Guys, I made a playlist on YouTube of videos featuring ME!

…Wait, come back! Please! Please?

Due to computer breakages and lack of foresight in terms of backing up, I am severely overdue a new showreel, especially if I’m supposed to be taking this ole presenting lark a bit more seriously.

Therefore, I’ve made a playlist of videos I feature in on YouTube. Naturally most are from my own channel.

What’s that? You want me to host your awesome telly/radio/online show? Me too! Let’s chat.

The New Year list

I’m deliberately not calling this post ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ because I don’t think I need to change who I am – and nor should you – but because I’m a fan of a to-do list and this is a good excuse to create an ‘action plan’ for 2014…

2013 has been, for the most part, fine. It’s gone ridiculously fast too. There were big changes at the start and end of the year (I got dumped by email in January – ouch) and changed jobs (moving to EastEnders in late December), but for the most part I feel like I’ve coasted along.

However, everyone should take a moment to think about the good bits as well as the disappointing receiving of electronic communications and so here are a few of the highlights…

#Team NCA

The BBC Radio New Comedy Award returned in 2013 (we got a BBC Production Award nomination for the 2012 multiplatform element that I produced which was pretty cool) and I found myself without a budget so recruited a big batch of amazing volunteers to help film and edited each film myself. The core group of Producer Tilusha, Production Co-Ordinator Tam and Production Management Assistant Isma were bloomin’ hilarious and wonderful. And of course the most fabulous Executive Producer Alison Vernon-Smith and the stylish (and talented) Production Manager Hayley Nathan. My favourite production of the 18 months I spent at BBC Radio Comedy.

Grainne & J-Bugg shake up the Beeb

I found two excellent, talented friends in the new Radio Comedy bursary writers…

A Summer of gigs!

Thanks to Elena Dana, I finally started gigging in London, even making my jazz debut. And I got a new telecaster… now to get an amp (see 2014 to-do list…) I also wrote at least three songs I can count among my favourites.

Making my own damn icing, thank you very much

When I baked in the Get Flat in 2012, someone else was around to do the icing while I made the batter. My early solo icing efforts were watery and rubbish. Then one day, thanks to a Primrose Hill Bakery coffee buttercream recipe, I cracked it. (Although I did have a massive icing fuck-up the other day and had to buy the pre-mixed stuff for a Xmas party at Grainne’s but never mind…)

Comedy! Comedy! Comedy!

I saw some amazing shows and met some hilarious, lovely people this year. People who made me laugh included: Bridget Christie, Phil Wang, Steve Bugeja, Rob Carter, Katherine Bennett, Kate Lucas, Adam Hess, Tom Craine, Joe Lycett, Dean Sekhon, Peter Brush, Grainne Maguire, Mae Martin, Nick Helm Sarah Campbell, Nish Kumar, James Bran, Joe Davies, Ivo Graham James Acaster, Dane Baptiste, Jonny Pelham (and many, many more – go and check them out…)

Producing a book… sort of

In the New Year the BBC will be releasing an iBook about writing for Radio Comedy that I produced… I’ll post more about this in 2014!

Anyway, 2013 review aside, there’s loads for me to be getting on with next year, so here’s some stuff I’d like to do in 2014…

  • Buy amp to go with new telecaster (rather than playing through mixing desk connected to computer speakers)
  • Finish painting bedroom – there’s no longer a reasonable excuse for the large unpainted patch behind the wardrobe!
  • Cook a wider variety of foods (other than jacket potato, pasta and homemade sauce and stir fry)
  • Invite friends over more regularly to share wider variety of foods
  • Apologise less for the way I look
  • Be less passive when someone judges the way I look unnecessarily
  • Buy more cushions for my large sofa
  • Keep up the exercise and resist chocolate/ice cream temptations!
  • Practice guitar more
  • Find rhythm section to play with me and Reece (who I’m working on songs with)
  • Get keyboard out again
  • Record more music – and record it better
  • Read more on my Kindle
  • Find permanent contract
  • Renew ISA
  • Fill up ISA
  • Invest in more loose leaf teas
  • Save up for Canon 5D
  • Be better at getting people together – but not feel so guilty if I don’t
  • Enjoy self as much as possible
  • Blog more!

There’s definitely more – most of that reads like a shopping list! I must have January sales on the brain….

A response to Angela Epstein

Congratulations Daily Mail, I have finally succumbed to your baiting.

Before I tear the barb from my lip and get on with my life, I’ll address a few points from your post by Angela Epstein.

In the article she writes about her appearance on Newsnight with Mary Beard (LEGEND) and Natasha McElhone.

