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Shell Zenner – Radio Festival 2011

Monday, November 14th, 2011

shell-zenner-picHello! I’m Shell Zenner, despite being on Community Radio for three years, I’ve never truly seen myself  as a journalist. I’m introduced regularly to bands and producers as a Journo or  radio presenter but it just never really feels real, especially when you’re  still working full time in another industry.

The truth is I’ve been a community radio presenter at Salford City Radio  for a few years and more recently I’ve been presenting a show on Bolton FM. You can even hear me over seas with my  programmes airing on WXLV College Radio In Philadelphia, USA and I’ve also been  fortunate enough to have guested on the Roundtable features on BBC Radio Manchester and Amazing Radio, where I’ve worked with some exceptionally talented  people.

It was with excitement and truthfully, a touch of trepidation that I  booked my “Foot InThe Door” ticket for this years Radio Festival. I was a little sad to only be able to attend  the first day of the festival but realised attending the full event was a touch  out of my price range. So, when I saw an  advert on the Media UK website for producers/presenters for the festivals radio output I jumped at the chance and sent off a CV. I was thrilled to receive an email back  asking me to send a demo off and over the moon to get a the call back asking me  to anchor the Radio Festival Radio podcasts.

From the eyes of a newbie, the Radio Festival was completely awe  inspiring, so many big names, not just celebrities but those that are actually  influencing how radio is broadcast at the present time. The subject matter? For anyone that truly cares about radio, it was wide ranging and topical with intense sessions such as Mark Thompson’s Delivering Quality First to the more fun fayre of Arthur Smith, interviewing Jarvis Cocker. There was  something for everyone at the festival

Not only that, but the event was a huge networking opportunity where old friends greeted each other warmly but there was simply not enough time to talk to or meet everyone. In many ways I would have loved to have been in the same position, but alas, whilst I know many of the names, it’s hard to associate them with the faces and so I was apprehensive about making a bad impression. I guess what I’d signed up to – Radio Festival Radio – was a touch more hard work, but arguably more rewarding!

It was a late start for me on day 1 of the festivities, as I would be there until the bitter end, (otherwise known as the 6 Music Showcase!) and so the TechCon and Foot In The Door (FITD) Sessions were well underway by the time I arrived. I jumped into the FITD session amidst the Demo Clinic and got to see ‘What Goes On’, Media’s Kate Cocker engaging completely through group  analysis of the demos, many valid points were made and it proved to be a confidence building session for those that were there, to help them progress into a career in radio.

Being a community radio presenter, my heart was warmed by the comments regarding the importance of Community Radio. I often feel that Student Radio and those that generally are of a younger age get more support getting into the industry than people like myself, when it is actually much difficult and daunting to tackle the prospect of a career change when you have adultresponsibilities and can’t just uproot yourself geographically.

The 6 Music Showcase was always going to be my highlight on the Monday though, anyone that knows anything about me will know I’m a keen music affection-ado and that I adore the eclectivity and individualism offered on the airwaves by 6 Music. My radio shows are based around new music and I interview an array of new bands too, which made this event right up my street.

The fact that The Charlatans were headlining made this a must see for me too, as I’m a bit of an old school indie kid, but also on the line up were Bombay Bicycle Club, Michael Kiwanuka and John Cooper Clarke. I managed to grab a chat with Tim Burgess before the gig to talk about his virtual appearance on Tom Robinsons #nowplaying show a couple of weeks back and about the importance of radio play for bands.

Tuesday dawned bright and early with a talk from Mark Thompson on ‘Delivering Quality First’ kicking off the proceedings which seemed to be one of the main themes running through the festival. There were a number of heavyweight sessions such as ‘Meet The Boss’ but due to our podcast deadlines for the day I only managed to see the more lighthearted ‘Last Night A DJ Shaved My Wife’ with Jon Holmes, Adam Buxton, Patrick Kielty & Olly Mann. I especially liked the part about ‘corpsing’ aka laughing so hard that you can’t speak on air. The examples given had the whole theatre in fits of laughter!

