About Kate Arkless Gray
Kate Arkless Gray is a freelance broadcast journalist, radio producer and social media strategist. Her work ranges from saving the world's endangered sounds with the BBC World Service's Save Our Sounds project (bbcworldservice.com/saveoursounds) to writing medical news stories.
She has worked BBC Radio 2, 5Live, Radio 4 and the World Service as well as having produced podcasts for Lonely Planet, Eurostar and 4Talent. She's a keen traveler, with only Antarctica missing from her list of continents visited, but she’s working to correct that!
Latest Posts by Kate Arkless Gray
Sometimes life is not as easy as we’d like it to be. Sometimes you can lose your mojo, lose that spark a little. Well, in order to counter that, I’ve come up with the idea of getting a sheet of paper and some brightly colored pens – but wait! – that’s not all. (Although new stationery does often help!) I’m suggesting that every time something exciting happens, something special, something amazing, that makes you smile, you write it down on the piece of paper. The more happy it makes you, the bigger you write it, perhaps.
I don’t ever want to forget the incredible joy I felt yesterday, having had the honor of meeting and lunching with astronaut Leroy Chiao. That’s one of the things I need to blog about, and I will, soon. I’ve put that on my piece of paper. I think I’m going to try to do one of these every year, and hopefully, when I’m old, I’ll be able to look through a collection of sheets of paper with reminders of all the things that have made me smile over the years.
It’s just an idea. Here’s mine for 2010 so far:
A few nights ago someone mentioned that it would be possible to see the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit over London. I made a note to remember to look out for it and then promptly forgot.
The next evening someone posted a reminder on Twitter, and I tore myself away from watching Stevie Wonder at Glastonbury (on the telly) to poke my head out of the window to try to spot it. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’ve seen satellites before, tiny little dots moving slowly across the sky, would this just be the same thing?
Just as I was beginning to think that perhaps I’d missed it, there it was, shining brightly in the sky and moving across it at a fair old pace too. Wow. Seriously incredible and amazing “wow”.
I had meant to get an early night, suffering as I have been from an inexplicable summer cold (no, it’s NOT hayfever), but I was so thrilled and exhilarated by the sight of the ISS that I came back to my computer to check when I might next be able to see such a sight. It turns out I didn’t have all that long to wait. Around an hour and a half in fact as it was due back above my house at 1.01am.
Once more I hung out of the window, this time I recorded my excitement, just in case I ever have a day when I need to be reminded of how amazing and exciting things really are. Have a listen to my whispered Audioboo:
Last night, I decided I’d get organised and set my camera up to try to photograph the ISS on its fly-by. The only flaw in this otherwise impeccable plan was the bit where I forgot to check the exact time of its passing, and ended up in a mad dash to try to catch it. I thought I missed, but somehow managed this:
This evening, I tried once more, but at the early passing, (approx 10:43pm) it all seemed rather light out there. This is what I managed, it’s the little white line that I’m getting all over-excited about. There are people living on that you know. Incredible.
If you’d like to know when and where to look out for the ISS (and all manner of other goodies) I heartily recommend checking out the website Heavens Above. Just pop in your location and it’ll tell you all you need to know to experience the joy of seeing the ISS for yourself. Give it a go, it really is quite something.
Sometimes it’s good to be daring. That is all.
On Saturday (22nd May, 2010) I headed down to the ‘Save 6Music’ demo outside BBC Broadcasting House, arguably the spritual home of UK radio. It was perhaps the politest demonstration to hit London in recent times, with cakes, sunshine and banner slogans such as ‘Would you mind awfully if we kept 6Music, we’re rather fond of it’. 6Music’s Jon Holmes compered the proceedings fantastically, reading out messages of support from bands and artists and getting the crowd to chant banner slogans that he spotted from the small stage.
Around 1000 fans of the station turned out to hear rallying cries from presenters Liz Kershaw, Collins and Herring and Shaun Keaveny topped off with a brilliantly comical rant from Ed Byrne. (You must Listen! ) In addition to these speeches there was also music from a band that the station has supported and a man with a beard snuck in a (not so) subtle message about saving the station as he took to the stage to sing, resplendent in a purple velvet jacket.
Cerys Matthews, who also hosts a show on the station, attacked the ‘uninformed decision to axe 6Music’ and explained that ‘we must be here to cherish the BBC and to cherish programmes and stations like 6Music’. With her young son in tow, she added ‘I wanted him to witness this day that we came to save 6Music. I wanted him to come and witness the day we came to save the BBC as we know it’. She spoke with passion and obviously hit a chord with the assembled crowd. You can listen to her speech here. Listen!
Liberal Democrat Lord Clement Jones vowed to ask a question about the future of 6Music as soon as the House of Lords returns, saying that ’6Music is ‘absolutely vital for the future of new music’.
BBC Asian Network supporters joined in the demo and representatives of the station brought a bit of Bhangra to the afternoon, engaging everyone in what they claim was ‘the world’s first Bhangra flashmob’, before waving off musician Ranvir Singh Verma who started on his 120-mile backward walk to Birmingham, to highlight what a backward step it would be to close the Asian Network.
