BBC Three’s Shoplife: Episode 4

Enough writing, just listen to it.

Partially Exposing the Truth

For a long time now I’ve had my tongue tied by red tape. I’ve been unable to comment on something which ruined a lot of the end of my time at NE1fm 102.5 – and something which has upset a handful of almost life long friends.

Tonight I decided enough was enough after reading more black and white tweets from someone painting a picture that they have been completely wronged by NE1fm 102.5. As someone no longer working for the station I finally felt it was time to pass comment on the subject. Also because I’m tired of being made out as part of a group of bullies.

The person in question keeps writing to councillors & MPs trying to fight against a decision the station made. He has written to more than a couple that I am aware of. The councillors/MPs do a tremendous job of writing to the station asking for information on the issue and when they receive the station’s defence I can only assume they agree with the decision and tell their constituent they cannot help. I assume this because the person keeps going to different people – a bit like going to your Dad when your Mam says no.

I’ve done my best to show the conversation in its entirety below. It may change as I find bits I may have missed out due to Twitter’s rubbish conversation listing thing.

















I think that covers everything. I’ll clean this up as I go as the quoting Twitter feature is rubbish on WordPress.

BBC Three’s Shoplife : Episode 3

Couple of people asking where this week’s review is. If I’m completely honest barring Tom it was boring as sin.

Usual social commentary tomorrow evening from 9pm – let’s hope it’s slightly more enjoyable.

BBC Three’s Shoplife : Episode 2

Briefly put, episode 2 aired last night and covered;

  • Hoovering skills
  • Champagne
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Romance
  • Long Days
  • Religious Shirt Undoing
  • Job advice
  • Dating
  • And anger

So pretty standard. Listen to the best bits below, as heard on NE1fm 102.5 Saturdays at 1:30 on the Dan Pye Show.

The social commentary went down a storm as per usual and if you like what you read on Twitter @kevatkinson look out at 9pm Thursday for the next batch of social commentary.

BBC Three’s Shoplife

BBC Three have a new TV show about the MetroCentre – it’s called Shoplife. Read about, and watch it here.

I’m the self-elected social commentator for the show – as approved by BBC Three in this tweet;

In my self elected role I’ll tell you what real Geordies think of what the show is pushing. What’s real, what’s clearly fake. Many of my tweets this evening were RTd or favourited, or both – even from stars of the show. So clearly the public like what I’m saying. No malice, just observation and what I like to call #realtalk. I’ll also be discussing the show on The Dan Pye Show on Newcastle’s NE1fm 102.5 – Saturdays from 12pm.

In episode 1 I made the following observations;

  • The sountrack has been dubbed off of a Geordie Shore episode.
  • The only people ever at the Champagne bar are MetroCentre staff.
  • Lots of filler film was taken on a broken camera, it was all blurry. (I know, it’s deliberate)
  • Doughnut John is one of a kind. He has (what I suspect is) blue colouring in his hair, off of the doughnuts.
  • You only need a 3 to 5 scene montage to go from a ‘wannabe’ model to being a catwalk model.
  • If you tell people on the telly where there is no CCTV – there’ll probably be CCTV there imminently.

Stuff I want to see in episode 2;

  • Generic security guard #5 addressing the constant queues at the ATM outside of Santander, near McDonalds.
  • A health and safety risk assessment being carried out by a centre manager on those portable trampoline things.
  • Overworked Namco engineer #3 who can’t fix a problem with an arcade machine.

Ant and Dec also (did not) comment on the show.

See you next week on Twitter @kevatkinson  – 9pm for more social commentary.

I’ve Saved the World

Somehow, I saved the world this week. Yes that is all bollocks but in a roundabout way I’m claiming that. If you don’t make claims like that you’ll get nowhere.

The just of it? A virus was discovered at work this week and I had the wonderful job of looking into it and trying to get rid of it. I don’t rate Symantec at all, and as that’s what my workplace use it was no surprise to me that scanning the infected file showed no results at all. Despite online ‘upload to scan’ stuff detecting it.

So I got in touch with Symantec and told them I wanted to send them the file. Cue one of the longest ‘submit a virus’ processes known to the current world. Eventually though the file was submitted and the next day I was told it had been detected as an Infostealer and would be added to the latest definitions.