Here’s her response to host Emily Maitlis’s enquiry as to whether she would call herself a feminist:

“I hoped my blow-dried hair and figure-hugging dress would give her some clue as to the answer.

“Feeling a little mischievous, I was tempted to ask her whether I looked like one of those grumpy women in bad clothes who spend their days in a state of agitation about whether it’s right to let girls play with dolls.”

So, as a feminist, here’s my response:

  • I don’t blow dry my hair because it doesn’t work. Even hairdressers haven’t cracked it. A visit to the hairdressers is akin to others’ fear of the dentist. There is nothing anti-feminist about having your hair cut.
  • I’m not a thong fan, therefore figure-hugging isn’t really my style
  • I’d like to see a picture of one of these  ‘grumpy women’ please – this is pure speculation
  • The ‘pink stinks’ campaign, and others like it, is not about removing dolls from the arms of little girls, it’s about removing gender bias from children’s toys. So in other words, boys can play with dolls and girls can be free to dress up as doctors

Then Emily takes affront with the simple, but effective, Everyday Sexist Project, which allows users to submit their experiences of sexism directly on the site or via social media

“Rather than campaigning to help women, feminists today are more likely to be picking fights on Twitter, or dressing up petty grievances as proof of rampant ‘sexism’.”

If  you don’t tell someone that calling women sexist names, groping the body parts of women in clubs entirely uninvited, kerb crawling after school girls and making comments is wrong, then who will? Emily’s issue with Everyday Sexism is the fact that it does as it says ‘on the tin’; it reports ‘everyday’ sexism. If women (and men) don’t reject the tiresome, patronising comments or don’t resist behaviour, it becomes (and remains) acceptable, as it has. Hence the rise of ‘LAD culture’. I used to be scared to walk home in the dark as a school girl. As an adult, occasionally that feeling returns.

On Friday night I went to St Moritz in Soho, celebrating the last performance of Bouncers and Shakers, two plays performed at the BBC (as part of a BBC Club society). Now, I have problems with Bouncers as a play – the behaviour it depicts is so laden with misogyny, you feel playwright John Godber but be against it, but then so much of it comes at you in the hour-long duration of the play that it’s possible to feel offended rather than inspired to do anything; that you as a woman are a solitary object – the butt of a joke – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Issues with Bouncers aside, I was following my friend to the club’s cloakroom when a young man said to his friend rather loudly; “I’d like to set them on fire”.

Just like that, tripping off his tongue like it was something everyone was thinking.

I turned around and said “excuse me?” and joined the man at his table. I questioned why he felt so strongly in his reaction to me walking across the room (calling out “Are you in there?” to my friend). I stated that my loud voice may have been irritating but was surprised that it would evoke such a response. We had a calm, humorous conversation about the ‘fiery phrase’ (ahem, sorry!) Ten minutes later, he’d taken what he’d said back, apologised, called me ‘very cool’ and we parted with a handshake.

The problem is of course, that I don’t get to have these conversations with everyone, but I think it’s important that we have them whenever we can. That’s one of the reasons I’m not commenting directly on the Daily Mail article. Because here I can respond in a controlled, collected way. In a comments section, it’s hard to have a face-to-face style discussion. There’s very little chance for a structured debate and the increase of frustration is commonplace.

Back to the article; feeling incensed (or perhaps proud, given that she is being paid to write her article), Epstein takes a potshot at the Twitter users who have commented on her Newsnight appearance;

“Firebrand feminists who pit sister against sister… those who claim to champion women want to bully me for saying I don’t believe in a cause they have bastardised

Now, I’m surprised at this. Firstly, I never feel like I have been attacked by another feminist – on Twitter or otherwise. Also, disagreeing with someone’s opinions on social media is not bullying. Trolling someone – saying that they should die, are ugly, too old, etc… – is what happened to Mary Beard, not Epstein during her Newsnight appearance. By writing this article, Epstein is pitting herself against an entire community. As an educated woman (as she’s keen to point out in the article), she will be aware of this.

“Indeed, what the sour Lefty Twitterati won’t admit is that all the great battles on which feminism was founded have been won – including political representation, and equality in education, the workplace and other areas of public life.”

