BBC journalists tell tales at story fest

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Great careers sometimes have an unexpected beginning. For louder-than-life broadcaster Trish Adudu, it was being spotted – or rather, heard – by a television sports presenter.

He said: “You’ve got a big gob – do you fancy working in television?”

She became Britain’s first black female sports presenter. She shared the anecdote in her slot at the first Coventry Storytelling Festival, a collaboration between Coventry University’s Journalism team and the BBC Academy.


Top names from the world of broadcast news joined an Archers scriptwriter, a former police chief and a guitar maestro at the festival, staged at the Herbert Gallery, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire and the university’s new TV studio, The Tank.

The two-day event also formed the basis of the final module for graduating students on the BA Journalism and Media course.

They promoted the event and then filmed and recorded it for the BBC Academy, and took part in workshops alongside members of the public.

storyfest saturday team 660x350The festival was co-ordinated by senior lecturer David Hayward, himself a former editor at the BBC Academy.

It followed on from the successful conference he organised for third-year students in 2015 on the future of video journalism.

At the storytelling festival in May 2016, BBC journalist Maxine Mawhinney talked about telling great stories from around the world for major broadcasters, and BBC News correspondent Phil Mackie recalled reporting on big stories about the weather, including floods.

One of the highlights was a talk by scriptwriter Tim Stimpson of BBC Radio 4 serial The Archers. He spoke about shaping long-running stories and crafting the evolution of the harrowing plot line that saw well-loved character Helen Archer stab her manipulative husband, Rob. He said it would take months to resolve – but gave nothing away.

Former police superintendent Mick Gradwell told the story behind the news story, about what goes on in the investigation when a child goes missing – what are the police doing when they’re saying nothing?

It wasn’t all about news. Flashlight storytelling company told unscripted true life tales at The Herbert gallery, and members of Coventry’s own storytelling group, the Mee Club, showed people who to learn to tell their own true stories.

And it wasn’t all about words. Mark Ashford, head of guitar at Birmingham Conservatoire, led a masterclass with local players, showing how the art of storytelling could add resonance to music – and how to give life to a piece by going beyond the dots on the score. 

storyfest vr 660x350Workshops were held in The Tank, the university’s new TV studio, on 360-degree video (see main image) and filming on a smartphone, and there was a chance to try out virtual reality headsets.

Special tours brought out the stories behind objects and art works in the world-famous Coventry Cathedral and its neighbouring ruins.

Reporter Sima Kutecha talked about the challenges of producing highly crafted features for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The show is listened to by cabinet ministers and regarded as intelligent listening, but she said: “The mantra I stick to when I first put pieces together is something my first editor told me, and it was, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.'”

David Hayward hosted a discussion with BBC Radio Leicester staffers Kamlesh Purohit and Jason Bourne about Leicester City winning the English Premier League. David said was being hailed as the greatest sports story of all time. He also wrote a blog post, with the opening caution:

Warning — a considerable number of footballing clichés will appear in the next 1500-or-so words.

In one of the most revealing sessions, BBC investigative reporter Paul Myers showed how he traced stories and secrets through the thickets of the internet.

“A lot of people who are particularly sensitive about being contacted by the authorities will hide their privacy using an internet protection service,” he said. But their addresses and phone numbers can be found on the internet by those who know how to track them through historic websites.

“I’m doing this the whole time. There’s a villain I’m investigating at the moment and he’s taken out so many domain names and he is really tech savvy… he’s a conman in London… so what I’m doing is I’m trying to go back in time to find the very first domain names he’s registered. And that reveals his real email address to me. I might find the name before they started hiding their identity.”

He once came across a dating site for Nazis – “because Nazis need a hug as well.”

Leicester City: the greatest story of all time?
Coventry Storytelling Festival – Facebook page

whats your story 660x300

Simon Pipe is a former print and BBC journalist, now a member of the Journalism teaching team at Coventry University. He also runs an experimental website, St Helena Online, about one of the world's most remote inhabited islands, at On Twitter, when he has something to say, he is @simonpipe

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