I’d saved the world. So I decided to make some egotistical tweet about it, and Symantec replied.

I felt like a superhero.


My Film Idea

Turns out some versions of it have already been done, my Twitter friends were kind enough to keep me in check!

I guess it’s back to the drawing board.

A Film Idea

I had a film idea last week. It’s only had a few minutes thought but I think it has potential.

Imagine if humans stopped being able to reproduce tomorrow… literally the ability ‘to’ just stopped.

Some things I considered.

  • What could cause that.
    A virus? Bacteria? Solar event? Alien attack?
  • What type of film.
    Sci-Fi? Horror? Action? All?
  • Eventualities.
    Do scientists find a solution? Or are humans wiped out?
  • Who do you follow?
    Who are the leading characters, how are they selected.

There’s lots to think about. But there’s an idea there. Have stuff to add? Comment below and in 10 years when the movie is commissioned I’ll pay you some monies.

And for formalities the main idea is © me (Kev Atkinson 17/7/2013). So don’t go stealing it.

Living with Colourblindness

I thought I’d write a post about colourblindness. And some of the misconceptions I think are out there. Also to point out my experience of it and some of the rubbish I’ve read online recently. It will take you a couple of minutes to read this or a little bit longer if you’re a slow reader but I think it contains some useful insight from a colourblind persons perspective.

I have red/green colourblindness and until I was 16 I was completely unaware of it. I had every intention of joining the Royal Air Force but colourblindness quickly put an end to that. Since 16 I have had 4 tests, with all of them stating I have a very mild red/green colourblindness.

The most infuriating part of it is that I can see red and I can see green. I’m starting to find a lot of ignorance exists around the subject with people commonly saying it’s easy because, for example, on traffic lights red is at the top green is at the bottom. My explanation that I can see both red and green is often ignored at this point. The problem that I have can be best described with Excel spreadsheets. If a cell has been highlighted with a red or green colour and I need to highlight another cell with the same colour, sometimes on the palate I will choose a pink or a dark red or a light green or dark green. However once I select the colour I can instantly see it is wrong so normally it is one or two clicks till I have the right colour.

In IT I don’t think colourblindness affects me at all. It certainly doesn’t affect me when I’m driving, and in the many flying lessons I did as a teenager I did not have any problems. I’m sure there are those who have it much worse than me but if I’m honest I don’t think I have a colourblindness problem, I just have a problem with shades of them. But I can see all the colours – so does that mean I am colourblind?

In August last year I applied for a new opportunity to do something I’ve fancied doing for many years. As part of the application I had to go through a full medical assessment – part of this assessment included a colourblindness test, performed by somebody who, at the beginning of the test, said “I have never completed one of these tests before.”

As sods law would dictate, seven months later, the results of that test are still causing me problems. The doctor who performed the colourblindness test returned results of a severe colourblindness. Naturally I protested immediately and said that I disagreed with the results of the test. My protest was reinforced by the results of an eye test only two weeks earlier, where the optician had said that I had a mild red/green colourblindness.

Months and months back I offered a simple solution to this, I said I would be happy to do another colourblindness test with the doctor who had experience of conducting the tests. Obviously that has not happened as I’m writing this today. I’m getting pretty frustrated that I’m still waiting nearly a year later to progress within this role, and on Friday just gone found myself using the words “discriminated against” for the first time. I genuinely felt, for the first time, that I was being treat differently because of colourblindness and when it dawned on me that I felt this way – I was surprised at how demeaning it actually felt.

I thought I’d look up online some of the advice out there for people and businesses regarding people with colourblindness. What I found was pretty frustrating. One website had a full article regarding posters and other images that are commonly used in public, it used the sale sign for example red background white writing. It also used a supermarket shelf of various products as an example.

The page (here) showed what normal people would see and colourblind people would see. What it in fact showed was that they had turned pretty much everything red into a green colour. It also used an image of different coloured pencils again, with a before and after approach where they had simply changed the colour of everything red to green.

To ensure that I was not losing the plot I showed these images to my partner pointing out the colours on all of the before pictures, stating clearly the various colours that I could see which were all correct. So does that mean I am not colourblind?

I intend on writing to the website authors as I believe the article is pushing out miss-information. People will read that and make an assumption on what colourblind people can and cannot see, which takes me back to the good old traffic light example. Red is at the top green is at the bottom so it doesn’t really matter.

