After my interview with Andrew Hislop on BBC Radio Guernsey last Sunday morning ( 27th April 2014 ) I asked him if he would allow me to turn the tables on him and interview him for my blog. He happily agreed and so we arranged a date and time to set it up on Skype. I was thoroughly inspired by our chat and I hope you enjoy the interview.
Hi Andy, this is very exciting for me being the interviewer and turning the tables on you.
It’s a bit weird to be honest. I’m not used to being interviewed, the last time I was interviewed was three months ago for Jubilee Radio, a hospital radio here in Guernsey, that was fun but as I said I’m not used to it, I like to be in the seat of power.
I can understand that, it’s nice knowing I have the questions sorted so that I don’t have to think so much on the spot.
Very good, the question outline you sent to me was interesting. You’d make a good journalist.
Thank you, here we go…
How long have you been working in radio?
Probably for a total of six years, the first year was to do with radio editing. I had no experience in working in radio a friend asked if I’d like to help. After a year the editor asked me, out of the blue, if I’d like to produce and present the Sunday breakfast service I think he knew I’d had some performance experience and he also mentioned my voice would be great for radio. I said ‘yes’. A baptism of fire.
So you were in the right place at the right time.
Yes, about 15 years ago, I applied for a job to work for the radio and they told me that it would be better for me to be an actor than a radio presenter, so here I am.
There you go. So you’ve done it for yourself anyway! How many hours each week do you work at the BBC Guernsey radio station?
I have a regular Monday to Friday job, but I am contracted to work 10 hours per week, which I do predominantly over the weekend, but I probably do double that time in terms of communicating with my colleagues in the UK, people over here and visiting people in order to get stories, so it is a lot of work, the program is unique and specialised so I need to sit down and engage with the people to fully understand what is going on. In theory ten hours each week, in theory.
I get that from your shows, that you have a very personal style, you can tell you’ve researched well.
The person that is being interviewed needs to feel comfortable and relaxed. People are interested in the person behind story. So I try to make it personal.
When you were at school what was your dream job?
My dream job was as an actor and I trained for this from about the age of 6 I went to elocution lessons, I had a very small lisp when I was younger so my Mum sent myself and my sister to Betty Isabelle Meakin Studio of Drama, as a result of that I decided that I wanted to be an actor. My school wasn’t very supportive in that and their view was that I should get a proper job.
Would you like to work at a national station if you had the choice and what would be your favourite sort of show?
I’d like to do something really similar to what I do now, the program is quite unique in that I can explore any subject but the challenge is to try and find whether it would be ethical or inspirational or has a faith element and so what that means is that you don’t necessarily have to be a black and white journalist but inquisitive to get to the person rather than just the story. I’d love to do what I do at the weekend, 9-5 for a national station. Not many people get the chance to do what they would really like to do, but that is one thing that would be wonderful.
Ever the interviewer Andrew asked me about an observation he’d made watching my performances.
I watched some of your videos and your posture is that of a dancer and that must have helped with your singing?
My Mum had always wanted to dance as a child and encouraged me to join dance classes as soon as I could about the age of two and a half. It can help and it can hinder my singing it’s all to do with rotation of the hips, so I take the positives of my dance training and use it well especially with confidence on the stage, but don’t get me started talking about me.
I know you have two children, I heard your super recordings of them on your show, are they interested in the performing arts?
My daughter Jasmine who will be 16 in two months’ time, isn’t so much now, when she was younger maybe, she has a very good singing voice but she doesn’t like to stand at the front and sing in front of people. My son however loves to perform, very confident, very clear, expresses himself really well, I think if anyone in my family was going to consider a career in performance he would be the one to explore it. More in an acting direction.
When we chatted before we discussed the National Youth Theatre. What did you do with the NYT?
The National Youth Theatre was one of those life changing moments, a hugely life changing moment. I was fortunate enough to audition for them in the 80’s, before you were born. At that time they’d interview about 3000 people and they’d only take about 50, a very small number of people, not like it is today. I was very fortunate to get in, over the following six years I’d travel to London and do several performances. We would do performances in London or in Newcastle and it was great. I went to NYT with Daniel Craig, James Bond, to mention one of the most well-known people, we were both in two plays together in London in my last year.
We did Murder in the Cathedral in London, then I was asked to stay by the Director with Daniel for a further four or five weeks and we did Romeo and Juliet in London and then took that up to Newcastle, NYT was a huge input in my life, I played the Prince and Daniel played Paris. I have fond memories of that time.
