Blog: Katrina Bunker

The editor of BBC Radio Sheffield explains why the station is holding auditions for talented local people to gain a fully paid job as a presenter – with no experience needed

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Do you feel heard? Whatever your background, whatever your life experience and whatever your story so far, do you feel listened to?

It is important to have a voice.

When BBC local radio began just over 50 years ago, the aim was to create stations that belonged to “the people”. Frank Gillard, who created the first local radio stations, outlined his vision for BBC local radio and said at the time that listeners would “come to regard their local station as ours, not as the BBC station in town”.

Half a century later that aim is just as important as it ever was, perhaps even more so. In our big cities like Sheffield we have ever-growing, diverse and culture-rich communities, which can appear fragmented, distant and divided. Our local areas have changed in that half century – people appear less bound by geography, neighbourhoods and where they live. It means making a local radio station that belongs to the people has to change too.

We have to come up with new and exciting ways to engage our local audiences, to show people our doors are open and to remind them that this is still their radio station. We have to remind people that they can have a platform and a voice through us even if they feel no one else is listening to them. On radio, there is nothing better than hearing authentic voices talking with passion about things that matter to them, whether that’s communities impacted by knife crime, people trying to fathom what Brexit might mean for them or people coming together because they like to listen to the region’s contemporary folk music. People might not connect through geography as much as they did 50 years ago but there are deep connections to be found through shared interests, common values and human experiences.

That’s why we are launching This Is Me at BBC Radio Sheffield – a search for a new voice for 2019 to join our team reporting, presenting and producing programmes. Our winner will get a fully paid job for a year, a foot in the door at the BBC.

We are holding open auditions in Rotherham on 2 December. A university education isn’t necessary, journalism experience isn’t needed. We are looking for genuine local talent, people with personality and passion. We’re giving people a minute to tell the judges a story – about them or where they live – and if they impress they’ll get the chance to go through to the next stage, a radio test and interview, before our final winner is selected in early 2019.

It’s very exciting. We don’t know what we’re going to get and who will walk through those doors to audition. But we know we have an area that’s full of character, humour and personality, so some people are sure to amaze and surprise us. And ultimately it should be part of our job in local radio to find great local talent, and to give the best people a platform to launch their careers. Reaching out in this way can only help us too. The more we hear from genuine local voices and personalities that represent our different communities, the more authentic and connected we are, the more relevant we are and the more we are able to fulfil that original vision of being the people’s radio station and not just the BBC in town.

Do you have a voice? It’s important to be heard.

Applicants will need to be 18 or over and be eligible to work in the UK. The open auditions will be held on 2 Dec at the New York Stadium, New York Way, Rotherham, S60 1FJ. Registration opens at 09.30 and the last registration will be at 16.00. See bbc.co.uk/radiosheffield for more information

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