BBC Introducing Lancashire – Sean McGinty

sean mcginty in northern life magazine steven suttie

This first appeared in NORTHERN LIFE magazine

DECEMBER 2014 ISSUE

I have long been a lover of local radio. In fact, from being a very small boy in the 1980’s I’ve taken a massive interest in it. But as computer-run stations and nationally syndicated services have slowly and surely eroded the magic that local radio once created, I am becoming more and more bored by the same old thing, just like many hundreds of thousands of radio listeners who are deserting local radio and re-tuning to Radio 2 instead.

But then, just as I’m about to give up completely – I discover a radio show that completely recharges my enthusiasm and gets me fully, properly excited again. I’m talking about BBC Introducing, a national network of 40 local radio programmes that champion local music in their area. In particular, I’m talking about BBC Radio Lancashire’s “Introducing” show on Saturday evenings, which is on air between 8pm and 10pm. radio lancs

If you want to be completely bowled over by an eclectic showcase of the amazing musical talent that there is here in Lancashire – I can guarantee that you will be surprised by just how much emerging talent there is in the Red Rose county, and then, I suspect that you will feel ever so proud of the whole concept.

It’s always a great feeling to stumble across a genuinely inspirational, amusing and enjoyable radio show that isn’t all about the DJ, but about what the DJ can do for others. I went down to the BBC Lancashire studios to meet the programme’s creator and presenter Sean McGinty, a man so full of energy, enthusiasm and passion for his work that it is easy to see how it all translates so well into such a bloody good radio show.

As he ate a sandwich, eaves-dropped on a band recording a session next door, while trying to discover who blocked the radio-car in with a silver peugeot, I had a good old natter with Sean about his work.

BBC radio lancashire studios in Blackburn town centre

You can tell from listening to the BBC Lancashire Introducing show that you clearly love it. What has been your highlight of doing this show so far? It’s not really on air that I get the real highlight. That comes when I listen through the one hundred and fifty songs I receive a week and hear something that’s just amazing. For example, we play a lot of music from Aquilo. When I first heard their song I was like “wow!” It just hits you and it’s amazing. And now, eighteen months later, they are doing really well, one of their songs is going to be in a film, and being a BBC Introducing presenter, you get a great “wow-factor” when you hear someone with some real talent and a great song.

Another group who are doing great things are Bondax from Lancaster, who are regularly played on BBC Radio 1. They started out on your show. Yes, through us, Radio 1 have picked up on them. Don’t get me wrong, these guys work hard on their own, and they’ve got good people representing them and they’ve done very well without the BBC involvement. Having said that, it’s always good to say “We’ve been on BBC Introducing and we’ve done a Maida Vale session.” They’ve done all that stuff, and they were at Bestival this year, and now they’re travelling the world. It’s a great result for us, but it’s down to the artist. They do all the work, they put all the time in. Just because I play a track by Aquilo, or Bondax, or Rae Morris and say I love it, that isn’t necessarily the route to how they become successful.

The show is now ten years old in Lancashire. Is it getting harder to find exciting new bands and artists to showcase, or does it get easier? I think as technology and social media has developed we are seeing more music sent to us now. We can get any where between one hundred and two hundred tracks sent in each week via the BBC Introducing Uploader on the website, as well as links to songs on Soundcloud and Youtube as well as CD’s in the post. So it is a lot of music that’s coming in to us, and almost all of it is from Lancashire.

What advice do you have for local bands who have the talent, and want to get played, but can’t necessarily afford the studio time to get a professional sounding demo together? Well, Rae Morris is a great example of that. Rae is now signed to Atlantic Records, her new single is being played on Radio 1 and her album is out in January. There’s some really good stuff happening with her right now, but the music that she sent me at first just wasn’t recorded well enough to play on the radio. It was an absolutely beautiful song, and I loved it, but I couldn’t play it. But there are other things we can do, and we invited Rae in and let her do a live session. So assuming they can do that, there’s always different options.

The Extra Third Photography

You came to radio quite late in life after a career in banking and telecoms. What made you give up secure employment and a good salary for a career in a notoriously difficult to enter industry, that probably pays a lot less? I’ve just always loved radio, and I love the job I’m doing and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is a very different earning potential as you pointed out, but as I’m approaching my fiftieth birthday, I’m really enjoying this, and all the other projects that I’m involved with and that really matters to me.

