Written for the BBC College of Production which led to their tweet in early June:-
@BBCCoP: This comedy podcast idea is a great example of people coming together and pooling their talents: http://kirrinislandpodcast.com/bbc-cop-blog/ #KIPOD
How on earth did “come round for a drink” become a fully fledged iTunes Top 20 comedy show.
We watched in amazement on the Saturday morning as it climbed the chart, gathering pace before our eyes. Excited tweets, emails and Facebook messages bounced between us, reflecting the social media efforts that had helped raise the profile of Live from Kirrin Island in the first place.
Some weeks earlier I had stimulated a project that snowballed from a social gathering to a recording of a topical comedy show in front of a live audience, was broadcast on local community radio two days later, and hit the iTunes Top 20 a week after that. In the process it’s brought home to me the breadth of skills and experience I’ve had to tap in to from writing colleagues, friends, neighbours and family to make “Live from Kirrin Island” a successful venture. A comic version of the Big Society if you will, given that we all have “day jobs”.
The genesis is simple. I – along with a great number of people (they get over 500 emails a week apparently) have been contributing comic material to BBC Radio 4 extra’s Newsjack, one of the few open door radio shows for writers. The show includes in its remit a role to find and develop emerging writing talent. During series 6, there were 102 writing credits of which 86 were for non-commissioned writers and many of those regularly hang out and post on the British Comedy Guide Forum (comedy.co.uk). When each series is live, the Forum becomes a hotbed of sharing of news of success, failure and critiquing each others material that was surplus to requirements.
It was a comment on BCG and a recognition that there was a wealth of material being discarded each week – some of it really good quality provided by writers with many existing BBC credits to their name – which made me realise we were missing the opportunity to harness that experience, wit and enthusiasm. So at the end of Series 6 in March, I suggested a social gathering at my unusual home on an island in the River Thames. But I also suggested we throw some writing ideas around. And from there the concept of putting a show together, recording and podcasting it was born. I also managed to persuade the Director of Programmes for Brooklands community radio to hold a slot in their schedule for us. Thus the journey from come for a drink to listen to our show “on air” became complete. And there is a special nerve-tingling excitement that comes from hearing your show broadcast – knowing that an unsuspecting audience is about to be introduced to your material and your characters, and inevitably pass judgement.
WRITERS: After gathering a dozen or so through BCG and taking their valuable input on structure and shape, I set about commissioning additional material. A strong clear writers guide on BCG invited contributions from which the writing/editing team take whatever is suitable and develop, as well as filling in gaps in stories with our own sketches. This replicates the editing process at Newsjack on a Tuesday at which one or two of the team have previously been invited to participate. This means everyone gets promoted; those with that experience will take the role of Script Editors whist others will get a sense of what it’s like in that time pressurised environment to produce material of broadcast quality.
Recording, editing and podcasting has become readily achievable with reasonably priced equipment and (even free) software sufficient to complete the task. So these factors should not put you off. For us, the podcast allows us to continue to develop our skills and knowledge and to encourage others to participate and learn also. We are often in the process of commissioning material through the British Comedy Guide (which is open to everyone so please join in). Series seven of Newsjack commenced with multiple credits for Kirrin Island writers – including the featured sketch on the website – and one of the team was invited to join the BBC writers on the show. So the efforts to further develop our skills are clearly not being wasted.
So the main lesson learned is to have the courage to give something a try even if you have to develop the skills as you go along (this may not apply to extreme sports). Go for it…. don’t let technical and logistical barriers get in your way, they are relatively easy to manage nowadays. Concentrate on making your material stand out.
@LippyAlison on Twitter