no doubt stand the youngsters at the front of the queue in the future when career decisions beckon.
A range of jobs have been considered by this clutch of ambitious year six pupils, the first ever group to don the West Jesmond Radio microphone, with television, radio, journalism, dentistry and law all potential career destinations.
So what can we expect next week?
Well, Lucy, who is part of the line-up for the January 28 show, already has her creative hat on.
“The theme next week is ‘hobbies and interests’. We’re going to go round the school and ask people what they would like to be in the future”.
After each broadcast, the students and staff evaluate their performance, and with 24 programmes already under their belt, Mrs Hainsworth believes they are getting a lot smoother.
And now they are challenging other schools to get their headsets on and provide some competition.
“We are the best radio club ever!” announces Bryn.
Quite a statement, but given their ambition, wit and the confidence which pours over the West Jesmond airwaves, perhaps we’ve just found the future incumbents of the Radio 1 breakfast time throne.
Follow their weekly podcasts at www.westjesmondradio.co.uk.