My name is Megan. I’m 24. I discovered the My Cool Choices program before I returned to live in Northern Ireland this year. I was looking for a way to gain some skills with the opportunity to meet new people. I enjoy travelling and I would really hope to study architecture and design at some point in the future. I’m still new to living in the city and finding my place here. I tend to cycle to get around and it’s really helped me to discover areas I never would have otherwise. I hope by being involved with My Cool Choices I can get to know others and gain lots of new experiences from working alongside the radio station.

Blog Friday Week 5 day 5

30 October 2015

This is the final blog of my time here at the Cool Academy with Cool FM. I haven’t been keeping up to date with sharing what’s been going on. This week has been hectic, both at the station and personally. There’s so much that’s going on and it all connects. I’m quite worried about our time here being over and not having as much to do throughout the week. We return to Hill Street with the possibility of a work placement to suit us. There are lots of feelings of uncertainty just now. I’m worried about not seeing the people I’ve met here and trying to find things to do myself seems a bit daunting. Being part of the Cool Academy came at a time when I needed it most. Hopefully it won’t come to a blunt end. Some of my favourite moments have been simple things like listening to music in the car on a drive home with Declan and Danny. Or watching Lizzie and Matt dance around to Fleetwood Mac. Chatting to everyone every day in general and having Lynsey, David, Clare, Rebecca and Steve around to help. Today we’ve signed thank you cards and there’s gifts being shared for the mentors who offered us support all the way throughout our time here. It feels like the end of something even though it isn’t actually the end of our time with Start 360.

Today we plan to listen to the finished broadcast. I’m looking forward to hearing Matt and Lizzie present together after spending time listening in on them running through the script for the show. I haven’t heard anything edited down, it’s hard to imagine it all condensed into one big cohesive production. Working mainly on the interviews I only really know about that content. Declan whittled down the playlist options to suit the show and everyone has conflicting opinions on song choices. It’s not just a matter of choosing whatever music we want, so you have to work within reason.

At the beginning of the week I had the opportunity to do an important interview. Our guest was Anita Dennison, she was in to talk of her own personal experience. Rebecca also joined me in the interview with questions of her own to contribute. It was really nice to meet Anita and for her to be so open. She’s even going to be doing a TED talk for TED Omagh. I’ve listened to a few TED speeches in the past so it’s quite a big platform to be invited on to which I think Anita won’t have a problem taking on. I wasn’t happy with my interviewing but felt the questions got the story covered appropriately.

At the station this morning there’s Doritos-a-plenty and carrot sticks all round. We’re checking our OCN booklets and wrapping up everything we need to. Eamonn Holmes is in the Cool FM building. Matt and Danny met him. What a name to drop! I would have liked to met him myself. There Is never a good way to finish something for me, even a blog. I’m not good at some big goodbye or emotional roundup so I’ve included a picture from one of our earlier days. I spied co-hort Matt doodling Doctor Robotnik. That was a moment that made me feel like these are the right people to be with. There’s comfort in nostalgia.

Wednesday Week 4 Day 4

23 October 2015

The fourth week is almost over. Today we’ve just continued to work on getting interviews for the broadcast. I had an interesting interview this morning. I don’t think I should share much about who or what we’re discussing in interviews while the broadcast is still being put together. So this doesn’t make for very interesting reading! Rebecca mentioned that we have another 6 days before we finish our time here at Cool FM in the Academy. I don’t really want to think about what I’ll do not coming here and seeing everyone regularly like I have been.
Before finishing to go home for the day Rebecca came to chat with me, reminding me to take care of myself. Something we all need to try and remember to do at times.

Wednesday Week 4 Day 3

It’s Funsie in a Onesie this morning. Even the bus driver was talking about it and wondering why I hadn’t brought one along with me. He was also complaining that he loses signal listening to Cool FM as he drives out towards the station, which is quite ironic. When I arrive a few people are wondering around in their onesies to help raise money for Cash for Kids. It wasn’t even all that strange. You see plenty of people grocery shopping in their pyjamas. It shouldn’t be acceptable but they get away with it somehow. I think Rebecca had one of the best onesies, hers being a unicorn. Pretty damn cute.
Lots of pictures were taken in the morning, everyone diving towards the camera and throwing their hands up. Afterwards we had John Rosborough visit us to talk about the History of Radio. He took us all the way from the 1920’s to the birth of Cool FM in the 90’s. It was really interesting to hear the change in radio over the years and how current events at the time affected what was being broadcast during the war. He shared of how he himself came to be in radio, starting off as an engineer. He has his own website where you can find his own radio playlist and more:
In the afternoon Connor and I worked on organising some interviews for the broadcast and preparing questions. I later went down and listened in while Declan did some of his interview and I think he got some good content related to our social media topic. Before we finished up Steve introduced us to Matt Murdock. Matt came to Cool FM through a programme with the Princes Trust and is now working here part-time. Before that he worked here for 6 months unpaid. He spoke of how much he enjoys working here and what it took for him to get to this point. There’s been so many people we’ve spoken to that have all talked about their ‘journey’ and quite a few of them seemed to unintentionally get into radio. I’m always worried and wondering what’s going to happen, what direction my life is going to take. So many times I’ve ended up in the same position and I’m not sure where I go wrong. I really hope I can break that and move on further.