(My first reaction to this was “well this is a pile of…”) I’m going to try and be constructive here. They haven’t been won. There still aren’t enough women in Parliament – in fact in general, the government does not represent a cross-section of British society. Sexual discrimination is still rife (did I ever tell you the story of how the all-male staff of Sports Direct in Maidstone had a competition to see who could touch my chest when I wasn’t looking? Boxing Day 2007. I never went back.) Women in comedy are still in the minority – the boring ‘are women funny?’ debate proving popular with ‘but they aren’t’ commenters and let’s not get started on women in radio and sports, the fascination with women’s post-pregnancy weight in the media and pretty much all of the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’. Oh and Robin Thicke. (Needless to say, the ‘ass float’ in his most recent video wasn’t the biggest ass on screen…)

“An emancipated, financially independent woman couldn’t care less whether Jane Austen is emblazoned on a tenner. I don’t: I just care that I’m being paid enough of them”

I’m an emancipated, financially independent woman, took my eleven plus exam to go to a girls’ grammar school and went to University – just like Epstein. I carved out a career for myself. I don’t have the husband or kids yet. I don’t reject the idea, nor to I reject it – so therefore, there are potential parallels in our lives. However, I care that a major female figure was set to be replaced on a bank note by another ‘white male’ (as campaign organiser The Woman’s Room describes it) – currency is part of a national identity after all.

“One survey found that women who own businesses earn nearly 17 per cent more than men in the same position. That’s my definition of feminism – not some spurious insistence on female quotas and women-only shortlists.”

Two things to comment on here:

  • This is a survey about women who ‘own businesses’, it doesn’t represent women who work for someone else. Business is such a wide area, it’s fairly impossible to take such a statistic seriously – what kind of businesses are we talking here? Banking? Bakeries? A venues group?
  • Feminism isn’t defined by ‘quotas’. It’s not defined by women owning their own businesses either. The option for this to happen is obviously part of it, but I doubt you’ll find ‘quotas’ in the dictionary under ‘feminism’.

This quote really does sum up Epstein’s unsteady line of fire quite well:

“If I ever was a feminist, I can’t be now – not according to those who loathe the fact I see marriage as more than a piece of paper, that I believe women have no place in a combat zone, and that I know my daughter won’t be stereotyped for playing with dolls.”

Here, Epstein brings up three unsubstainsiated thoughts:

  • Feminism doesn’t disagree with marriage – however the old fashioned vows that saw a woman declared a ‘man’s wife honouring and obeying’ are agreed by many to be outdated, even by some religious organisations.
  • Where did a debate about women in a combat zone come in? Surely that’s another complex issue she should devote a whole article to rather than bringing it up at the last moment? Should women not be bringing their strategy and medical skills to the battlefield as well as on the front line itself? Or should women be banned from the armed forces altogether? Be clearer, Epstein!
  • Girls aren’t stereotyped for playing with dolls – the issue people have is that the dolls themselves are usually stereotypes.

“So ashamed and depressed am I by a once-laudable movement which has corrupted its heritage and condemns me for saying so.

“For that, I think any sensible woman will join me in feeling saddened by how irrelevant and niche modern feminism has become.”

I don’t feminism isn’t corrupted, I believe it is fighting corruption before it itself becomes heritage. If the suffragettes were around today, of course they would be talking on social media. It’s a totally modern, intuitive way of linking up voices around the world. How amazing is that? If there wasn’t a reason for people to agree, that voice would have died out a long time ago.

Instead, those who don’t agree with feminism decide to try and drown this global voice instead, but it’s not working. Those who oppose it are more than welcome to sit down with me in Soho to talk it out. And that includes you, Epstein.

Creating a film about creating The News Quiz

On Thursday I published a short film I made for BBC Radio 4 called Creating The News Quiz.

I was very lucky to have the chance to visit the QI offices (they’re just as cool as you’d imagine – they have a collection knitted QI bobble hats and a wall of fake moustaches) earlier this year to meet with producer, presenter and broadcasting legend, John Lloyd.

John is one of those people who you meet because of one thing – be it because of his role as the founder of QI (so much more than a TV show), producing the radio series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with his late best friend Douglas Adams or presenting The Museum of Curiosity for Radio 4 – and then go away discovering he’s responsible for more than you could ever have imagined. Occasionally you’ll see him as a talking head on a BBC Two programme talking about some epic advert he made in the eighties, or a classic telly show such as Not the 9 O’Clock News.

John himself isn’t a name dropper, or someone who’d ever assume people would know who he was or what he’s done. He’s just a really brilliant person, basically, so I was dead chuffed that he agreed to chat to me about the early days of his time in BBC Radio. I don’t want to say too much because it’d be great if you watch the film above and see for yourself, but the story involves Nicholas Parsons, former Film [insert date here] presenter Barry Norman and a 13 hour turnaround – from reading the morning papers to broadcast.