Before Jon Holmes session, there was a poignant video played in the Quays Theatre. If you didn’t read Miranda Sawyer’s Observer article or you haven’t noticed the Soundwomen badges that were ever present during the Radio Festival then let me enlighten you.

Soundwomen is a network of over 200 inspirational women working in audio. They are committed to raising the profile of the women who work in the radio and audio industry, and celebrating their achievements. Why is Soundwomen needed? Well, watch the following video and all will become clear..

Click HERE to see the video.

For me, as an avid listener to Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show and someone who follows Mary Anne-Hobbs and Annie Mac’s musical delights with interest, I do question why there are so few women presenters in radio and more particularly in
specialist music radio. One of the most poignant statements in that video is not even about the gender of the presenter but of the point of radio, call it ‘Peelism’ maybe..

Annie Mac: “nowadays in the world of radio and in specialist music, people don’t really need radio, they have spotify, they can go and find their own tunes but the reason why radio, I think, is good because they believe in a personality, they believe in our taste, and they trust them.”

Never a truer word spoken Annie! To get a listener to tune in when they  could just as easily pick up song tips from blogs, spotify, Itunes or elsewhere is a hard task. You have to offer something extra. I tweeted recently “I listen to music so that you don’t have to”, meaning that I weed out the good from the bad and bring you a concise slice of quality music (in my view) in each of my broadcasts. As a woman in radio, I applaud the Sound Women project, you GO GIRLS!

To find out more head to:

In any case, our two podcasts for the day were successfully delivered by 7pm at night and it was with a sense of relief that some of the group headed off to the Hall Of Fame Dinner at Gorton Monastery. I joined the ‘refugees’ event at Lime Bar and thoroughly enjoyed the company of some of the Radio Festival Radio team along with an assortment of other radio professionals.

The final day dawned bright and early and I was determined to see more of the days events than I had seen on Tuesday, so early doors I headed to the Quays Theatre to see ‘Jarvis and Arthur: Digital Radio’s Common People’. It was the most touching, heartfelt and easy going session with Arthur warning Jarvis”that he’ll end up listening to Radio 4, we all do!” Jarvis retorted ‘I can feel myself growing closer to Radio 3 as we speak’ which certainly raised a laugh. Jarvis also informed the eager crowd that the BBC is the closest he’s got to turning to religion, ‘it’s a benign presence that’s there should you need it’. He also stated that you can’t judge everything by commercial criteria and numbers which to me, backed up what Jeff Smith had to say about playlisting at 6 music and Radio 2 completely.

Jarvis also stated that the 6 Music listeners are frighteningly informed ‘if you just ask, you can get a torrent of information’. As a regular 6 Music listener, I couldn’t agree more, he totally hit the nail on the head. There aren’t any other radio stations in the
UK where the listener on regular occasions knows just as much, if not more than the presenter demonstrating exactly why Annie Mac’s statement above is quite so important!

I hotfooted it up to the playlists session to hear a discussion about how Facebook can be used to provide feedback on some of the latest tracks around and how research techniques are generally employed to inform playlists, well other than Jeff Smith who stated their approach was more gut instinct.

Being an avid social networker I was really looking forward to the social networking session, but the quarter of an hour I was able to see left me distinctively underwhelmed. In any case, I had to return to Radio Festival Radio to help put together the final podcast which hit the internet mid afternoon on Wednesday.

All in all it was an amazing experience, the Festival Radio team were a group of exceptionally talented people and I’ve learnt from each and every one of them. The team was supported and guided by the amazing Kate Cocker and Heather Davies and I just want to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work, patience and inspiring words.

It was really nice to hear all the great feedback on the podcasts, so thanks for that and also to the Chief Executive Officer of the Radio Academy – John Myers who blogged ‘Thanks to all who played a part, no matter how small including the Radio Academy podcast team for the invaluable help with their wonderful podcasts’.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to the podcasts, you can listen to them: or just search Radio Academy in the itunes store for the free to download podcasts to appear.


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