Saturday, August 04, 2012

Imagineering - story telling a good story

Aficionados of radio need no convincing. The power of thought; imagining, the engineering of words into pictures create a cinema in the back of our heads.

And few rival this internalised cinema than BBC Radio, particularly Radio 4 which over the years from my student days produced Loose Ends with Ned Sherrin and the brilliantly witty Victor Lewis Smith.

Smith developed an artistry for story telling which was the equivalent of jump cuts, multiple authoring, and fast forwards.

The trick I learnt but could never replicate to a mile of his oeuvres was to play back a quarter inch tape back to yourself recording as a singer like Michael Jackson did when he was doing his own backing vocals.

It still isn't easy as it seems.

Saturday Mornings, then became John Peel, whose eclectic range of music and monoaural voice took you on an undulating journey across the world music. I loved radio. It had its own temporality and mnemonic which if mastered could do anything with you.

Who would deny that Alistair Cooke's Letter from America - an essay delivered as a grandfather would wasn't spell binding.

This morning I stirred to a similar memorable piece of radio.

Sian Williams, presenter of Saturday Live  - smogasbord magazine programme, whose theme is to find interesting people to tell stories, brought on prolific novelist Gerald Seymour behind Harry's Game, the Glory Boys and so on.

Seymour trained as a reporter for ITN when it was showing up the BBC in storytelling circa 1963.  Williams asked him about the Olympics. His response was effusive to which Williams replied it was like fiction.

Better than that was Seymours reply, this was human drama you couldn't make up. He then recounted one of those cinema-in-your head stories.

He was 21years old  in search of a job and went to ITN where he was interviewed by one of the giants of broadcast news, though described as a small man behind a large desk in a big room, Sir Geoffrey Cox.

The previous day Seymour had turned down the offer of coming from an interview and the supreme editor, perhaps a little ticked off wanted to know why.

Was Seymour sick?

Seymour said he was playing sport

What sport, enquired Cox

Cricket, came back Seymour

Cox asked who for?

Seymour replied, his university.

What position did he play queried Cox

Seymour answered he was a spin bowler and knew how to throw a googly. Now if you don't know you google from your googly, a googly is a delivery which is a bit like a baseball pitcher throwing a curve ball; suffice to say the ball changes direction in flight, or in cricket when it hits the ground.

By this time in the conversation between potential debutante and wise editor, Cox crumples up a paper and asks how do you throw a googly. The conversation continued with cricket. Seymour got the job.

What he subsequently found out was that the previous week ITN had tried its hand down on a village green playing cricket, presumably against the BBC and other media, and discovered they could do with a spinner to help their team.

Fancy that! A top job with a media outfit on the strength of your sporting prowess. Great Story, and not something that happens very often.