By 2pm the main protest was winding up and people headed for a free music gig in Great Portland street, headlined by the Magic Numbers, who played for free to show their support for 6 Music and were introduced by Steve Lamacq, who also spared me a moment to talk about what 6 Music means to him.
There was a real sense that this was about more than saving a radio station, this was about standing up for the BBC as a whole and continuing to support the brilliant work it does to reach out to, entertain, inspire and educate people. I don’t know what will happen, but I strongly suspect (and hope) that 6 Music is saved from closure. The station has just had unprecedented RAJAR results, which show not only an increase in audience, but an increase in the amount of time that people spend listening to the station. It appears that the accidental result of announcing that the station may close was the greatest advertising campaign that they could ever have asked for. The grass-roots support and word-of-mouth recommendation from the station’s listeners is the sort of thing that most marketing folk can only dream of. On the flip-side of this is the Asian Network, which despite the media attention has still lost listeners. Something is not right there, and I think that the station will be taking a long hard look at its strategy if it wants to maintain any hope of staying alive.
As I said in my comments on the BBC strategy review consultation, 6Music takes the risks that other broadcasters can’t manage, and serves and audience others can’t reach. It plays a selection of music unrivalled by any commercial operation, promotes emerging talent and it is driving people towards take-up of DAB, all of these are things that fit the BBC’s core values. Why would you axe it?
To steal a phrase from Jon Holmes – ’6Music is like a crazy diamond, shining out from the sludge of music radio’ and as Jarvis Cocker said at the Sony’s ’6Music doesn’t want to change the world, it just wants to make it a little bit nicer’. Judging from the polite passion I observed on Saturday, it’s doing a pretty good job on both those fronts. So in the words of Cerys Matthews: ‘Viva BBC! Viva 6Music!’
I applied for a job that involved social media things. For one reason and another, I didn’t get it. It’s a shame, I’m learning the lessons about interviews, but only by making the mistakes first. I was a bit sad about the job, because I knew it was something that I could do, and do well, but that’s life.
So what do you do when you’re feeling down about not getting that social media job you wanted? You turn to social media to cheer you up. And so it was that the ‘operationcheerkateup’ hashtag was born. Not only did I get sent smile-inducing videos of orphaned sloths, cute kittens on a slide, golf-ball stealing foxes and a song about axolotls but the fact that so many lovely people bothered to drop me a message, and even adopt the hashtag themselves made me smile. I may not have got the job, but I must be doing something right if complete strangers take a moment out of their day to help cheer me up. Thank you.
In the very same week, I planned to surprise my grandmother by turning up on her doorstep on her 88th birthday and hand-delivering her card, flowers and cake. My granny is so wonderful that I want to share her with the world – and have done, by persuading her to read out the poem ‘When I am old, I shall wear purple’. For her birthday, I wondered if people might join me in sending many happy returns. I started the ‘granny88′ hashtag and asked people to record an Audioboo for her. Amazingly, people did it – and she was thrilled with the selection of messages from all round England, Northern Ireland and Wales. So thank you to everyone who took the time to record or simply tweet a message for her, she really enjoyed them and recorded her own little message for you here.
I’ve been listening to the World Service quite a lot of late and I have to say I’m really taken with one of their programme trails. It’s a poem which poses two ethical conundrums for the listeners to consider before pointing them towards a two-part documentary called ‘Would you kill the big guy?’. It’s not often a radio trail moves me to Google something, but the poem was so interesting and well-delivered that I wanted to know who had written it. I later found out that it was actually the promo producer Ben Motley that penned it, inspired by W.H. Auden’s ‘The Night Mail’, whose meter reflects the rhythm of an old steam train on the tracks.
The mix of words (beautifully read by Nigel Carrington) and the music make this into a fantastically engaging 45 seconds of audio – I suggest you take a listen. It’s a very good radio promo:
The text of the poem is here, in case you can’t:
Here comes a train and it’s out of control
Blasting its whistle and belching out coal
Up ahead there are five people tied to the track
It’s going too fast and there’s no turning back
A flick of a switch and the train will divert
to a line where the five people will not get hurt
But there’s one person already tied to that line
So do you flick the switch, or do you decline?
Now you are standing upon a footbridge,
As another train heads towards certain carnage
Five people tied up – but you have a plan
Beside you is standing a very large man.
If you push the man onto the track down below
His massive bulk will cause the engine to slow
You’ll save five lives but the large man will die
So the question is: would you kill the big guy?
I listened to the first of the two programmes this morning and was fascinated to hear that for the first situation, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, even children tend to opt to take the action which kills one person rather than five, but when it comes to pushing someone off the bridge, the majority of people wouldn’t do it, despite the chance to achieve the same final outcome of saving more people. According to the programme, research has shown that if you were to introduce a button and a trap-door into the second situation, so that you didn’t have to use your own muscular power to push the big guy in front of the train, the ratios change again, and people are more likely to take the action that results in the untimely death of the big guy.
