Hot Shoes took producer from India to Manchester
Bindi Thakkar travelled all the way from India to chilly Manchester for a Hot Shoes placement earlier this year. The Media Action producer discovered a laid-back, hospitable city losing its grip on autumn.
I have been producing radio shows on maternal and child health since I joined BBC Media Action India in 2011. In this huge universe called the BBC it's easy to forget about what other people do - but Hot Shoes opens the door to other worlds. For me, it was the imaginary world inhabited by fictional characters.
I didn't know what Character Invasion Day was when I applied - and was successful in getting - a short placement, but the name captivated me.
I landed in Manchester - my first visit to the northern city - as the English autumn was turning to winter. I found a laid-back city that was soothing and peaceful and yet energetic. In Salford I met the radio drama team and learned more about their ambitious project, a day dedicated to characters heard on Radio 4.
From dramatic Shakespearean productions to adaptations of classics such as Pinocchio and the Harry Potter series, through to comedy and unscripted drama, the Radio 4 drama team produces it all.
On March 22, every programme on the network will be 'invaded' by 50 famous characters that have featured in its many dramas. BBC offices will also be filled with actors and writers, with a range of activities for families to participate in.
My job was to go through a long list of characters and give recommendations for a shortlist. Some I'd heard of before - the Archers, for instance, and Sherlock. I had to immerse myself in the history and provenance of these characters to be able to make informed recommendations. The research became one of the most enjoyable and enriching experiences of my professional life.
I cherished learning, working, breathing and living with this team for 20 days. Suggesting event names, brainstorming and discussing how it might all come together was exciting. I also had the opportunity to participate in script readings and recordings for ongoing productions.
I was able to observe live shows and attend various meetings. At one point I said to myself, 'Did I ever imagine while studying engineering that I would be living, breathing, talking drama in all its forms at the BBC?'
I felt and behaved like a sponge, soaking in everything around me - conversations over coffee, the BBC spirit and different accents. I realised I was more adaptable than I had thought myself to be. Now I feel more confident, rejuvenated, high in spirit and even more determined to transform lives through media, which is the aim of Media Action.
People were curious to know what we do, not just in India, but all over the world. The more people heard about our work, the more interested they were. My heart swelled with pride.
I said goodbye with a heavy heart. I lament that I wasn't able to stay until the culmination of the project - but at least I know I have played a small part in its success.