Chronicle Blog – Radio Documentary No. 2

The Chronicle’s Volunteer Blog features blog posts and articles about what it’s like to be a part of the Chronicle Project and is written by our volunteers.
This post is by Mike Hawkins, a retired volunteer, who recently appeared on Radio Cardiff.


This morning I got that dreaded message from Kayleigh – “Also is there any chance you could write a short blog about the documentary please? Just commenting on the process of making it and airing on the radio and so on?” Was this revenge on her last-but-one day for sending her videos on the Rainbow Club in the middle of the night? Apparently not; it was just the insatiable maw of social media wanting yet more content.

This afternoon we did a chat programme wrapped around a documentary on the origins of Grassroots at 58 Charles Street. Ceri presented in his usual assured manner and we were joined by the indefatigable Ian Horsburgh, seemingly founder of everything Charles St, and Kathryn Allen from Grassroots (who I have had email conversations with but it was lovely to meet). That meant we could not only talk about the origins in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but also the current position of Grassroots, who are about to embark on their own heritage project, whereby ex-users (of Grassroots) can re-assure today’s young that it is possible to turn out well.

The radio documentary was co-written with, and produced by, the ever-patient Gareth. I would love to describe the tension at editorial meetings when we argued vehemently over content and presentation. The truth is that we only had one meeting, when I arrived half way through in time to be told that one of the radio documentaries would be about Charles Street and I was writing it, and could I get a draft in by Monday.

Fortunately I do know a bit about the origins of Grassroots, had photographed many documents and spoken to several people involved. I was also preparing a walk on the subject (now available as a tour on our website – highly recommended!). I was able to patch together extracts from our oral histories with what I thought was just enough narrative to make it flow. This was promptly returned by Gareth who wanted a lot more description. It reminded me a bit of the old management seminar technique – tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you just told ‘em.

Gareth not only knew about radio production but had also clearly taken the trouble to research Grassroot’s current website. I cut the bits about the carnival and only described the origins of Grassroots. Between us we cobbled together more narrative and eventually our emails to each other had less red on. Hence my introduction to writing a radio documentary.

I hope that if anyone does hear it, they enjoy it. The programme as a whole highlighted the role of music in both developing people and providing income for projects. It also raised issues about how the needs of our young don’t seem to have changed, and how it can still be a struggle, but very rewarding, to attempt to meet those needs.

Check out the documentary here: