Why volunteer? Haven’t I got enough to do?

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Tomorrow is the first day of the Manchester International Festival as it kicks off with a host of performances ranging from visual shows, musicals to choirs.

Four hundred volunteers have been recruited to make sure that the festival runs as smoothly as possible, and one of those volunteers happens to be me.

Volunteers come in a variety of backgrounds, ages and gender. It’s not the retired person with time on their hands who act as volunteers anymore.

I met a host of people during my MIF induction session on Sunday. Students, teachers, IT professionals, marketeers and yes the retired folk too.image

You see a lot of people think that we’re mad. Working full-time in a very busy job and then volunteering on top of that – why would you do that if you’re not getting paid?

Maybe I am mad.

I’m not only volunteering at the festival, but I have been a volunteer at my local community radio station for nearly two years now too.

Have I not got enough to do? When do I find the time? Why would I possibly do anything extra unless I was getting paid for it?

I’ll tell you why.

Volunteering has given me the chance to learn skills that I never knew I possessed, meet some extraordinary people and be part of something. It has also given me an increase in self-confidence and there’s something rather satisfying about giving back to the community where you live.

Years ago I lacked the confidence to talk to people and walked out of a new job as soon as I realised that the expectation was that I had to talk in a group situation. Now on a weekly basis I host my own show live on the radio and internet speaking to many people. I speak in large groups (not very well) but I do it.

That would never have been possible before I became a volunteer at the radio station.

I’ve interviewed local artists, bands, actors, directors and many other interesting and talented people. Again, only possible through the volunteering I do.

One things for sure, I certainly don’t get to do things like that in the day job.

I’m looking forward to my first shift as a Manchester International Festival volunteer. Hopefully if the weather is shining, I’ll get to meet some very interesting characters in Albert Square and there’s even the chance to dust off the sign language as I look after a children’s choir as they sing along to Mr Tumble.

Who else could say they get to do that?

Writing as a team

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Collaborative Writing

It’s been a while since I wrote about how I am finding being part of the writers group for the radio soap.

Twelve months on and we are a core of six writers, meeting weekly and we have currently written 168 scenes on our brand new community radio soap opera.

It has been an organic process to get to where we are. Twelve months ago there were fifteen writers at the very first session and to be honest it would have been chaos if it had continued to be that number, and I’m not sure that I would have been in it for the long haul either.

As the initial weeks passed by a writer would stop coming to the meetings until we found it to be the same six writers that would turn up each week.

This was a good number of people to have involved in the process. It meant that we were able to really get to grips with the characters that we created, the world that the soap is set in and without a large number of people to get their point across meant that storylining is more of less a discussion rather than a battle.

Within the team there are various expert areas. A stand-up comedian, a short story professional, an actor, a novice and a radio writer/presenter. With our diverse backgrounds I think we get the best from our characters and we all more or less write our scenes with the same tone, and voice.

Our weekly meetings consist of reading through the previous weeks scenes. This is my favourite part as it’s enjoyable hearing the characters come to life and from something that we’d discussed briefly during story lining to actually having full scenes which feed into the overall soap feels like an accomplishment.

The writer of the scene to be read aloud has to talk briefly about the scene, where the conflict is and what is the change from the beginning to the end of the scene. Some scenes are harder than others to do this.

After the read throughs, we then look into the stories for the next week. Where our characters are up to in terms of their story lines and which characters are needed to assist in developing the story further.

We’ve been a writing group for a year now and it has passed really quickly. The actors were cast before Christmas and recordings are made each week. It’ll be really good to finally hear it on air though, something that I am looking forward to.

