Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2013 Contents 12 UWI TODAY -- SATURDAY 31ST AUGUST, 2013
VB: Start the Week, the programme you produced at
BBC Radio 4, what was it about?
MS-B: With my presenter, Melvyn Bragg, now Lord Bragg,
I turned Start the Week into the top discussion
programme in the country on both TV and radio.
It had been oundering, having lost ground to TV
"chat," but STW had always been an important
programme in the schedules and I was determined
to develop that morning slot as a unique place where
intelligent conversation about important matters could
be discussed, making it the place where esteemed
statesmen, writers, artists and scientists wanted to
appear in each other's company. It went for the high
ground when the media seemed to be catering only for
the lowest common denominator.
It was my ambition to give place to people of all
ethnicities and walks of life at a time when people of
colour were not much featured in regular programming.
It was also the rst non-specialist programme that
scientists appeared on. It popularised science and
explored the arts, politics, economics, and social
sciences equally. It became perhaps the most important
programme in the BBC portfolio of live programmes
and set the standard for discussion.
VB: "There is no point having diverse people if you
don't allow them to be diverse," is attributed to
you. What was the context of that statement?
MS-B: When I joined the BBC in 1984 there were no people of
colour working in radio production in the four national
domestic services, except one producer from India. In
BBC TV there was programming in Indian languages
only. It is commonly believed that Trevor McDonald
presented on the BBC. He did so only on the World
Service (radio), never BBC TV. On BBC TV there was
one Caribbean woman news presenter, Moira Stuart, a
former secretary in one of the domestic radio services.
I was determined not to be the rst and last Caribbean
person to be a BBC radio producer. I immediately
started making programmes about people whose voices
were never heard by the British public.
I made programmes that promoted Caribbean and
developing country cultures, politics and people
alongside STW or whatever general programme I was
working on, whether in TV or radio. e programmes
won prizes and proved that there was a world of
stories out there to be told and that all people could
be included in the BBC without outraging the British
public. ey just had to be the very best in quality. I
was able to recruit researchers and producers of non-
European origin to my production teams, one of them
is now the Commissioning Editor of BBC Radio Four,
a top job open to very few people of any origin. I also
introduced new non-European presenters and subjects
GRADUATION CEREMONIES --
Start Me Up
Among our six honorees this year, is Marina Salandy-Brown, journalist and media consultant, with 28 years of experience in the broadcast industry.
Ms Salandy-Brown will be conferred with a DLitt at the ceremony on October 26, where she will address graduates of the Faculty of Humanities and
Education. Her international awards include the Sony Gold Award, Best News Programme 2000, UK (for BBC Radio); Radio Journalist of the Year 1994,
UK; New York Festivals Award, Silver, 1992; Programme of the Year, UK Television and Radio Industries Club, 1990, and the Sony Silver Award for the
Most Creative Use of Radio, 1988, UK. She answers some questions posed by editor, Vaneisa Baksh.
to the airwaves. My success paved the way for others to
follow as sta members and as presenters. Many of these
found their way to other areas of the media.
I later worked on a BBC Diversity Policy that was
meant to move the BBC away from its colonial way
of recruiting. ere were strong strategic reasons for
the BBC to change this model. e highest growth in
population was among the new immigrant groups,
yet that's where most dissatisfaction with BBC output
existed. Implementation of new recruitment, training
and programming polices took place as a result. It took
a long time to happen and it met with many obstacles,
including deliberate sabotage. And, even when the
argument was won over hiring a work force that
represented the population, myopic editors would o en
pigeon-hole non-white producers and presenters. It was
in this context that I was quoted.
VB: The NGC Bocas Lit Festival, which you helped to
create, is growing at a heartening pace. Do you
think it is a sign of how starved the region is for
space to have literary discussions? Or do you
think you are now creating that desire for such
MS-B: As part of my work at the BBC and in other private
pursuits I was very integrated into the arts, including
literature. In all these areas, as indeed in my BBC work,
I have seen that most people do not know what they are
missing. Once you point it out to them you discover an
appetite that is hungry for satisfaction. ere is need
that not all know how to meet. ere is talent that is
waiting to out itself. ere are opportunities that just
have not been tapped into. What the NGC Bocas Lit
Fest as a non-pro t company has set out to do is to help
writers, readers and the publishing industry.
ere are reading groups in this country, people use our
libraries, bookshops sell novels, writers are scribbling
away, but they just needed being drawn together more,
and real opportunities grasped for advancing their
work. Writers need readers and society needs writers. It
is a symbiotic relationship that needs encouragement.
Judging from the success of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest,
I would say that the desire for literary discussion was
there. It is true too that we are creating desire where
there was little or none. Bringing readers and writers
together is important and bringing writers together
too. So many of the visiting Caribbean writers had not
met one another, yet they know each other's work and
feed o it. e festival allows that level of discourse and
exchange and we, their readers, are the bene ciaries too.
VB: Where would you like to see it go?
MS-B: Considering how the lit fest is developing, I am
impressed by the corporate sector and the government
ministries that nancially support it. Unlike the lm
industry, which has been o cially identi ed as an area
for development and exploitation and has an agency
with a budget to look a er its a airs, literature had
been overlooked. Bocas has sprung up between the
cracks and established literature as worthy of greater
consideration and given expression to the appetite for
it. I would like to see Bocas' nancial future ensured so
that it can carry out the work we have planned. I would
not like to see our ambitions exceed out capacity to
e Bocas project is to reach all parts of the community,
locally, regionally and internationally. We have been
going just three years now and it has been hard work to
gather all the resources, human and nancial, to host
the festival every April and establish it internationally as
a quality event, but it is our plan to do a festival outside
of Port of Spain and one in Tobago, and to work with
writing and reading groups nationwide.
VB: What does this honorary degree mean to you?
MS-B: It is an extraordinary and surprising honour to have
conferred upon me. It was always a regret of mine that
I was not in TT during the earlier years of our post-
Independence development. I would have loved to have
attended UWI. I consider it a very important Caribbean
institution and I have respect for it. is way part of a
wish has been realised.
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