Apologies for the length of this post as it was written completely with the built-in iPad voice recognition. I’m pretty impressed with it.

Done. & Tired.

So it’s a week since my last day at NE1fm – a long day and I’ve been really tired all week, finally catching up with things 6 days on. This was half written – so today (15th) I deleted and rewrote it.

The birthday was a good one, lots of people turned up, we had a smashing BBQ, and I gatecrashed most of the shows on the Saturday schedule. For the day we installed a live video feed of the studio and hundreds of people looked in on us throughout the day. Running a community radio project for 6 years is no easy achievement.

My final show was a special one. I was joined in the studio by friends of months, years and decades. We shared 3 hours of good music, banter and memories, old show features, the good and the bad. I was humbled to listen to a “This is your life” that was made for me, including some pretty embarrassing audio and interviews with people from the years. I’ll stick it on my SoundCloud soon and pop it up here for you to have a listen to!

A good sign off.

Balancing it out.

2 days to go.

Short and sweet one this. I work 35+ hours a week as an IT technician. I’ve got a 2 year old girl and a partner, and then the station. I probably spent 10-15 hours a week on station stuff from home. Try and find balance if you’re pushed. Today has been pretty busy so with a beer in hand I’m going to have tonight off!

From tomorrow, I’m on NE1fm from 10am onwards. Listen in. It’s the station’s 6th birthday, my last day, and BBQ day. I’m going to gatecrash all the shows!

See you tomorrow.


3 days to go. (including today, tomorrow and Saturday for those asking)

It goes without saying a lot of things wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Discounting the charity shops which pay their managing directors hundreds of thousands a year look at the 2012 Olympics. The opening ceremony was the best production I’ve seen in my life. All powered by volunteers (and some paid people, naturally, but mostly volunteers).

Volunteering: Freely offer to do something.

I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve volunteered at NE1fm. Community radio is the only thing I’ve really volunteered with, I used to be part of a large orchestra in my musician days which we did for the love of music – good times! I think most volunteers would love to be paid to do what they do. I know I do, because I still wish to this day that things had of been different and I could be paid to work there 35 hours a week. In a different universe the station would be much, much bigger. But it all comes down to money at the end of the day.

Volunteering can be as rewarding as you want it to be. If you want to turn up, present a show and go home, you can. You should probably do more though. Don’t just take, give back. You almost earn a status after being a long time volunteer. I think you can get away with more, have more say, more influence and you get more respect. I’m proud to be able to say people benefit every single day from the work myself and the other directors of CBIT (who own NE1fm 102.5) do. There’s that saying “if it wasn’t for you…” – if it wasn’t for a small group, a much bigger group would go without.

On a more difficult front, running a project is always best effort. I can say hand on heart that everything we’ve done has been best informed, best decided. There’s no free training on how to run a project. No free training on the legalities, no free training on employment law. And if you end up dealing with a difficult volunteer they can very quickly start to become a pain citing all sorts of laws and rules they think you’ve broken.

My advice on that front? Be fair, professional and open about the actions you do. Always have justification. Use resources like Volunteering England to help you with the other bits. When people they complain to come calling, show them your reasons and you’ll find they’ll agree and walk away. Do all of that and you’re on to a winner.

Here’s what some have achieved volunteering with NE1fm.

  • Barry Wilson
    I’ve met musicians from all over the country, I’ve gained friends internationally, I’ve been backstage at venues across Newcastle upon Tyne and I’ve had people genuinely refer to me as “their favourite DJ”. I’ve interviewed The Levellers and The Lancashire Hotpots, two of my all time favourite bands. I can think of a few more, courtside seats at Newcastle Eagles games, tonnes of CDs for free, getting into Alton Ellis via listening to Gordon Robertson on NE1, getting the lead singer of Groove Armada to shout Slayer, so much more……. This isn’t a “hey, look what I’ve done”, but it’s more “look what’s happened due to NE1”. Hey, the amount of help [the station] gave The Old Ship Music Festival (which in turn got mentioned on the BBC!). Wow, so glad NE1 exists. Oh, and being the PA for Gateshead Thunder. Again, cheers NE1!
  • Gordon Robertson
    I got to interview Christopher Ellis, son of the late reggae legend Alton Ellis and also Dave Hillyard from great US ska band The Slackers. I wanna thank [Barry Wilson], Simon, Kev, Dave T, Hev and sure there’s others I’ve forgotten for giving me a year of doing my thing on FM radio and helping to build my confidence. Now I’ve ended up on one of the internet’s biggest specialist reggae stations and would never have got there without NE1.