A number of things that I have learned from my experience of being part of a collaborative group of writers.
• Discussions amongst more than one person can generate a raft of ideas.
• If a character hasn’t got a solid back-story and biog then writers can really struggle when it comes to putting that character under conflict. It’s important that this is nailed down at the very start of introducing this character otherwise it never seems believable.
• Drop-box is a valuable tool for sharing ideas and scripts.
• Being part of a writing team keeps you motivated. We meet on a Monday night and on several occasions when I’ve had a really tough day at work, what I’ve really wanted to do is go home to rest. Knowing that there are five people relying on you means that you have to attend. I’ve never been to a meeting and not come away feeling motivated again.
• Being taught to listen to others and let go of your own great ideas if the group decide that something else works better.
• Learning to compromise and not feel precious about an idea.

I’m sure there will be more to blog about as the year progresses.

Once I get the official airtime date I will ensure I update this site.


Collaborative writing team

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I thought it was time to write a brief update to follow on from a series of blog entries that I posted last year about collaborative writing.

I joined a Manchester community radio station exactly a year ago after seeing a call out for writers for a new soap that they were launching.

Initially approximately 15 people were at the first session. Everybody was very keen and enthusiastic to get involved in the project. After all, we’re all human ad our very nature is to want to be part of a group with a common interest.

As the weeks passed by the numbers began to dwindle until after three months it became a core team of six, including myself.

We had a list of characters with their own biogs and back story, we had a map of the road and various areas of interest such as a pub, cafe, bistro, farm and garage. Now to come up with a name.

We settled on the name ‘Station Road’ given that our radio station is next door to a train station and the fictional world that is our soap is meant to be local.

The next part was to now start writing the thing.

The team comprises of various writers from short story experts, comedy, theatre writers, novices and me.

Luckily I’d written a radio drama in a group for one of my modules on my masters degree so I was able to share the tools that we used in terms of



Farewell Facebook

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Currently I’m experiencing a common 21st Century problem of facebook addiction.

It’s not the site that I’m addicted to, as day by day I find it increasingly annoying but it’s the habit that has incurred since having the app on my phone and tablet.

  • Sitting in the doctors waiting room – check facebook.
  • Sitting on the bus – check facebook.
  • Waiting for a lift – check facebook.
  • Waiting for one of the kids – check facebook.
  • Finish one bit of work – check facebook.

And really, what am I checking for? What am I hoping to see that will add value to my day? Initially it was the newness of social media and reading all about the people you know. That’s how the habit formed. But now?

When it’s not a list of every single product, or video, or photograph that somebody has liked it’s the oversharing attention seeking status’ that make me cringe.

Occasionally there will be a status update from one of the few people whose presence you appreciate online. The ones that have something worthy of noticing, or post something that interests you and they are the reason you don’t de-activate your account. These are few and far between though.

I was going to deactivate my account last year but after having found a couple of writing groups on there decided to stick with it. If only I’d stuck to my guns last year I could have gone through the cold turkey and it be out of my life completely now.

Those writers groups are now not giving me the inclination to keep online as they too perpetually not only annoy me but make me question myself. People posting about how many pages they’ve written today, articles that they find useful that I have to read and it goes on and on.

What I should be doing is spending less time online reading articles about how to write better and actually get on with my writing.

So where has this dilemma left me?

Weaning myself away I think. First step is getting rid of the Facebook app and Messenger off my phone and keeping it off. That should help me lose the habit of checking everytime I have a spare ten seconds.

I’ll give myself a couple of months to unbreak that habit before I have the dilemma of saying goodbye to it for good.

Unless someone can convince me of a valid reason to keep the account. Don’t all shout at once because I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.

Facebook – it was a blast but now it’s time to bid thee farewell.facebook like

2015 Year of the Sheep

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I’ve just read the 2014 Happy New Year blog post and it made me laugh.

I think I managed to achieve just one of the goals that I set myself this time twelve months ago and that was passing my masters degree.