You must have to spend a lot of time listening to the music that is sent in by hopeful bands, plus you do other slots on the BBC Radio Lancashire schedule. You are also embarking on the difficult task of launching Blackpool’s Radio Victoria as a full time community radio station. How do you get the time to fit all this in? I don’t do anything that’s remotely sociable anymore! That’s it really. I’m very much into social enterprise and not for profit businesses. I was working with the hospital trust in Blackpool and suggested that they go after a community radio license, and they said go for it. So now we have the license, and just need to find about twenty five grand for the mast and various bits and pieces. I really think community radio could be fantastic for the Fylde. So yes, I’m kept very busy but I love it, and you’re a long time dead aren’t you?

Your Introducing slot is on air at 8pm on Saturdays, but it’s available all week long on the iPlayer. Are you finding that this new “on demand” technology is helping you to build a bigger audience? I don’t really look at the numbers. We used to be on Thursday evenings and we had the most radio listeners in the county on that slot, beating Radio 1, Radio 2 and everybody else. When the senior BBC management decided that all of the Introducing shows across the national network were being moved to Saturdays, we lost a lot of listeners. Mainly because most of our listeners were out playing, or listening to bands on that night. It’s possibly the worst night to have a new music show on the radio to be honest. I do get e-mails during the week from people who are listening to the I-player, but I have no idea how many there are.

introducing logo on cassette

What advice would you have for anybody who would like to follow in your footsteps and get a job in radio?Well, don’t wait until you are 38 before you even think about doing it. Do it in your 20’s! What I did was I went to the University of Central Lancashire and started a broadcast journalism course, and then I camped on the doorstep here at BBC Radio Lancashire until they let me in. When they did let me in, I just worked really hard and really long and made sure that what I did was good and eventually I got some regular paid work here.

Your wife must be very supportive of you? Yes, we both changed careers at the same time. I went into this and she went into teaching. She was very supportive of me in the early years, and now I’m supportive of her in what she does. It’s a partnership.

What ambitions are left for the BBC Lancashire Introducing show? Loads! I mean we’ve started doing BBC Introducing Live gigs at the Ferret in Preston which is a fine local venue, and a great place to play. It’s a great night for people who want to support local music and it’s free. That’s on the second Saturday of every month, and I want to build on that and get more gigs in more towns. And of course to continue showcasing the very best of Lancashire’s new music on the BBC Introducing show.

BBC Introducing programmes are on air on your local BBC station on Saturday evenings from 8 until 10pm, and available anytime on BBC Radio I-player.

More about what Sean is doing.

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The Clitheroe Prime Minister


The Clitheroe Prime Minister Book Cover

Clitheroe resident Steven Suttie has published his first novel at the website Amazon.co.uk, and the fun and entertaining tale is receiving 5 star customer reviews.

The story is the first modern day novel to be set in the historic rural market town, and it celebrates Clitheroe’s people, its places and the “straight speaking” attitude of the locals.

The Clitheroe Prime Minister is the fun and exciting story of a fictional Clitheroe resident called Jim Arkwright, who is shocked to find that his straight-from-the-hip political views have spread across the internet – and that the British public have overwhelming support for his no nonsense ideas. Within days, the national media have besieged the town in a bid to find Jim and get him to stand as the Prime Minister. The novel is set in the present day, at a time when Britain faces serious challenges with its economy, crime and disorder, youth unemployment and many other social problems.

Steven said “I started writing this last year. It seemed that everybody I spoke to thought that they had better ideas of how to run the country than the government did, and I just started from there. I did lots of research and looked at the issues that are causing so many problems. From there I began creating the lovable, no-nonsense character Jim Arkwright. I wanted to set the story in the Ribble Valley constituency because it really is one of Britain’s finest places, with low high crime, high employment and its a place with tremendous community spirit – all major aspects of the story.”

Steve Suttie Castle Park The Clitheroe Prime Minister

The Clitheroe Prime Minister is a fast paced, exciting novel with lots of laughs along the way. The interesting part is the fact that it isn’t too difficult to believe that such a situation come actually happen. The story could quite easily come true, thanks to the internet age and the manner in which stories, videos and clips get shared around on the web – coupled with the British public’s general apathy for traditional MP’s and politicians. Politics has never been so widely ignored, as election counts average turn-outs under 40% in most constituencies. It was these two facts combined that inspired Steve to write The Clitheroe Prime Minister.

“Although Jim Arkwright is a fictional character, he is very believable because we all know somebody just like him. There is a Jim Arkwright on every street in Britain, in every pub and at every bus stop and these people know the solutions to society’s failures because they are living in amongst the problems, seeing the fall-out from the mad laws and hair-brained policies day to day. Jim Arkwright’s main point is that the government and the Ministers who make decisions on behalf of the British people don’t have a clue what they are doing. Ordinary, working class people would be in a far stronger position to govern than these pampered, sheltered millionaires who enter politics purely for career and ego reasons, according to Jim Arkwright!”