Another situation they consider in the programme was that of a doctor who has five patients who need organ transplants, and a healthy patient comes to see the doctor. Should the doctor sacrifice one patient in order to save the others? It was interesting hearing the children’s thoughts on this, as they struggled with balancing the number of lives saved versus their innate notion that killing someone was wrong. Most agreed that it would not be right to kill the healthy patient in order to save the five others, but it made for a good discussion.
When it comes to cooking, I subscribe very much to the “George’s Marvellous Medicine” school of culinary creation. I’ve got jars of spices and all sorts around the place and sometimes even I don’t know quite what’s in them. I don’t think this is a good enough reason not to use them, so I have fun mixing them to see what happens. It’s not very scientific, it rarely involves scales, and you get something slightly different (but invariably tasty) each time.
Despite eschewing traditional recipes myself, I thought it might be fun to describe what “Succeasoned Chicken” actually is. So here goes.
Succeasoned Chicken – from Success (to do well) and Seasoned (having added flavour using herbs or spices) plus Chicken (because I’m not big into red meat)
So it’s basically the result of any process of seasoning and flavouring chicken with a variety of spices, so long as you end up with a taste success at the end.
- 1 x chicken breast
- Olive Oil
- A dash of soy sauce
- Paprika (plenty)
- A jot of Ethiopian chilli (it’s hot)
- A good lot of tumeric
- A sprinkle of garlic powder
- Healthy turnings of black pepper (essential, mainly because it’s always around)
- A drizzle of lemon juice
- Fajita powder (left over from some random dinner kit or other)
- Half a small teaspoon of nutmeg
- A nudge of Marjoram (what are you supposed to do with that stuff)
- Mixed herbs
- Unidentified brown spice that smells pretty good
- Interesting spice and herb mix bought in Istanbul
- Barbeque smoke flavouring (when did I buy that?)
- Cut the chicken into small enough pieces that you can get a good flavour surface area:chicken ratio
- Put a dash of oil into a bowl
- Add whatever spice you can lay your hands on. Try and get an interesting mix, but keep just just one or two really odd things if you’re just starting out
- Add the chicken to the bowl with the seasoning
- Mix it around until it’s all covered nicely
- Leave to sit, if you want, or just cook it straight away if you’re hungry
- Grill the chicken
- Serve with some nice veggies
- Taste it. If it’s good, you’ve succeeded and indeed Succeasoned. If not, try again another day.
So here’s the thing. I love travelling. I love adventures. I love free stuff.
I’ve been shortlisted to win a press trip to New York with Virgin Atlantic and it’s now down to a public vote. By tweeting “I vote @radiokate for #vblogger” or suchlike before 1pm Friday 16th April, you would get me a teeny step closer to this amazing trip.
The thing is, I don’t like asking people to vote for me. I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable about not wanting to litter their Twitter stream. I don’t want to hassle them. Also, I don’t want my Twitter stream to be full of annoying tweets about this trip. So the question is, do I give up on the whole thing, in order not to spam my followers who I have spent time attracting, or do I to go all guns blazing and try and win this thing?
The truth is, I desperately want the chance to go to New York… When else will I ever have the chance to fly upper class? How else will I get the opportunity to be paid to write for the Vtravelled blog? What else will fill my week with such excitement and joy?
I not sure I’m entirely ruthless enough to manage it though. I’m not tweeting every celebrity out there and begging them to vote for me (no, I chose my targets carefully – much love to Ben Goldacre and Paul Carr for humouring me). I am not completely spamming my stream (certainly not as much as others at least), but I still feel really bad about asking people to do this. I mean it sucks. I hate it when people ask me to do this kind of thing so I’m basically being a total hyprocrit. I’m sorry, I guess I just really really want to go on another adventure.
I’m not sure how to make it up to you, or to thank you if you do vote for me (by tweeting “I vote @radiokate for #vblogger” btw, did I mention that?), but here’s a nice photograph for you from my last adventure:
UPDATE: Wow – you have been so great and so generous with your help! Thank you! Just a few hours to go. I think we could actually do this! One last push!
BTW, if you are a tweeter (or looking to start and want some really awesome people to follow), may I suggest you check out some of the following:
@bengoldacre, @paulcarr, @danieljowen, @cwtch, @alizasherman, @flashboy, @qwghlm, @jiminthemorning, @motorbikematt, @davelee, @jamescridland, @paulaheasman, @wilsondasilva, @ilicco, @meredithperry, @nicktheguitar, @meducate – in fact take a look at anyone I’m following on Twitter and give them a go. I’m following them all for a reason…
UPDATE: I didn’t win. But I did come a close second. In fact, 20 votes close. Oh. Oh well. Perhaps if I’d not jetlag-slept through almost the entire first day of voting I might have won, but the very fact that I was jetlagged probably means it was someone else’s turn to go on a cool trip. Next time. Next time…