The News Quiz airs at 18:30 Fridays and 12:30 Saturdays on BBC Radio 4.

BBC New Comedy Award 2012 hits Birmingham

Tonight I’m returning to Birmingham for the next heat of the BBC New Comedy Award 2012.

We’ll be at the Glee Club from 7.30pm with ten more comics looking to earn themselves a place in one of our semi-finals.

So far the standard has been ridiculously high and I’ve had great fun meeting everyone and filming the shows. Here’s the films I’ve produced so far:

I’ve got to run and catch a train very shortly, but I hope to see some of you there. We’re also heading to Cardiff, London and Brighton on our first round tour – tickets for these shows as well as tonight’s Brummie barrel o’laughs can be found here.

Find out more information about the BBC New Comedy Award here.

London 2012 Opening Ceremony (and much more)!

Some of you may know that I’ve been rehearsing for the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony since April

I’m now in the final stretch, with just two dress rehearsals before the performance itself on Friday. I’m not actually allowed to tell you what I’m doing or even hint at it sadly, but I’ll do some posts after the event to explain a bit more about what we’ve been up to – do comment if you want to know anything in particular (or give me a Tweet).

As well as the Olympics, it’s all go at work. We’re about to go on tour for the BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Award and I’ll be covering some amazing shows in Edinburgh for BBC Radio 4 online, including Just a Minute and Dilemma.

On Friday at 6.30pm, the first episode of the new Chain Reaction series goes out (so you can listen just before the Opening Ceremony). The first pairing is Jeremy Front and his sister Rebecca. The rest of the chain is made up of Chris Addison, Derren Brown, Tim Minchin, Caitlin Moran and Jennifer Saunders (how brilliant is that?). I’ll be speaking to the guest interviewer each week – see how I got on with Jeremy here.

Lastly radio-wise, I’ve also been preparing for The Now Show 2012 – Live! with Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt. We made a silly video to promote the show before recording a show from the current series. The show’s broadcasting live on Monday 30th July, continuing every other week night across the Olympics (that’s six episodes, kids).

Check out the aforementioned video here.

In other news, I’m part-buying a flat in Bromley-by-Bow as part of the Shared Ownership scheme. I’ve never spent vast amounts of sums on anything, so the deposit leaving my savings is going to make me wince like a man hit in an intimate place. I’ve been Pinteresting my prospective furniture. Predictably the majority of it is from IKEA! I plan to bulk buy basics and then shop for more interesting pieces once I’ve replenished my funds.

If you’ve got any budget furnishing links, do share them.

An open letter to BBC Introducing

Please note that the following is strictly of my own opinion, and not that of my employer, the Amazing Media Group (AMG).

Dear BBC,

I produce and present for Amazing Radio, a DAB digital radio station that only plays new and emerging music. Should this make us rivals? No, of course not. We want the same things… possibly.

I’ve become doubtful recently as BBC Introducing focuses on flashy ‘Masterclass’ and ‘In New Music We Trust’ events. These are valuable for artists supported by the Introducing brand, but it seems that sometimes this focus to publicly celebrate ‘the next big thing’ can forget the smaller artists recently being discovered by local BBC Introducing programmes.

Local BBC Introducing shows have to be commissioned by the Managing Editor of the regional centre and I understand this. There are different budgets, schedules to fit the shows into – which explains why some shows are just an hour, some three and others expand outside of the show with regional tours. What I don’t understand is why the BBC cannot invest a mere smidgeon of time in publishing the playlists from each show. It’s incredible that you cannot find programme information for the regional shows.

This might seem like a petty quibble, but I promise you it’s not. What do new, emerging and unsigned artists need most of all? Gigs! You can’t build a fan base (and test their dedication) without building up a loyal following that will support you and your music if you begin releasing. A label will be unlikely to sign a band without a considerable following. Public faith should not be underestimated. Promoters will be looking to BBC Introducing to provide new acts for local gigs – or at least they could be, if the BBC decided to do the simple thing of archiving a list of played acts (with links) from each show.

The BBC Birmingham Introducing website is a good example of what regional BBC Introducing sites should be starting with. The site used to house a comprehensive A-Z of local acts, but I can no longer locate it. There are, however, local artist news articles which is welcome relief from my fears that BBC Online is completely failing to provide us with the information that we pay our licence fees for.

