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On the Mic: Surround sound

PUBLISHED: 12:59 18 July 2017

BBC Radio Kent

BBC Radio Kent

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Radio Kent broadcaster and producer Andy Garland on life 'up north' and why local radio is sounding better than ever

Ahhh-way...

The black and white-clad man beside me at St. James’ Park has spent the first half of the game repeating the above phrase.

Depending on the length of and stress on each syllable, I’ve managed to ascertain that he’s been at times happy, angry and indeed deeply disappointed with his team’s performance.

As an interested but neutral observer among 50,000 football-mad Geordies, I’m trying to make the appropriate noises in response, not easy given the volume of said assembled crowd.

Fortuitously, however, it all works out for the best thanks to a full-length diving save by a Preston North End outfield player. One sending off later and the Toon go on to easily win 4-1 and seal their promotion back to the Premiership next season.

As introductions to the north east go, this is a fruitful moment and gives me plenty of conversational fuel for the many new introductions I’m making at the moment.

I’m overlooking the Tyne, helping BBC Newcastle through a tricky period of transition as we re-equip all of the Local Radio stations with brand-new studios, digital playout systems and associated software.

It’s a big project that’s been ongoing since the pilot at BBC Northampton in 2014. One of the immediate benefits is improved sound quality, so come late July you should notice BBC Radio Kent sounding better than ever.

Yes, having been in the far north since April, our next stop is Tunbridge Wells. And while big project it may be, this is a small industry and while Newcastle go up, the region’s other footie side, Sunderland, are relegated.

This is much to the chagrin of their commentator Nick Barnes who, it turns out, lived in Whitstable in the 1980s, long before it was the Londoner’s seaside destination of choice.

BBC Newcastle’s managing editor Doug Morris is a Dartford boy by birth and grew up in Northfleet and, embarrassingly, is more up to date than I am, with the very successful Ebbsfleet FC season.

Doug is equally upbeat because the mixing desks we’ve just replaced are older than my training colleague Leanne, normally a studio manager at 5-Live!

The BBC Mk.III console was in its time a thing of real beauty, designed for Local Radio in the 1960s to synch seamlessly with record tables, quarter-inch tape machines and triple-stack cart racks, all encased in bespoke woodwork.

Over the years, however, these workhorses have been driven hard, bastardised to such a degree with subsequent systems that, like an ageing prize fighter, they’re no longer capable of the triumphs of their youth.

One of their new replacements is designed in Kent by Maidstone electronics company Glensound, whose equipment has powered our sport broadcasts for years and is providing one half of the new studio setup.

So if you’re passing the Great Hall during July and August, peer in and you’ll see not only our new kit, but also a few furrowed brows from my Kentish colleagues as they seek to master their new brief.

As a trainer it’s fascinating to see the range of reactions when confronted with so much to learn in such a short space of time. Some take to it like a duck to water, some are more fearful and still others mask their unease with bravado.

One of my constant refrains over the past few weeks has been: “Nothing changes. You can still spot a great story, you’re still a great producer, you still know a great caller and you still know how to programme great music.”

Here’s hoping that July and August for the BBC Radio Kent team are more Newcastle than Sunderland FC and that it’s not just a good season ahead for our new kit but, like its predecessor, may its good times last for many seasons to come.

__________

Get in touch

Andy Garland presents Sunday Gardening from 8am on BBC Radio Kent with Steve Bradley and Jean Griffin, email radio.kent.garden@bbc.co.uk, call 03459 81 11 11 or text the team on 81333 starting your message with the word KENT

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