I studied Law, and got a drama society 3rd…

April 16th, 2012

Matthew Bannister had a nostalgic trip down memory lane when he returned to the University to open the new Humanities Building, one of the most environmentally sustainable buildings in the East Midlands and part of the University’s £90m new-build programme.

Recalling a time when Lakeside was a place where discos were held, and the many nights he spent in the Buttery Bar, Matthew said: “The campus feels exciting and vibrant, with such a lot going on. I found that when I was here all those years ago but it’s even more so now, and it’s much more international.”

Matthew, who graduated in 1978, has fond memories of his time at Nottingham.

And he attributes his highly successful broadcasting career to the experience and skills he picked up as he devoted much of his time to putting on productions at Nottingham’s award-winning New Theatre.

“The University of Nottingham gave me the springboard for my career,” said Matthew. “I studied Law but ended up with a drama society 3rd, as they called it.

“I loved radio as a child but didn’t think I could work in it. I spent so much time in the New Theatre, I thought theatre would be my career. I got a place in Cardiff to study theatre. A friend was working at Radio Nottingham so I applied there for a job to fund my course. In the same week that I was offered a £983 a year grant, I was offered a £3,000 a year wage.

“It was magical for me to get a letter from the BBC saying they wanted me to work for them. On BBC letter-headed paper. I’d grown up listening to the BBC.

“The foundations were laid at Nottingham and the New Theatre. Directing is all about managing creative people and developing a project. It’s trying to get talented people to work as a team, allowing them to do their best and somewhere on the list of priorities is bringing the production in on budget and making sure people come to see it.

“That experience gave me the skills that were crucial in my later career – trying to bring together a team of disparate people, making relationships work…all those lessons started here at New Theatre; same skills, just a bigger platform.

“The only thing I regret is not doing better at law.”

Matthew held a Q&A session with students, chaired by Danny Barry, democracy and communications officer for the University’s Students’ Union.

He acknowledged that today’s students were competing in an increasingly tough global job market.

“I’m pretty sure it’s more difficult to get a job because of increased competition. It’s about how you make yourself stand out. I suspect one needs to be very determined and show real commitment to it in some form. To get a job you have to have lived and breathed it, demonstrated your passion for it. Build your CV towards that career. It used to be an old boys’ network but not any more. That level of commitment is what you look for when you’re recruiting these days.”

Matthew clearly enjoyed revisiting New Theatre,  meeting current students and hearing all about its development plans.

Later in the day, Matthew gave an illustrated talk entitled: “A very personal history of British radio: from my dad’s crystal set to my new iPad” to a packed audience, with anecdotes of his time at Radio 1 including tales of Chris Evans skateboarding through the corridors of power. In his pants.

But is there still a place for radio within the ever-growing landscape of social media?

“Getting young people to experience radio has always been more difficult than getting older people to do it, because young people have lives,” he said.

“A radio station that’s not communicating on Twitter, Facebook and all the new social media channels just wouldn’t survive now. It has to join the other media. It used to be that people in radio in London beamed you stuff and you were jolly grateful. People expect a 3D relationship with radio now, where they can get involved as much or as little as they want.

“Radio is very solitary; it’s live and of the moment in a way that perhaps other media are not. Radio definitely has a future. The same strength that allowed it to survive lots of other revolutions will allow it to survive.
It adapts.”

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