At Amazing Radio our music programming policy is that we only play artists who have uploaded their tracks to amazingtunes.com. This means that our listeners can easily find what they hear on the radio, either by searching for the artists that they’ve heard us talk about on the radio, or by clicking on the hyper linked playlists that we provide on our show pages. We’re also on hand to answer any questions that site users or listeners may have. I occasionally receive emails that ask me about a song or artist, and I’m always happy to answer them,
(complete with a link to the artist’s profile page). Artists can write what they like on their profile pages too, so if they want to direct users to a Band Camp or Facebook fan page, we don’t mind at all!

So BBC, what would I like you do do? Well I’d like to see more effort put into the regional BBC Introducing sites – some shows don’t even have them – and I’d like to see published playlists for each show. Surely it can’t be that hard can it?

All the best,

Frankie Ward

Faceless.

I just watched Cycle 15 of America’s Next Top Model in two days.

This cycle was called ‘ANTM Elevated’ due to the incorporation of more top fashion houses (such as Versace and Roberto Cavalli) and a prize that included a spread in Italian Vogue.

Rather than ‘make like a model’ I thought I’d have a gleeful dig through my wardrobe and mix old and new bits and pieces together. I’ve been to the shops a few times since Christmas but haven’t found too much sales wise – I’ve still got Zara and Top Shop vouchers to splurge – but I’m biding my credit ’til I see something I “simply have to have, darlings!”

Trousers £14.99 by Zara, Shirt and shoes both by H&M

One joyous miracle happened recently on my 22nd birthday when I found a black version of my favourite camel trousers reduced in Zara to £14.99 from £19.99. Anyone who knows this blog at all will be aware that I’ve been trying to find ‘cigarette pants’ for an absolute age so to find them for such a bargain was rather pleasing! (Particularly as I used a Christmas voucher to buy them so it cost nada – thanks Tony!)

Jumper knitted by Deb, leggings 'freecycled', shoes by Dune

I borrowed this jumper from my Dad when I was cold at Christmas and his wife Deb gave it to me ‘because it suited me more’! I’ve wanted an oversized jumper for a while (thanks Deb!) but it doesn’t belt well so I have to wear with leggings to avoid looking too shapeless – I think it works though. The American Apparel style leggings were a free find at a Friends of the Earth Freecycle event I went to before I left Birmingham. Although I was primarily there to offload old clothes I couldn’t carry, I couldn’t resist these! The heels are also a thrift from my shoe hoarding mother. All in all a budget-free look.

Shirt from Oxfam, skirt from Cow Vintage, headband £1.25 (sale price) by Peacocks and boots by Melissa for Anglomania

I held out all holiday season for these boots by Anglomania (one of Vivienne Westwood’s diffusion lines). They arrived as a last present miracle from my fabulous sister Charlotte. Weirdly enough they smell pleasantly fruity so I lay around with my nose in the boots for an alarming amount of time! I shortened and hemmed the skirt so it was of more wearable length but accidentally burned a hole in it… oops! And I’ve not yet worn the shirt out of my room, so I should probably start getting more use out of it!

Dress from PDSA, heels by Office

I got this shift dress for about £3 in 2008 when I was doing work experience as a BBC Blast reporter. I had no money but a desire to spend it, so the PDSA charity shop was a good place for me to browse! The heels were my extravagant purchase from my short spell acting at Birmingham’s MAC theatre during a break from University. They are rather high so I don’t wear them out much, although I wore them for graduation. There were concerns that I’d fall over in front of everyone, but actually it was my oversized mortarboard hat that caused the issue.

Now… to the Top Shop sale! (Suggestions of what to buy, anyone?)

Turn up. Trade in. Help Out.

I admit that I feel like a bit of a thief, what with stealing the following from the Amazing Radio blog! But it’s pretty cool news, and hopefully will get more people listening to DAB digital radio. All digital radios come with FM recievers (some AM too if you’re that way inclined) and there are some great quality stations available such as BBC Radio 6 Music and of course, my new employers Amazing Radio.

So Spread the word… and get listening!

Radio Amnesty – Because you’re worth it

Friday, May 21st, 2010 | Kevin Read | Blog

You’ll hear some ads on Amazing Radio from tomorrow. We’ve not carried ads since our Amazing Christmas campaign but this is another great initiative designed to get you a cheaper DAB radio whilst opening up a world of opportunities to children in South Africa.

Radio Amnesty 

The lovely people at getdigitalradio.com are offering an amnesty on your poor old radio. The plan is simple, you trade in your old radio and get a discount on a snazzy new DAB radio from one of a host of retailers. For more information on the amnesty and how it works, head on over to http://www.getdigitalradio.com/digital-radios/radio-amnesty where you’ll also find details of how the scheme will help the Children’s Radio Foundation and UNICEF in Southern Africa.