If you’ve volunteered with NE1fm and are reading this, please leave a comment on what difference it has made in your life.

How to pay for a project people volunteer with? That’s tomorrow’s blog.

All the technicalities.

4 days to go.

If you want to get your hands on professional equipment from a technical perspective, including learning to use and fix studios, perform outside broadcasts, use PA systems – or link many of those together at once – community radio is a great way to learn significant skills. Before NE1fm 102.5 launched I did a lot of online broadcasting. It was easy. It became moderately technical if you wanted to stream the output of a mixer and mic – using the same PC to stream as you did to play the music. And before NE1fm, I wasn’t sure myself on how you’d actually get the output from a mixer in Newcastle to a transmitter in Gateshead, reliably.

But I learned those skills, and have since shared those skills with others. If you build up trust too, show you can fix and not break, and know when to fix stuff – you sometimes might even get the opportunity to build a studio from scratch. I’m proud to say that myself and Dave Tansley built the latest NE1fm studio (1). It’s still standing so we did a decent job!

View images of a studio build here.

So what stuff could you get your hands on? The station has two broadcast studios. Studio 1 is most commonly used for live broadcast, with Studio 2 used less frequently, and predominantly for disabled access and pre-recorded content production.

Studio 1 features a Soundcraft Series 15 console, along with four microphone channels, two CD channels, two PC playout channels, one Minidisc input channel, one auxillary and satellite input channel, and two telephone channels. Besides from the console, Studio 1 is also equipped with two Numark CD players, one Sony MDS-E12 Minidisc player and recorder, a pair of Technics 1210 MK2 turntables linked to a Behringer DX 500 studio mixer, and for listening to our output a pair of Denon SCCX303 CX3 speakers.

Studio 2 features a Clyde Broadcast Synergy console, a digital desk, with the inputs available including two microphone channels, two CD channels, four PC playout channels, two auxillary and satellite input channels, and an recording studio input for live bands. The second studio also features two Tascam CD-01U CD players and one Sony MDS-E12 Minidisc player and recorder.

Don’t forget your flying studio – the one you take out with you to outside broadcasts. A D&R Airmate with Tascam CD players and a laptop with a copy of the stations music library.

The devices you use to connect back to studio to go on air.

This then relies on IT equipment, studio playout computers, email computers, music servers, loggers, online stream computers, outside broadcast computers, network.

At the transmitter end, another computer, an RDS unit and the actual transmitter unit.

Then you need your audio chain. Compressors, limiters, multi band processing units. Where do you do that? Studio or transmitter?

Then you need to get the audio from the studio to the transmitter in a way that is reliable, 24/7/365 – dependant on suppliers (Virgin Media/BT Business).

Then think about your website, where’s that going to be hosted. The same goes with your online streaming service.

It goes on, and on, and on. I love being technical because the list is endless. Everything relies on everything else.

I was taught a lot of the above, you can learn all of the above. If you want to. That’s a promise. All in community radio.

Being a presenter.

5 days to go.

As someone who’s listened to radio for as long as I can remember I wanted to be on the radio, I wanted to be an entertainer. None of this “that was, this is” I wanted free reign, the ability to entertain, be funny, original, fun.

The BBC should of hired me a long time ago.

Enough self indulgence, here’s some history to it all.

I used to record shows at home with a cassette player for school, then when I got a PC and Cool Edit (thanks Peter Quistgard!)  I would make shows on that. People enjoyed them, I think, they certainly LOLLED. They started asking me to do stuff for them, custom silly audio, music productions etc. Then I started doing performing arts at school in a technical role – playing with massive mixers, amps, PA stuff, and all the racked equipment was fun.

So when I did my first radio broadcast on East End Broadcast (87.9fm 28 day RSL) naturally the second I opened the mic I would be this immense radio presenter. Well practiced, confident, prepared. I was rubbish.

