8 March 2022

On Friday, students from Abingdon, Larkmead, John Mason and Fitzharrys Schools gathered in the library at Fitzharrys for the first ‘in person’ sharing of work by members of the Oxfordshire Academy of Broadcast Journalism (OABJ).

Formed last summer, the OABJ is one of the many partnerships activities currently on offer to students at schools throughout Abingdon. Led by professional broadcasters Olly Hogben and Blythe Lawrence, the OABJ’s activities have thus far taken place exclusively online, but Friday’s event brought students and tutors face to face for the first time in what was a thrilling experience for everyone. Among the many excitements of the day was the presence of former St Helen’s student and Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russell, who now hosts a weekend radio show on Heart FM alongside a range of other freelance broadcasting work. Lindsey made herself available throughout the day to give students feedback and encouragement, and to offer advice on how they might start to forge their own careers in broadcasting.

The day began with students tackling a series of challenging scenarios drawn from ‘real world’ broadcasting situations, and working together to find solutions, after which they watched, read and listened to the work they had created before half term. The standard was uniformly high, with fine examples in all three media platforms studied – blogging, presenting and podcasting. Afterwards, Olly, Blythe and Lindsey spoke about their own careers and how they had started out, and students asked questions to gain a clearer understanding of how broadcasting works in the third decade of the 21st century.

What emerged was that nowadays, there is no one route into broadcasting, and that perhaps there has never been a better time to try and make your way in the broadcasting business. The growth of social media and online platforms has meant that anyone with access to the internet and a mobile phone has all they need to begin connecting with a worldwide audience and have their ideas read, seen and heard. This ‘can do’ message resounded throughout the day, augmented by tales from the professional broadcasters about the need for passion, determination and resilience in order to make your mark.

At the end of a wonderful day, Rob Southwell Sander, Abingdon’s Director of Partnerships, Jess Burns, Partnerships Coordinator and Jeremy Taylor, Director of Arts Partnerships, walked back to Abingdon convinced they had seen at least part of the future of British broadcasting, and were able to relish the notion that it might just have been made in OX14!

Very special thanks for the success of the event goes to the brilliant OABJ students as well as the wonderful colleagues working with them in our partner schools – Catherine Hartley (Head of the English and Communications Faculty at Fitzharrys), Andrea Phillips (Head of Performing Arts at Larkmead) and Chloe Phippen (Deputy Director of English & Director of Media at John Mason School).

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