11 June 2021
This week saw the launch of an exciting new venture by Abingdon School in Partnership as it hosted the first session of the Oxfordshire Academy of Broadcast Journalism (OABJ) for students from Abingdon, Larkmead, Fitzharrys and John Mason. The main aim of the OABJ is to introduce pupils from schools across the town to a range of broadcasting forms and outlets. Ultimately, the OABJ hopes to play a part in the gradual “democratisation” of the media.
Although it’s a brand new initiative, the OABJ has roots in a number of Abingdon’s artistic communities. To start with, it’s led by Olly Hogben who for many years taught drama at St Helen’s. Indeed, many of our former A Level drama students will remember Olly’s inspiring lessons and exciting productions. In 2014, Olly began a freelance career as a sports broadcaster. He is now an experienced multi-sport commentator who has been part of the worldwide commentary team for three Olympic Games (and he’s due to travel to Tokyo next month for the delayed 2020 Games), along with many other events all over the world. His voice has been heard in a diverse range of places, from channels like the BBC, NBC, BT Sport and Eurosport to platforms such as the Tennis Channel, the Olympic Channel, and the WWE Network. Along with calling 46 sports live, Olly has also written and voiced highlights programmes for an additional 28 sports, and has worked as a live-to-camera presenter for a number of sports. He is also an experienced arena MC, and has written articles for internationally syndicated newspapers.
While he was working at St Helen’s, Olly took great interest in the work of the Abingdon Film Unit, which allows students to learn the elements of filmmaking from a team of industry professionals. Olly was particularly inspired by the AFU’s 2006 and 2009 filmmaking expeditions to Cambodia and Moldova, which offered the crews for those films an extraordinary and life-changing opportunity to work alongside professional filmmakers to tell important stories about people in two of the world’s poorest countries. Both films premiered at BFI Southbank in London and went on to be screened at international film festivals around the world. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that two thirds of the students involved in the making of those films have gone on to build successful careers in film, television and broadcasting.
In January of this year, Olly approached Jeremy Taylor, director of the AFU and Abingdon’s Arts Partnerships programme, with his idea, and together they developed a proposal for an Academy that would introduce students to a range of broadcast media and allow them to develop practical skills in those areas. This term sees a pilot scheme in which, over the next five weeks, 50 students from four schools across the town will try their hands at podcasting, presenting and blogging, led by Olly and one of his broadcasting colleagues based in America, Blythe Lawrence. For obvious reasons, these sessions are taking place online, but we still hope the programme can end with an in-person sharing and celebration of students’ work. Beyond that, we hope to be able to launch a full, year-long programme of both face to face and online training for students in September.
The photos show Olly in action last week, taking students through the fundamentals of podcasting. Next week, there will be sessions on presenting and blogging. We hope the next generation of broadcast journalists starts here!