Weightwatchers – well I joined and I did lose a stone last year but I’ve probably put that back on towards the end of the year with a decrease in exercise and an increase in baked goods for breakfast = no that’s not me below but if I don’t watch myself it might be………..fat mums

Backing away from Facebook – that lasted a few days and instead of tying myself in guilty knots about it I just accept that it is part of my life. Well, until Mark Zuckerberg starts charging for it.facebook

Buying clothes on payday – I don’t even remember writing that one……haha. Needless to say that it didn’t happen. I’m still happily living in jeans and converse, but after listening to an interview with the uber-cool Mary Anne Hobbs on Womens Hour I am going to embrace the fact that I like feeling comfortable. Hobbs states that she still wears jeans from seventeen years ago because she likes the comfort in them. That’s good enough for super-cool Hobbs then that is good enough for me – I might even get my global hyper-colour t-shirt from the loft and revitalise that.

Therefore for 2015 there shall be no resolutions. Resolutions merely state that there are elements about yourself that you are unhappy with and to be perfectly honest……I’m quite happy in this place that I’ve found myself in.

What about everyone else? Have you made any resolutions?

Ditching technology for paper

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This month I have gone back in time by three years, as I have purchased a paper moleskin diary in an attempt to get myself more organised.

I’ve been struggling to manage my time and the amount of tasks that I do during the week – and this is not even tasks to do with the day job.

Since beginning high school at the age of twelve I have kept a paper diary. I’ve even still got old diaries hidden away in my cupboards which now and again I’ll have a look at.

Three years ago I decided to embrace technology more, ditch the paper diary and keep everything on my electronic calendar which is on my mobile and on my work Outlook.

It works a treat. Every single appointment for myself, the kids and even the husband are added to the electronic calendar.

I’ve even gone as far as colour coding the various appointments.

It was working a treat until last month I ended up being asked to take on regular online writing, putting together match programmes for my sons sports team, arranging interviews for my weekly radio show and not to mention my own writing deadlines with the radio soap.

A lot of deadlines to remember every week, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed that I couldn’t keep a track on tasks and appointments.

Being organised is one thing that I am really good at in my day job. I can organise as many activities that are thrown my way, multi-task, prioritise and delegate.

Yet in my personal life I always feel like I’m drowning.

So I decided to go back to 2010 and purchase a paper diary so that I could see if it would help me in my aim to organise my private life.

Not that I need much encouraging in purchasing new stationery items. I decided to purchase a small moleskin diary which has the week listed on one side and a lined sheet on the opposite side which I use as a to do list/reminders.

Not to mention the colour-coded stickers.

Amazingly going back to the retro paper based product has worked a treat.
There’s also something really satisfying about crossing off items on a ‘to do list’ as well.

It has also made me realise just how much writing I am actually doing each week.

I may not be making progress on my personal scripts. I am however, writing two scenes per week for my collaborative radio soap, several features for a sports programme per week, online articles and submitting sketches and one-liners for a BBC radio show.

Have you ever ditched paper for paper-less, did it work for you?


Radio Soap Writing Group

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My last post about Collaborative Writing was over 14 weeks ago, and I’m happy to report that I’m still part of the writing team for a new radio continuing drama series for a Manchester community radio station.

We started out five months ago as a team of fourteen writers, of all writing ability and over the weeks have now dwindled down to a regular writing team of six.

We have a full cast of characters with their back stories, storylines, real life actors have now been cast to start recording the series in two weeks time and we the writers are all frantically scribbling at an amazing speed to ensure that the scripts are ahead of each recording.

There is finally a name for the radio soap too although not sure if that is being officially launched in the upcoming weeks. Maybe not the best of ideas to publicise it on here in case there is going to be a big PR campaign planned for it in a few weeks time.

It’s great to be part of a writing team. I experienced it as part of my Masters degree in Scriptwriting for the Radio Drama module, but nothing is better than experiencing it in real life.

The best thing about the weekly writers meeting is that we all have our own ideas about how a character should react to a situation etc. However, the collaborative process means that we get to bounce ideas off each other and just having those discussions (sometimes heated) means that what could start off as a good idea can be bounced around and with a few heads getting together can come out as a great idea.

It’s certainly made me think about my future writing and the possibility of trying to find a writing partner to collaborate with.

I’m going to London Screenwriters Festival later in the month so maybe I should be on the look out for a collaborator.

Collaborative working image