The view from the back row
This year's Radio Festival seemed notable by it's inclusions and absences.
The inclusion of a good PPL/PRS debate, but the absence of much chat about last week's record GCap fine. The inclusion of a free bar each night, but the absence of it being available while Sharleen Spiteri was getting ready. And the inclusion many Glasgow tourist brochures in the delegate bag, but the absence of, well, anything of much use in it.
Let's start with the bag. Newcomers eagerly empty it on the hotel bed to see what goodies they have, while old-timers are quick to keep the festival brochure and bin the rest. This year's range of promotional tat consisted of tourism leaflets, the obligatory Radio Today pen and a couple of shiny jingle CDs, but nothing of actual interest. Still, at least it didn't have last year's heavy RadioCentre folder which must have been filling the bins of Cambridge within minutes of the conference opening.
And kudos to the bag sponsor, Creation, who as GCap's creative audio department decided to use the slightly provocative tag "Creation: Indie supplier to the BBC". Cats and pigeons, anyone?
As for the sessions – some fascinating, some incredibly dull. Some with fabulous powerpoints, some not needing them. Some with compelling speakers who held the audience to their every word, and some that had everyone checking their blackberries in boredom. Highlights included Matthew Bannister's talk on compliancy, Wednesday morning's news session, and of course the live edition of Fighting Talk, where Scottie McClue used every question as a method to advertise his availability to the many programme directors in the room – most of which have probably already fired him.
The free bars were great. Monday night was a little quiet as people got used to the concept. (Bar? Free? What's the catch?) But Tuesday night's gala dinner got everyone in the mood so it was only natural for the wine to keep flowing. Amusing sights included tipsy programmers, editors dancing to the Proclaimers, (shall we upload our video of Vanessa Feltz dancing?) flirting consultants, and Nick Piggott's homemade delegate badge… "I'm one of only three people here from GCap." Penned by James Cridland, we're told.
Finally, why is it that every year, the audio system leaves something to be desired? This year we were treated to a dodgy DVD player when it came to the clips, and a weird echo if you sat in particular seats. But then again, it's the radio industry, and if we got it right al the time then we'd have less of an excuse to discuss it.
All in all, a good festival, with some interesting sessions, and some great networking opportunities. Though if the free (sponsored) bar approach continues, going by the faces on Wednesday morning, maybe we could have some headache tablets amongst the promotional tat in next year's bags?
(oh, and by the way, if you haven't seen the photos yet, click [link=http://picasaweb.google.com/radiotoday]here[/link]!)