Monday, March 21, 2011

Umthathi meets Radio G...

The past week has involved a lot of patience on Litha’s and my behalf. A key goal for the week was to finalise agreements with Radio Grahamstown, with regards to their commitment to broadcasting a show in partnership with Umthathi. It was, in our view, important to establish whether the station saw value in continuing with the show after we complete this project in the middle of the year.  If they did, our proposal was that the station should identify two people in their volunteer team who could commit themselves to anchoring and producing the show in the long term.  The idea was then for them to take part in our training programme, in order to strengthen their production and anchoring skills, and also to build a strong relationship between them and the people from Umthathi. We wanted these details in place before Thursday afternoon, when we planned to facilitate a strategic planning workshop involving both the Radio Grahamstown show team and Umthathi. But despite Litha’s and my careful planning and time management, it felt as if we were getting nowhere slowly. As soon as we started to interact with people at the station, we found ourselves running up against the true essence of ‘African time’. But my experience is that this timing always has a way of working itself out, and once again, to my surprise, by Thursday 14h15, in time for our workshop, we had achieved what we had set out to do.  .
It all started on Tuesday, when we spent a number of hours hanging around Radio Grahamstown while waiting to speak to the station manager, Phumlani Wayi. However, once again patience proves itself to be a virtue. While waiting at Radio G we become more familiar with the people who work there, meeting old and new faces alike.  And then, when we finally got to sit down with Phumlani we were able to have a very fruitful discussion.  Phumlani had read through our proposal plan for the show and told us that he is pleased with what he has read and seen. He indicated that the station would be happy to commit itself to having a weekly 30 minute broadcast of the show, starting in the 4th week of April. We are currently hoping for the show to be broadcast on a Friday as this day suits the Umthathi facilitators who are stationed at the Umthathi offices every Friday.
Thus, on Thursday, having established these details Litha and I were eager to get cracking with the second of the four workshops we had planned for the Umthathi facilitators and Radio G.  The workshop was all about introducing the Radio G and Umthathi participants to each other. The aim was also to do some strategic planning in order to build a shared editorial vision for the show, so as to insure that we all set off on the same footing. Once again Litha and I were holding thumbs that all would go well and at 14h45 we kicked off the workshop in one of the seminar room at the Rhodes Journalism department. Xoliswa and SD, who came from Umthathi, were quite late in arriving, but this did not set us back as we soon started chatting about the show. It wasn’t plain sailing, though! We had a lot of filling in to do as we quickly realised that the members from Radio G had no idea of what they were there to do. Apparently Phumlani had simply asked them to come to the workshop, without explaining what he was committing them to.  But eventually we got the ball rolling and all seemed to be on the same page by the end of the workshop.

As a key strategy for achieving this goal, we had included an exercise in the workshop in which we created a poster, working with the outline of a tree - including roots, a trunk, and branches. All of us then sat together and filled in words, labelling the different aspects of the tree. The tree roots represented the values and beliefs that will inform the show, while the tree trunk identified   those values and beliefs that the team feels is of the most fundamental importance and will make sure the project will hold together and survive. The branches stood for the themes that will be incorporated into the show while the   leaves indicated the people, voices and sources that should be represented in the show. And finally the fruit indicated what the achievements of the show should be and the impact it should have on the community. The ideas was to keep this poster as an editorial resource, and to make copies to  give to both Radio G and Umthathi to serve as a reminder and motivation of what the show stands for. I believe this exercise worked well as it helped to clarify, for the whole team, what the show is really about.

The second part of the workshop zoomed in on one of the skills areas that we want to focus on in our training of the team - i.e. that of writing for radio.  We started this section by presenting a short slide show discussing techniques and tips on writing for radio, as well as what makes for good radio and ideas on how to hook an audience. This slide show was accompanied with the handing out of a file that Litha and I created for each Umthathi and Radio G. This file included the show’s proposal plan along with slightly more detailed notes which elaborated on the slide show. Both the slide show and notes were created with the knowledge in basic radio training that we have gained as a JMS 2 radio tutor this year. The object of these files is so that Radio G and Umthathi can keep them for further reading and share what they have learnt with those unable to come to the workshops. These files will have notes added to them at each workshop.
All in all it has been a long but successful week, and I feel that we have achieved what we set out to do. Our workshops are now in full swing with the next one taking place at 14h30 this Thursday. It will take place at the Rhodes Journalism department’s radio studio, focusing on the art of radio presentation and interviewing, and hopefully we will even come up with a show name by the end of the week.

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