If I was an aspiring radio presenter what would be your three top tips?
I think first and foremost it would be to be yourself, personality is one of the big things that makes a huge different to a show, you could have five questions but each person would deliver them in a different way and prompt different answers, communicate and express yourself as you, don’t try to be anyone else.
Second thing: Energy and enthusiasm, one of the things on the radio you don’t have is to determine someone’s physicality, you can’t see their eyes, their body language, or facial expressions, so your voice and energy behind it is fundamental. They listen to your voice and mentally paint a picture of what that person is like, so it’s really important to have that energy and enthusiasm.
The third is don’t give up, if someone really wants to pursue a career in radio the door may not open wide immediately, folks may ask you to be a broadcast assistant and it is commitment and a passion to keep going for it that is really important. Sometimes you have to fight for your dreams and don’t let people say not at this moment in time, it doesn’t necessarily mean no it may just mean you need more personal development, and take that as a challenge and continue on.
I like that one, that goes across all disciplines, I know myself if I go for an audition I may not be what they are looking for on that day but you have to remember to go for everything you’d like to do and carry on.
Achieving your goals doesn’t necessarily mean just achieving total success, you need to sometimes fight for it, if you have an aim and a goal for yourself, it’s carrying on after knocks and it’s the difference between the ordinary people and the extra-ordinary person. Can you take the knocks, learn, develop and push forward?
Have you ever done any voice-over work?
Yes, I have I’ve done a couple, in one I did a voice-over project with my daughter we were contacted by a company in Germany, it was all about teaching young German children how to speak English, both of us were used to do voice over work for particular characters. That was fun that was very good. I’ve also done work for the Alternative Radio Station here on Guernsey that’s real fun. I’m currently working on a project with a US artist who’s releasing his first album and he’s asked me to do some voice over work on his album with him. I’ve just actually put together my website to put myself out there as a professional actor and voice-over artist.
Is there anything you’d love to do in particular?
Well there is, there’s one in particular that I’d like to do – William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, I’ve played Othello twice and the last time I played the role of Othello I was fortunate to win the Timothy Dalton Award for best actor which was really good fun. I spoke to a chap at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and he was keen to do this alternative version, I’ve always wanted to play Iago, Othello is of course African, a black guy but Iago is a white European, but I’d love the idea of exploring Iago being a mixed race man because that idea hasn’t been explored yet. I’d love to do more on that in particular.
An alternative interpretation would be fabulous. I remember reading a book called Noughts and Crosses at High School, it was a book about race and it was a switch-about of minorities and it was a great way for me to understand and explore the era of slavery and racism because I didn’t come into contact with racism as my school was, and now the RCS is, very multi-cultural so it would be interesting for me to see that explored.
I’d love to do it and it is one of my aims. A chap came over to Guernsey and would love to do it but I’d need lots of funding. I’m hoping no-one pursues the idea before I get to do it.
Coming back to education and on behalf of other young aspirational radio presenters, what education did you have at school, what do you suggest a radio presenter needs and how did your education influence where you are today?
My education journey was a really challenging one, the gist was that I was taken out of school for a considerable length of my time as a young man, so when I went back to school I was behind my peers reading, writing and communicating properly. By the time I reached the age of about 14 my education was still behind, however, when I was 15 or 16 when I got into the NYT, I remember going to London and panicking because they were going to ask me to read really complicated scripts, but what struck me was that I was working alongside really intelligent people who were doing the equivalent of GCSEs and A levels and we got on like a house on fire and education wasn’t relevant, it was very equalising. I went back to school and said to Mrs Breslin the Headmistress that I’d like to do ‘O’ levels and she laughed and said she’d give me a trial period. I got my GCSEs and my A levels and I have to say my faith had an element in that as well and that changed everything and so I don’t have an issue with education and I learnt to love it during an intense period. So coming back to your question although I can’t think of any particularly suitable qualification per se you need to be articulate, understanding and discerning. I don’t have a degree I sometimes wish I did I planned to go to drama school instead.
I’ve had a lovely chat with you Andy, you have been very accommodating with my questions and very interesting to talk to, whilst typing today I thought oh why didn’t I ask… such and such, like what is your favourite music to listen to? I feel inspired by your aim and I hope that you have the opportunity to bring your Iago into reality it would be a fitting tribute during Shakespeares 450th birthday celebrations and may bring a new audience and a twist to a wonderful play. Good Luck.