Conor, 23, Comber
QUB Criminology graduate
I have just left university and have joined CoolChoices in order to develop my existing skills in the hope that this will improve my employment prospects. I have a keen interest in sports and traveling and have a passion for sports writing. My goal for the next few years is to own my own home and to continue enjoying my favourite pastimes. So far CoolChoices has been an interesting and varied experience and I have enjoyed meeting everyone. It will be interesting to see what the next few weeks will have in store as the course advances.

Day 25

30 October 2015

So it came to the last day the five weeks really have flown in. It is hard to think of any one key moment that stands out as there have been so many thrills and spills along the way. Before I sat back and relaxed I had to complete all my blogs and tidy up my folder. After I did this it was really nice to chill out and have a laugh while reflecting on the past number of weeks with the other members of the group. Even though there were challenges along the way, I value the experiences I have had here and I hope it will stand me good stead, for when I look for employment at the end of it. I will miss the tutors who have been so good to us and hope to keep in contact with everyone.

Day 24

We had to crack on and finish our OCN workbooks once again on Thursday. After being given a blueprint, to help us the day before by Rebecca, we had to then write essay style answers, in our own words. This took quite a while as there were about 9 questions to complete. Ultimately these would be used to help gauge the level of qualification we would receive and it was clear everyone was working very conscientiously as you could have heard a pin drop. The questions asked us to explain the production of a broadcast, how radio stations use social media and other mediums to promote their brand as well as the Health and Safety issues in a radio station. Having the blueprint helped us massively and although the questions were not difficult they still required thought and attention in terms of structure and language. It was the first time I’d written properly since my university days so I hope there was no rust.

Day 27

After Mondays activities we sat down with Rebecca and discussed the progress made on the Media bus. I told her that as a group we were against the idea of the Media Bus going to a football match on 18th November for various reasons she accepted this and assured us that there are plenty of other venues to choose from. Declan, a Welcomer from the Media Bus project, and I were tasked with producing a plan of action for the Media, Bus and this was to be typed up. After drawing up a rough list of a Timeline, Equipment, Roles and Health and Safety the day before we then typed up a more comprehensive list along with a Media Bus plan of action. This provided some concrete substance to our plans and Rebecca was happier after seeing this. We were then all prepared and looking forward to the Media Bus day out although we were still none the wiser as to where it would be taking place.

Day 21

Week five began and it was hard to believe we were approaching the end of five weeks at Cool Academy. As the broadcast was all but finished it was time to move and the next big challenge for us was to organise the Media Bus. The Cool FM Media bus is taken out to the community six times a year, to help teach young people media skills, and in turn, it is hoped that they might become interested in applying for the CoolChoices programme. Our tutors decided to assign me as the Managing Director of the Media Bus. It was pleasing to land a big role having missed out on some of the other opportunities; although I wouldn’t have been disappointed if someone else had got the role as we are all a capable bunch. As some of the editors put the finishing touches to the broadcast I spent the rest of the day organising the media bus. First of all I had to decide on the roles I would give to the group as I needed to appoint Interviewers, Editors and Welcomers while I acted as the overseer. It was nice to have a break from the broadcast while at the same time starting a new interesting project of which I was responsible for. I found my new roles challenging but fun and it was satisfying to know that we were on target with the deadline for our broadcast at the same time.

Day 20

On Friday we really pushed hard to tie up any loose ends of the broadcast before we went on our weekend break. By this stage I had finished all my research, I had no interviews to complete so all I did was go around and check that everyone was okay and up to speed with everything. Once again I did not need to encourage anyone to work and I could see that everyone was giving 100 per cent effort. This was pleasing as I was surprised at how everyone was so self-motivated. As much as everyone wanted the broadcast to be a success I think that we were all motivated to work hard as individuals so as not to let down the group. The advice of Steve and Rebecca, our tutors was invaluable in keeping us on track and providing encouragement and praise.

Day 19

28 October 2015

The first part of the day was spent with DownTown presenter, John Rossborough, who talked to us about the history of radio, from the pre and post was years up until recent decades and the modern day. I found him very interesting and it was good to listen to some of the history or radio in and around the war years when technology was much more primitive in comparison to today this made it hard to imagine living in a world where radio was the first source for news over and above even television. It was unfortunate that I had to leave early in order to make an appointment at 12 noon although I managed to listen to John for the majority of his time here. When I returned to Cool Academy I spent the rest of the day working on the broadcast alongside the other group members. I was due to interview Colin Geddis, but unfortunately, was unable to reach him, although it turned out okay as all the other interviews went ahead so it wasn’t a necessity anymore as we had plenty of material to work with in the absence of Colin’s interview.

Day 18

First of all we sat down around the table to have a brief about our broadcast and about the work we did the previous day. Like the day before the brief was useful in order for us to all keep on track and to see where we were at as well as mapping out the rest of the day’s work. After this we then got started to work on our broadcast. Some of us were carrying out interviews, while others were editing previously recorded interviews while this was going on I was doing some research on Charity campaigns for social media on the internet. I found something of interest regarding Brefine Earley and his #pedaltheplanet campaign. After suffering from depression and all the struggles that go along with it Brefine Earley decided to cycle the world with the aim of increasing awareness of depression awareness which in turn would encourage people to talk to someone about their condition. We were able to contact Brefine and arrange a telephone interview with him on Friday. Following this Matthew a previous cohort member came in to talk to the group. He talked for how now it has taken him to get t the age of 23 to realise his ambitions in the workplace. After spending time on various Prince’s Trust schemes as well as CoolChoices he commented on how his voluntary experience was of huge benefit to him when it came to applying for jobs. His success story clearly did not happen overnight and he had already worked for CoolFM for 6 six months unpaid before being offered temporary work. He is still only part-time however is on an upward curve and hopes to secure some full-time employment at CoolFM as an ultimate goal.

Day 16

As we started to organise our broadcast in the previous week we were ready to get started with the broadcast work. Each of the teams then got stated with all their tasks. I began researching some statistics on social media in Northern Ireland. I highlighted key information with regard to social media patterns and this information was then forwarded to Lizzie from the news team. It was today when I learned the importance of working independently in order to achieve my aims as each of our group has a part to play and so none of us can afford to wok half-heartedly.

Day 17

23 October 2015

After working on our broadcast the day before we sat down to see how we’d been progressing and had a chat with Steve and Rebecca from Cool Fm. We were all of the opinion that we did well on Monday and agreed that we needed to work at the same level for the rest of the week without slacking in effort. As I worked through my work on the broadcast I realised that I needed to become more proactive and use more initiative as there were times when I felt a little idle. But when this happened I simply got up and walked around to see if anyone else needed any help or contacted Head Programmer Danny to see if he needed anything to be researched or if he needed help. Once again the entire group worked hard and we got through a lot it felt like the broadcast was really starting to take shape.

Day 15

Photographer Simon Hutchinson talked to us extensively about his journey into photography, about the type of pictures he takes and what his plans for the future are. He told us how over the past three to four years he had been working in nightclubs taking photos while studying at university. This has helped him to learn and improve as a photographer. It was interesting to note that he has no photography qualifications. Despite this it is clear that he has a talent and passion for his job and that he has plans to be travel the world. He gave us a hint on how to improve as photographers saying that those of us with IPhones should use them to practise our photography skills. Later in the day Adam McPeake from Hype Promotions talked to the group about this work. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for this however as I had an appointment.

Day 14

Nigel from the News team of CoolFM came in to speak to us about the role news plays on radio. He explained the need to be short, snappy and concise with the news that is broadcast on radio in the capacity that limited time provides. Nigel gave us details of the breakdown of radio explaining that there were 17 news bulletins per day. These bulletins are not randomly selected however and are structure daily in terms of their category. This in order to make sure listeners can get the information they want to hear at the time they are likely to want to hear it. So for example sport bulletins take place at 8am, 9am and 1pm, 5pm and 6pm. Agriculture bulletins are broadcast at 7am, pm and 7pm. Business news is broadcast twice per day at 8am and 6pm. Providing a range of news at different times therefore keeps listeners happy.

Day 13

The first part of the day was spent listening back to our voice recordings. We were all impressed and it was difficult to choose the best voices although a few clearly stood above the rest. After we had all heard our voices played back in the original and edited form we were then tasked with voting for a presenter and we were to choose the members of which the one with the most votes would become Presenter. Nathan and Lizzie received most votes and rightfully became presenters for the radio show. Shortly after we then voted for members of the news team. The most popular votes were for Declan, Megan and Matthew and so they were assigned with the role in the news team. The remainder of the group were divided into the editing team or programming team. I myself was included in the programming team. Although each of us has to work independently it is important particularly as a programmer to oversee the actions of the whole group. Once we all knew where we stood in terms of our broadcast roles we then started to work on the broadcast based on the platform we had put together the previous day. It was a bit daunting to start with as well as over-whelming but it was good to able to start working on the project which forms a major part of the Coolchoices programme.

Day 12

22 October 2015

The earlier part of our day was spent practising some voice recording in a studio with Steve Turnbull. We were tasked with reading out an advertisement for the Rugby World Cup. The purpose of the task was o gather opinions of the suitability of our voice-overs for the radio show broadcast. It was fun to take part in the voice recording and all of our voices were more than satisfactory having been edited afterwards by Steve. After we had listened to all the voices with Steve we then moved on to discuss our topic for the radio show. We were then able to break down the broadcast into its different stages and thus providing some structure. We all felt a lot more comfortable with the overall aims and requirements of the broadcast after this.

Day 11

Paulo Ross gave us an insight into his job at CoolFM which is to take charge of the social media side of things. He told us how important social media was to CoolFM in terms of its promotion and growth. He detailed some of the figures in terms of the likes and followers on Cool FM. Equally he explained that social media is constantly evolving and so his role never sleeps and it is important to keep in line with political correctness when posting on the CoolFM Facebook or Twitter as it can be easy to blur the lines between offense and humour. After lunch we were given advice on presentation skills by Rebecca McKinney. We were tasked with applying this advice in the making of our own one minute presentation in which we were asked to talk a bit about ourselves, about the cool choices programme as well as including a key quote that is irrelevant to us. The advice was very useful and helped keep a balance been the serious and light-heartedness of our speech. The entire group myself included felt a lot more confident after delivering presentation.

Day Ten

20 October 2015

Steve Turnbull gave us a chance to try out his own DJ equipment. At first I felt a bit daunted at the prospect as I’m not the most comfortable with new technology and did not want to break anything. We were divided into groups however and once I saw how Steve was guiding the other members of my group it all looked a lot less complicated. We had to manage the volume and bass of two different songs. This was interesting as I had always wondered how DJ’s are able to mix two songs at the same time. I enjoyed my time using the equipment and would like to try it again someday. Later in the afternoon David Corscadden gave us a talk on the basic principles of marketing this was interesting and it complemented the talk that Steve gave us the day before on Radio Imaging.

Day Nine

During the first half of the day Mark McHaffie from CoolFM joined us for a discussion of his career and this gave us the opportunity to ask him questions. It was good to get an insight into his history in employment and he assured us that when he was our age he had never believed he would end up as a Managing Director of a radio station. He told us how he had always had a passion for journalism and had spent many years working for the Belfast Telegraph and it was only by chance that he was offered the chance to join CoolFM. Later in the day Steve Turnbull of CoolFM gave us an insight into the imaging of radio stations. H explained how images are added into songs and adverts on radio in order to brand the radio station. Personally I was aware of how the radio did this but I never thought of how it could be used positively to market the radio station so this was a useful discussion.