Clitheroe Library

This photograph of Clitheroe Library formed the basis of the books cover, which is supposed to resemble a cartoon vision of Clitheroe town centre with Big Ben included. The author wanted a cover that would capture the imagination of the locals, and tourists too.

000001 Clitheroe CLITHEROE

Steven has set the majority of the story in Clitheroe, with most scenes taking place in well known locations all around the town. “That was the really fun part –I wanted to draw on all the positives of Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley. I’ve  done my best to describe what a very special place this is. Readers from outside the area will certainly be attracted to the town for a visit after reading all about this fantastic part of Lancashire.”

During the day, Steven works for the RSPCA as the East Lancashire Branch Administrator. In order to get the story written, he dedicated two hours per night to his writing. After setting himself a target of writing one chapter per week, the first draft of his book was finished in six months. There then followed several months of editing, rewriting and tweaking the manuscript. The novel has now been launched on Amazon for download onto Kindle readers, tablet computers and even smart-phones. Readers can sample the first three and a half chapters for free.

The book is also available in paperback.

“Although it’s only supposed to be a light hearted “David and Goliath” story about a working class man getting one over on the great and powerful, there are many aspects of the story that are hugely relevant. It won’t be popular with politicians because they get lots of criticism, but I’m very confident that the average, hard-pressed, frustrated person will identify with Jim Arkwright and many of the points that he raises,” added Steven.

STEVEN SUTTIE THE CLITHEROE PRIME MINISTER AMAZON CHARTS NUMBER ONE 1 BESTSELLER POLITICAL HUMOUR LANCASHIRE BB7

On April 2nd 2015 the book reached number 1 in it’s Amazon category of “Political Humour.

This is the books blurb:

“Brilliant fun”

“LAUGH OUT LOUD”

“What a hoot!”

THE CLITHEROE PRIME MINISTER

A funny and politically incorrect satire novel that straight talking folk just can’t get enough of.

IS GREAT BRITAIN ABOUT TO GET A WELDER IN AS PRIME MINISTER?

This is a laugh-out-loud adventure about an ordinary egg & chips eating kind of man, who finds himself accidentally becoming the most famous bloke in Britain.

Jim Arkwright is having a really weird week. After learning that a video of him messing about and talking politics in the pub has gone viral, he finds himself on the radio, wiping the floor with the experts and politicians live on the air. The British public, sick to death of the sleazy, money grabbing, out of touch political figureheads are instantly endeared by the straight-speaking Lancashire man. They love his ideas and his friendly, warm nature.

Jim hears the things that ordinary folk say, on buses, in cafes and down the launderette. Big Jim is a man who is in touch with the public, unlike the nation’s politicians.

The following morning’s newspapers start a campaign demanding that Big Jim should become Prime Minister. But Jim has got a really big job on at work. He doesn’t have any time for all this nonsense.

Can Big Jim be tempted to join the Government? The people of Clitheroe hope so, as the picturesque little Lancashire town has become over-run with media gangs, press trucks, television channels and happy go lucky tourists.

This is a fun, cheeky, exciting and endearing satire novel that readers can’t put down. Britain really has found a new kind of Leader. A working class welder from up north.

DISCLAIMERS…

WARNING: CONTAINS EFFING and JEFFING! Aye, excuse the french.

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT A SERIOUS POLITICS BOOK. It’s in the humour section.

WARNING: IF YOU DO NOT POSSESS A SENSE OF HUMOUR, DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS AWFUL RUBBISH. It’s a load of crap!

The Clitheroe Prime Minister is available now. It can be bought locally at Banana News and Clitheroe books, priced £7.50

You can keep up to date with the latest news and information about the book at the facebook page.

Click here for the Northern Life magazine article about The Clitheroe Prime Minister “Arkwrights Revolution.”

A Video-Promo for the novel is here.

The Death of Community Spirit

I love a good joke that also doubles as a true and accurate social commentary. One good example of what I mean is this one:

“I’m really worried about the old dear that lives over the road from me. I’ve not seen her for weeks, milk bottles have built up on the door step, and blue bottles fill the whole window. I hope she’s okay.”

I remember hearing that about 3 years ago and it made me laugh. Not only is it humorous because of the “daftness” of worrying, when you could easily go across the road to check that the old dear is alive – but like most jokes, the humour for me lies in the truth, however dark or awkward it may be. The truth in this particular case is that community spirit in Great Britain is in a critical condition.

It is true that many people are living a near isolated existence within their geographical districts today, for a variety of different reasons. The Royal Wedding last year will help me to demonstrate the point. How did Great Britains massive street party of 1981 compare to 30 years later? In 1981, I was 5 so I may have an ultra thick pair of rose tinted spectacles on while I recall the event. But I remember very clearly a happy, fuzzy day of community togetherness, our street full of dining tables stacked with food, drink, union jack based decorations and those annoying things that roll out and make a really high pitched noise when you blow into them. This scene was not exclusive – it was the same throughout the country.

Fast forward 30 years and lets compare that national day of community high spirited togetherness against last years Royal Wedding celebrations. The only comparison was a few pockets of middle class communities sparing no expense for their extravagant televised street parties in London and across the Home Counties. But it was a very tiny percentage of folk who participated in community events – to make up a percentage off the top of my head, it was probably 3%.

But why though? We can’t use the excuse that we don’t like Kate and William, or the monarchy, or Royal Weddings. We can’t say we don’t wish them well, and we know that we are all very protective of William because of who his Mum was. Over a million people queued up and camped on concrete floors for days to catch a glimpse of the happy couple. This was a massive spectacle not only in Britain but all across the planet, and we didn’t really bother organising anything amongst our neighbourhoods to mark this special occasion and make great nostalgic warm fuzzy memories for our kids to cherish in later life.

The reason the community didn’t come together is this : There is no community left in most of the country.

Local TV and Radio news crews were begging for street party tip offs so they could embark on putting together a rather fake impression that everybody was out in the streets, waving their union jack hand held plastic flags and rejoicing at the wonder of Kate and Williams nuptials. Funnily enough, I was out in the community on that day last year, (building a flat pack chicken house for a friend as a matter of fact.) I heard no sound that day, it was eerily quiet in the well populated district where I live in Lancashire. People, it seemed, were just glad of the day off and stayed indoors or visited family. I think this is very sad. I saw one street party in the town as I made my way home. Well, it was more of a wheelie bin blocking the road with a sign on it saying “No Entry – Street Party.”

I love the picture below, it was taken in the community in which I was lucky enough to grow up in the 1980s. The road is lined with members of the community for the annual Whit Walks celebration, where a marching Brass Band would play at the front of the procession, and dignitaries, church groups, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and proud parishioners would march along through their community. This picture is of Dukinfields march in 1984. The Whit Walks is a Manchester tradition dating back to 1821, and in many towns still survives today – where the councils health and Safety departments allow it, and police road closure costs aren’t too prohibitive.

I wish that we could find a way to change the fact that people are now more inclined to keep themselves to themselves rather than embrace their neighbours and indulge in a stronger community life. I wish I lived in a world where the post man still knocked on my next door neighbours and asked if they wouldn’t mind taking in a packet if I’m out. I get on well with my neighbours on both sides, and they would happily take in a packet for me. But Royal Mail don’t ask anymore because the answer is usually no.

So where did it all go wrong? Why are we keeping ourselves to ourselves? There are no scientific answers I guess. But perhaps there just isn’t such a need for the type of close knit communities that rallied together during and after the second world war. Or maybe we have all been brainwashed and scared by the medias portrayal of our wider community being a dark, nasty and unsafe place where murderers, robbers, paedophiles, rapists and confidence tricksters are all hoping that we will befriend them and become their latest victims?

Another explanation could be that we just don’t like real people anymore and we’d prefer to communicate via Twitter and Facebook to our virtual hand picked community of neighbours.

But lets take a moment to look at how well united and close knit our British Asian communities are. I drive through Blackburns Bastwell district often, because I’m kind of addicted to the kebab rolls from Shandar takeaway. This area is exclusively Asian, and the presence of a white person is quite noticeable. One thing that always leaves an impression on me is how tightly knitted and close the community is here. It makes me feel quite envious, and it makes me nostalgic for the way I remember life in the close community of back to back terraces where I grew up in Greater Manchester during the 1980s. I could go and ask our Muslim brothers what vital ingredients are needed to help us go back and rebuild our once strong communities, where people took a great pride in feeling part of the place. After all these families in Blackburn all have Facebook and Twitter too.

My kids are busily enjoying their childhoods, playing out and going to school and participating in youth clubs and groups. For them community life is all around and it is very much alive and well. Its just us grown ups who need to make more of an effort to get to get to know one another, rather than rush into the house, head bowed avoiding eye contact, to catch the latest pointless argument in Albert Square.