Friday Week 3 Day 5

20 October 2015

This morning photographer Simon Hutch came back to see us. He had taken our pictures when we first started coming to the Cool Academy. Today he was in to tell us a bit more about how he came to be a photographer himself. He started about 3 years ago and works with Hype Factory and H&H. He had studied Finance and Economics for 3 years before dropping out to focus on pursuing photography. He met Rebecca while she worked at fashion shows in Victoria Square, Simon would take pictures backstage. He went on to talk about some of the technical aspects of photography, shutter speed, ISO, aperture. He also told us that the photography term BOCA is actually Japanese for ‘blur’ which is a way of capturing an image with some movement. Although he uses mainly digital for shooting he also collects film cameras and he had brought his own Pentax camera in with him for us to see. We also looked through some of his photography books that he takes inspiration from. Before he finished up to leave we discussed some social media topics in relation to photography to get his take on things. Simon encouraged us to use our mobile phone cameras as a gateway into experimenting with photography and recommended editing apps, most of which I use on my own phone.
After lunch we then met Adam McPeak from Hype Factory. They create and produce promotional videos for businesses. Adams earliest experience he recalls of making videos was when he started to play the game Halo, before the YouTube phenomia. He remembers his parents receiving a bandwidth bill of £1000 at the time. He then went on to show us early videos he created and edited. He started out filming his friends while they’d skate. His career basically grew from his own personal interest and he also encouraged us to pursue the things that interest us too. We talked about social media with him and how he feels it impacts the Hype Factory company. Matt brought up the question of whether he worries that with social media expanding so quickly and everyone being able to create and share their own content, did he worry that his business could become obsolete if companies no longer felt they needed to go through a business to add promotional value to their company? This was something I wondered too. Despite this growth in the marker, Adam felt companies will still want to work with them to have a professional finish on their advertising campaigns. I think an important thing is that as long as businesses keep creating interesting relevant content they will be able to survive. Adam emphasised being aware of what you post and share online as social media is completely unforgiving. Once something is out there it’s not always easy or possible to undo it.

Simons Instagram: @simonhutch1994

Adam McPeak:

Wednesday Week 3 Day 3

This morning it’s freezing. This is just going to become blog of complaints about the weather. As time goes by and winter approaches I’ll be reduced to just a series of grunts to indicate my feelings of contempt at the change in season. It’ll soon be time for fireworks and that’s another thing I don’t like when they’re in the wrong hands.
Today we all came together and listened to our voice tests. First hearing our own take on the script we read from and then the second reading where Steve gave us more direction. There was a huge difference in most people’s takes. And as Matt described while listening to his own recording, it was painful to hear myself back. I actually feel like I don’t know who I sound like. I don’t have much of an accent. Nothing to indicate where I’m from. Not very enthusiastic or interesting to listen to. I don’t feel I’d want to be presenting the show but I’m glad to have had this opportunity.
Lizzie is one of the chosen presenters along with Nathan. I think they’re both good choices. Nathan is still a little new to the group but I think he can be very witty and funny. I also want to see if he actually decides to dye his hair to match Lizzies because it literally makes no difference on radio at all haha. David, Stevie and Bart are on the editing team. Danny and Conor as the programmers and then Matt, Declan and myself as reporters.
In the afternoon we had the opportunity sit in and listen to Steve interview Katy B and Tinie Tempah. It was a great experience to have been allowed in on. At the end of the day we spent some time together in our team roles. Matt is the head of reporting. He’s the big cheese. Which I think is best for us with his previous experience. We did some research and created vox pop questions for short interviews. David and Stevie in the editing team showed us how to use the microphones before we went home. I did a very short interview with Rebecca.. of course the microphone wasn’t recording. Not off to the best start there. I’ll get it right next time hopefully.

Tuesday Week 3 Day 2

14 October 2015

Today I looked at my phone to check the date while filling in the usual evaluation forms in the morning of what we’ve been learning each day. The 13th of October, I can’t believe we’re into the second week of October already. I know this is one of those things that no one really spends much time talking or thinking about but I can’t believe how near to the end of the year we are. The third week at the Academy too. Today we’ll be doing a voice test individually down in the studio following up from yesterday. The majority of people seem nervous about it. Steve gives another example of how he prepares when reading a script for a paid advert. He starts speaking with a pen in his mouth as he ab-libs. This was something he told Chris Moyle’s was known to do when preparing for radio. I can’t say I’m a big Chris Moyles fan but I won’t discredit him, he is a success so he knows what he’s talking about, even with a pen in his mouth!
This morning we met Nancy. She was in to review our experience on the Cool Choices program so far. She’s originally from America although has lived in Northern Ireland for a number of years. While we were talking about what we thought of our experience so far everyone shared what they thought was good or could be improved. It’s hard to remember how I felt from the beginning of the process up until now. More often than not I don’t feel I’ve changed or improved much.
In the afternoon I did my voice test. Steve came along and took me down to the studio. I read through the script in my ‘usual’ voice and then he asked me to repeat it after listening to him break it down. I actually enjoyed the experience. I’m still always a bit taken aback when Steve switches into his radio/advertising voice. It sounds exactly like the radio, as it should! But it seems so unnatural in person to have someone speaking in that tone. It’s quite funny. If we were all just walking around talking in big highfalutin’ radio voices the station would be even more entertaining.

Monday Week 3 Day 1

13 October 2015

This morning Lynsey, Lizzie and I arrived at the station together. Paulo Ross was already there to talk to all of us about social media. It’s always a bit of a surprise to meet the actual presenters in person when you’re only used to hearing their voices. Google image would probably diminish the mystery but I kind of like the not-knowing-until-we-meet.
Paulo talked mostly about online sharing. Posting funny memes or GIF’s, sometimes something that has no relevance to the radio itself brings in the biggest amount of followers and traffic to their site. Paulo said they really put a lot of work into using social media outlets to get Cool FM listeners involved. I can completely get why that audience is so huge when I myself use the internet everyday as a source of information and entertainment. It’s an escape but also a way of keeping in touch with so many people and current events. Before Paulo left he gave us a challenge and we were split into groups of 3.
Later in the afternoon Rebecca and Steve spent some time with us and gave us the task of writing a sort of introduction about ourselves to be filmed on camera, so that by the end of the program we could repeat the process and see how we’ve maybe improved on our ability to stand up in front of others and talk about ourselves. Steve stood up and spoke about himself to give us an idea of what to do. He didn’t seem phased at all and sounded perfect. As we went around the room and each person did their own intros you could see the difference in everyone, from the person we’ve gotten to know to the person they were trying to present to us. I still feel very uncomfortable doing these things, even after it was over I was spending too much time ruminating on the whole experience. It’s good to be challenged though. Hopefully I can make some progress as time goes on.

Sidenote: Rebeccas outfit was really great today. Someone described it as a cross between Laura Croft meets Indiana Jones. Not sure that’s the most accurate or desirable combination but it’s always fun to see what she’ll turn up wearing each day!

Friday Week 2 Day 5

First thing this morning, we came in to update our blogs. It’s helpful to keep on top of blogging and record what we’re up to. Afterwards we split into two and Steve showed us how to use the DJing decks. I was kind of dreading it because I’m not very good at being openly expressive in front of people. I would love to be able to express myself through some creative medium but find it very difficult not holding back.
When it was our groups turn to work with Steve I was up first. I just wanted to get my turn over with. It was awkward and embarrassing but afterwards when I was watching the others it felt like it started to make more sense. Being in the moment and being asked to do something you’re not familiar with, sometimes you can’t see what’s simply right there in front of you. I need to learn how to take a bit more control of my blind panic. It’s a process! It was interesting to see how others work in the same situation but hard not to compare myself or feel disappointed in my lack of DJ skills!
Putting insecurities aside, I really enjoyed watching Steve work. It seemed he could mix tracks with his eyes closed and it would still sound great. He made it look a lot less painful and sound a lot more listenable than I ever could.
Later in the afternoon David gave us a lesson on marketing. What marketing is. The 4 important P’s in Marketing and what kind of areas there are in marketing itself. I don’t have any background on the subject but I suppose I am the target audience for most companies to market towards so I can speak from that perspective on what appeals and gets my attention. We left a little earlier today with some homework to do.

Thursday Week 2 Day 4

9 October 2015

This morning I arrived later at the station due to a morning appointment. While I was in the waiting room Cool FM was playing in the background. Hearing Rebecca and Steve talking felt a little surreal. When I made my way to the station this morning managing director Mark Mahaffy was already in the Cool Academy answering questions we had prepared the day before. It’s always awkward arriving in the middle of something so I tried to be as discreet as I could. I caught the tail end of what everyone was discussing and asked a couple of questions before he left. Mark was very personable despite being high in command in terms of positions at the station. He was interested in what difficulties we come across as young people when applying for work and shared his own personal take on how he approaches those he would consider employing. He also spoke about the importance and relationship of locality with its listeners, how people are affected by the voice or accent of someone from where they are also from. I could relate quite a lot to this. Having lived in Scotland for 5 or so years and finding it difficult to settle, little things like the dialect or approach of others in a different place often made me feel quite disconnected or less comfortable in my surroundings. It might be hard to understand or imagine and maybe it’s more down to me being overly sensitive but it was something that had a big effect on me and my life in Scotland. There’s just something about being around people from Northern Ireland. I’ve had so many positive experiences since coming back that it’s hard not to compare where I was to where I am now.
Before Mark left there was the chance to win some tickets to see Jason Derulo. David was the winner so it’s pretty cool that we’re given these opportunities while we’re here at the Cool Academy along with meeting so many different people in the industry.
Later in the afternoon we worked on our blogs and regrouped with Steve Turnball. He gave us a sort of tutorial in editing sound and learning about sonic sound. He used a program called Adobe Edition and talked us through some basics. I think once we work with the software ourselves and familiarize with it, it won’t seem as complicated. I imagine editing sound can become something that you get very pernickety about the more you understand how to do it. It would be hard not to hear all the things you look out for when editing yourself. Before we finished for the day one of the groups with Matt, Danny and Stevie won tickets to see Imagine Dragons, The Belfast Giants and Def Leppard/White Snake for the ideas they came up with for a brief. Which is a pretty nice way to acknowledge the input of what they’ve contributed while we’re here at the academy!

Wednesday Week 2 Day 3

This morning Pete Snodden came in to meet us and we had the opportunity to ask him some questions. I almost messed up when it came to my turn and I seemed to lose the power of speech for longer than I care to admit, despite the fact I had the question written down in front of me. Sometimes being on the spot or having to project myself is still difficult despite being surrounded by people I’ve gotten to know through Cool Choices.
Pete shared lots of his experiences with us. He’s been working at the station for about 15 years. In Primary 6 he was inspired by a teacher who brought and played records to his class at the time. He shared that during the 90’s he lacked belief that he would ever present on Radio and he went on to teach himself how to mix records by listening to a lot of dance and house music at the time. He started going to clubs at 16 and in the late 90’s he made a demo that he gave to Wes House, who he would then develop a friendship with and work alongside. He signed a contract with Cool FM in 2002 and a few years later he was offered his position on the Breakfast Show. Pete said he mostly learned from making mistakes on the radio and that those experiences helped him gain confidence over time. He had been inspired mostly by other Radio DJ’s, during the 90’s Zoe Ball was a big influence on him. He often mentions money not being the motivator behind his career in radio but it’s a bonus for him. Which is a very encouraging thing to hear. I think everyone’s ideal job would be doing something they love every day. It’s a real privilege.
One of the stories Pete shared with us was about an event he was involved in several years beforehand with the Marie Curie charity helping to bring awareness about volunteering with the charity itself. His pictures were published of the day he spent there and years later he received a letter from someone who had saw this publication and decided to become involved in volunteering with Marie Curie. It completely changed their life. This was something Pete felt really made what he does feel worthwhile. It was interesting hearing about his career and how much he’s achieved, still so young and still ongoing.
Later that afternoon we were split into groups to work on Keith’s brief creating a short ad for a local butcher. It was quite hard coming up with short and relatable ideas that felt worth broadcasting to an audience. Everybody had funny/characterful scripts and presented them with lots of enthusiasm. I definitely felt out of my depth with this challenge. Matt and David bore the brunt of the task, presenting our ideas the most. David created a meaty character that Keith felt had lots of potential to be developed. He listened to all our ad ideas and as he did so, he was constantly coming up with ways to improve or add to what we had. It was pretty amazing to see and hear him work so quickly right there on the spot as I struggled to come up with anything worthwhile with three times as much time. Keith’s presence completely enthrals you. As sappy as it sounds, being in the presence of someone like that is very inspiring.

Tuesday Week 2 Day 2

After a few days of being absent from the Cool Academy I’m officially back and looking forward to seeing everyone again. This morning Richard Ross joined us; he’s a commercial manager and has previous experience as a media director. Working at Cool FM for over 7 years now he spoke to us about the differences and importance of sponsorship and promotions, the importance of roadshows, outside broadcasting and online social media. He then gave us a challenge which was to come up with ideas to heighten the Coca Cola brand at Christmas time with the arrival of the Coke trucks in Belfast through the radio station.
We came up with competition ideas for radio listeners to take part in and set up a road show event involving social media platforms for Cool FM listeners to become involved in. I think the most interesting result of this was hearing what the other groups came up with. Everyone had great ideas which made me think more about what else we could do to make it even more relevant to the brand and station. Working with others can be very encouraging when you regroup and listen to what they have to say. When Richard returned to hear what we had come up with I could see he was taking notes on things we had shared. At the end of it all he gave us great feedback and said some of our ideas were very relevant to what other young people are interested in. It was all very encouraging to be a part of.
In the afternoon we had the pleasure of meeting Keith Law (or Country Keith as some like to call him.) Meeting Keith was really great; something about his personality reminded me of my favourite comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Keith works in commercial production and although his content isn’t quite as surreal as that of which Vic & Bob produce, I feel like his way with words could just as easily spill into that realm. Keith played us lots of clips of commercials he previously produced. Some of which had won awards and others that were deemed not the most appropriate for radio. They were all hilarious and engaging. The ones that weren’t purely for comedic purposes were just so perfectly simple that they made a great emotional impact. They were exactly what a radio commercial requires. A simple message is the hardest to create well and he made it sound so easy. I would love to be able to work in an environment with more people producing such interesting content. Before Keith left he gave us a brief for a commercial he was also working on for a local Butcher which was a bit of a daunting task to think about doing.

Thursday Week 1 Day 4

The first week is nearly coming to an end. In some ways it feels like all the days have merged together. Getting up and going home to get up and go home all over again. It’s been great to have somewhere to be each day and have the opportunity to meet those that work at the station. This morning on my walk to the bus station there’s heavy fog (maybe mist?) I over hear two men talking “is it fog or is it mist?” – My thoughts exactly! And much like the weather my head is in a bit of a haze. This morning we’re mostly organising our online personal profiles and reflecting on our week so far. Catching up on some paperwork and contemplating starting our new story board while removing the previous cohorts. Rebecca and David briefed us on the last few days and where we are up to this week. It was time to refocus on our roles within the group which we still seem to be trying to find.

Wednesday Week 1 Day 3

It’s day 3 and we had the opportunity to meet and unleash our interview skills upon programmer David Crammond. From listening to David I think it gave us all a new perspective on what goes on behind running the radio station in terms of brand, audience and the importance of catering to a specific audience. Understanding the marketing side of things and how music is selected and played each day for specific stations. We later met Florence Ambrose who was very lovely. She talked us through health & safety procedures in case of an emergency. If ever there was the need to be escorted out of a building safely, Florence is the woman you want for leading the way!

Later in the day we were given a tour of the studios by Rebecca. It felt a bit like looking into a dollhouse, peering into the booth windows and passing the presenters by through the narrow halls. Inside the studio booths they were pretty spacious and the soundproofing made everything feel very secure and safe. Lots of buttons that for all I know eject you to the moon or somewhere else equally as strange in the radio world if you don’t know what you’re doing. Thinking of sitting down in front of a microphone and speaking to listeners from these rooms somehow felt both very safe and nerve wracking to think that what is said can be heard by anyone out there listening.

Monday Week 1 Day 1: The start.

Looking back on my first day at the Cool Academy I’m not exactly sure how I felt. I tend to go into autopilot at times of uncertainty, so just making my way to the station was my priority. It helped that I had already met and got to know my fellow cohorts beforehand; knowing they’d be there when I arrived made it a little less daunting.
On our first day we interviewed both Rebecca and Steve. It gave us some insight into what they’re like individually. Having the opportunity to hear about both of their experiences and backgrounds made meeting them a bit less intimidating. They’re both very personable and easy to talk to, definitely felt like they were going to be encouraging and supportive throughout our time with Cool FM and that they’d be guiding us throughout to do the best job we can.