Day Eight

13 October 2015

The morning session was highlighted by our meeting Pete Snodden. We talked a bit about his life and career and were given the opportunity to ask him a few questions each. He had mentioned his passion for dance and house music and so having an interest in the same type of music myself I asked him, who his favourite festival DJ was. Our second session involved us trying our hand at sales advertising using voice-overs. We were tasked with promoting a butcher’s called Mooney’s on the Shankill Road Belfast.

Day Five

12 October 2015

On day five the main event was our meeting with Commercial director of S&P Promotion. We were divided into groups of two and were assigned with the task of designing a radio advert for the upcoming Disney on Ice in the SSE Arena in Belfast. This involved talking and sharing ideas in our groups. Initially our ideas were not very substantial when we ran them past out tutors. We were then given more time to conjure up a more concrete plan for the advertisement. The idea we decided to forward to Simon was a compilation video featuring Disney films which would be used as a daily prize with a grand prize at the weekend. Our compilation was designed to include a feature of 3-4 Disney films and to address the audience with 3 questions about the video compilation. These would be name the film, name the tune and name a character from each film. There would be one daily winner per day who would win two tickets for the show and then a grand prize which would be issued at the weekend. The idea proposed for this was a meeting with Disney on Ice characters for the winner. After limited success to begin with regard to our advert ideas it was satisfying that Simon was impressed with out idea.

Day Four

After spending a lot of time on listening to other speakers it was time for us as a group to engage and share ideas. One of the main themes of the day was blogging. We discussed what blogging was and what we are required to do over the next few weeks. This is to record a blog of our work every day in Cool Academy. In accordance with keeping with in all the appropriate guidelines in terms of safe use of language we need to write in an engaging and insightful way in order to reflect on our daily experiences her at Cool Academy. Blogging is very useful for us as it is an easy way to file what actually happened in our time here and so it ensures that nothing of note will be forgotten about our time here at Cool Academy. One of the major challenges of the CoolChoices programme is our task in creating a radio show on a topic of our choice. And so the whole second part of the day was used by us to discuss one by one any ideas we had around for individual topics. A range of ideas emerged and were put forward to Rebecca who then gave an opinion on each of our suggestions. It was interesting to see and hear all the different topic ideas. Ultimately we were unable to collectively agree on a topic to use for the radio show. Although it was positive that a lot of the ideas seemed popular amongst the group and very few ideas were dismissed.

Day Three

We started the day with a talk on programming from David McCammond. He also gave us a thorough description of the aims of CoolFM as well as describing the differences between it and other radio stations. This was interesting and built on what we already knew about the radio station. Following this Florence Ambrose from Health and Safety gave us a briefing on what to do in the event of an emergency. This was important given the size of the building as well as considering the amount of people who work here at Kiltonga.

Day Two

Day two proved to be just as varied as our first day although it was good to feel that our tutors knew us all a bit better. We started our day with a talk from Luke, a specialist from HNH on digital websites. He presented us with the mycoolchoices website and thereby gave us the opportunity to have a look at our individual profiles which showed our professional photos that we had taken. The second part of our day involved a talk with Lee Tisdale from Bauer. He has worked for the company for 19 years and it was interesting to listen to his experiences of the radio and media. In the final part of the day we had a collective discussion about choosing a topic for our radio show. We all came up with different ideas. And we drew them on a board and decided which ones we liked and disliked at the end although no final decision was made. We were advised that our topic should reach out to young people and be relevant to a younger audience. We will be better prepared to make a decision once we have listened to a previous cohort’s show however.

Day One

After spending a few weeks getting to know each other we started our 5 week period at CoolFM. We had spent time working on basic teamwork skills up to this point and the tasks we had taken part in gave us the opportunity to get to know each other. We were given a briefing on CoolFM and learned a little bit about the make-up of the radio station and what sets it apart from other stations. We were then given advice on how to blog successfully and these tips were highly useful and insightful. For me the highlight of the day was being able to interview the presenters Rebecca McKinney and Steve Turnbull. After the presenters asked us questions it was good to get the opportunity to learn more about them and how they got into radio.