I was fairly rubbish from 2001 – 2007. I’d listen back to myself and think what’s going wrong? Where did a ghastly radio voice develop. Where did I develop fader wanking? I was Kev till 9pm, did I turn into a Dave at 9:01pm? I’d talk for the sake of talking, and do 4 links an hour where I only promoted the phone that never rang. You’ve guessed right, in another dimension I was today’s Nick Grimshaw.

But I persevered, and got shot of those stupid habits. I kept wanting to be some big shot. I kept asking for advice. I kept disagreeing with that advice.

In the early days of NE1fm 102.5 I did weekend breakfast with Dan Pye. We called it the Kanned Weekend. Some play on Kev and Dan created Kanned. It was fun. Inappropriate at times but with age and some advice a good piece of framework developed us two hours of good radio. Spaced out features, appropriate stuff at appropriate times. “I’m Coming Home Newcastle” was also a regular track. We did stuff people enjoyed, and stuff people didn’t enjoy. It always felt great if someone rang you to talk about something you’d just done, especially if you could hear yourself on their radio in the background. It felt great every single time.

The Kanned Weekend developed into a mini-brand. DJing 4 nights a week, sometimes live on the radio from locations in the North East. It made us a few grand each too doing private gigs. But it went as far as it could go and we ended it in the lead.

In 2009 I asked a long time friend Nicola if she fancied doing a show. She was called Nixxi on air, and used to do a show on a Sky TV Radio Station called Pure Dance. The show was called Ben & Nixxi.

No Ben + Kev = Kev & Nixxi. A beauty.

We’d also worked together on previous RSL stations, and performed a mini-phonein that was tons better than Robson. We just had one caller though, and we only did the phonein for one night. I was friends with Ben, Nixxi was Ben’s girlfriend so we all got on.

Kev & Nixxi was born on 4th July 2009. We were a Saturday night 9pm show which played new music, dance, RnB, chart, stuff you don’t normally hear, and stuff you probably heard too much.

Our target listener was anyone, ideally an 18-30 year old, we didn’t target based on sex, just on the connection factor. If we press play and they go “wow!” we’d done our job. It worked.

We had some brilliant show features too, some of these were;

  • Features
    Each show was based around the last weeks events in the Kev & Nixxi world. Stuff we’d done, messed up, achieved, de-achieved, and if we’d made an arse of ourselves we’d talk about it. People related to it and would share their events. It very quickly became a concrete part of the show and people came back every week.
  • Legend Tune
    This was a listener voted feature every week where people chose the first song of next week. It was always based around older tracks that you didn’t hear much. At the height of the feature it would get over 600 votes a week. That’s 600 people going to our website, ticking a box and clicking vote. I was proud of that.
  • SmeggHeads
    Who our age likes that stupid BBC Two programme Eggheads. It’s full of old people going on about how clever they are. So we did our own version. Red Dwarf meets BBC Two quiz.  Brainwave! Our internet website geeks (Alex Humberstone or Simon Gunton) would give us 5 questions, we’d write our answers down, encourage listeners to take part, tell us what they scored and then we’d do our results a song or two later. The best bit about this was that put on the spot we were rubbish, reliably rubbish – and it was all live. Our listeners loved it. Some people in commercial radio told me they enjoyed it too because it was simple. We could polish the questions off in two minutes so it was enough for people who dipped in to listen to, take part and stick around for. People did that.
  • Return of the Track
    Stuff that was often in the middle of the second CD in your Now! collection. People loved it, and once people understood how it worked they recommended what should be played next week. It was always obscure, and it always had people saying they loved it.

And those were just some. We tried others that failed, and did others that worked but I’m not going to list everything here. As a listener to Chris Moyles it was a weird coincidence how many things we spoke about appeared on their show the following week. I did know someone quite well who produced freelance for BBC Radio 1. Perhaps they listened to me and suggested features, perhaps me and Moyles were on the same wavelength.

198 shows later and the Kev & Nixxi show sadly came to an end. We’d spoken to famous people, had first plays on good tracks, given away loads of great prizes, had some fun competitions, some funny callers, we’d embarrassed ourselves, made funny videos, invented a new sandwich brand, had a loyal UK and US following and overplayed some gems to death.

The show would’ve copied and pasted perfectly onto something like Radio 1 or Capital network. But we were happy where we were. I was happy on community radio.