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Archives for February 2012

2012 - an amazing year for our audiences and partners

Adrian Ruth Adrian Ruth | 12:22 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

2012 is set to be one of the most exciting years in the history of the BBC, as we bring huge events like the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics to our audiences.

But we couldn't do all this on our own - partnerships will play a key role in many of these occasions. And they aren't unique in that - slowly and surely, partnerships have become a way of life for us here - and Delivering Quality First confirmed that it's going to stay that way.

Last summer, I gave an overview of two of our partnerships with more of a "tech" focus which had recently launched: iPlayer Linking, a feature in BBC iPlayer that helps you find programmes from other broadcasters like ITV and Channel 4, and Radioplayer, which provides easy online listening to hundreds of BBC, commercial and community stations in one place.

Nine months later, and I'm pleased to say they're both working a treat. BBC iPlayer users can click seamlessly to ITV hits like Downton Abbey and the X Factor, and Radioplayer has almost seven million listeners a month, and has driven a 21% rise in online hours since 2010. Users can now access the Radioplayer not only from their web browser, but also through a Facebook application, and a downloadable desktop version. With any luck, it won't be long before there are further versions for mobile, tablet and connected TV.

Another really interesting partnership which launched last year is Your Paintings, the result of a collaboration between the BBC, the Public Catalogue Foundation and museums, galleries and painting owners across the UK. By the end of 2012, the site will host photographs of 200,000 oil paintings in public ownership in the UK. So far, we're over half-way there, at 110,000 and counting. Staggering.

Screen grab from the Your Paintings website.

Although the examples above are quite different, they all have 'connectivity' in common. Part of our remit is to encourage people to make the most of new technologies which make this connectivity possible - so we've been working with Martha Lane-Fox's Race Online 2012 and others to do just that. We have run two major campaigns in the past two years: we provided a 'tool kit' to help people make their "First Click", and then encouraged people who use the internet regularly to "Give an Hour" to help get someone online for the first time. 1.3m respondents took some kind of action because of the Give an Hour campaign, and 334,000 people said they had already helped or planned to help someone get on line. Still a way to go, but what a great start.

So if 2011 was the year when our partnerships really started to deliver, what's next for 2012?

Well, trials for YouView (below), the all-in-one digital plug-and-play set-top-box, are already underway. YouView bills itself as "everything you've ever wanted from TV in one easy-to-use box" - Freeview, catch-up TV, High Definition, a Personal Video Recorder and apps galore. It's set to launch later this year.

There's also The Space, a partnership between the BBC and Arts Council England to create an experimental digital arts media service across PC, mobile, tablet and connected TV. It will showcase dozens of new commissions in the shape of short or long form video, audio, slideshows, games or interactive experiences and will be given context by archive collections from ACE, BBC and other partners. It's an exciting experiment enabling arts organisations to use new technologies and discover innovative ways to exhibit content.

And not forgetting the enormity of the Olympics and the London 2012 Festival. Have a look at the BBC Media Centre website to see how the BBC is getting involved.

It's going to be a fantastic year, not only for us here at the BBC, but also for our partners, and most importantly for our audiences. You can follow our progress on partnerships here.

Adrian Ruth is Controller, Partnerships

Listen to Adrian discuss his work as Controller, Partnerships in a recent interview with About the BBC website editor Jon Jacob.

Danny Cohen talks to Richard Bacon on Radio 5 Live

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 18:09 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Earlier this week the BBC confirmed that based on a series average overnight viewing figure of 8.7million, Call the Midwife had been the most successful new drama series on BBC One in ten years.

Controller of BBC One Danny Cohen spoke to Richard Bacon today about the series, Mrs Brown's Boys and the Royal Bodyguard.

Changes to BBC services on satellite on 24th February 2012

Alix Pryde Alix Pryde | 12:07 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Satellite Dish

I wanted to share some information with you about an upcoming change to how we broadcast our satellite channels. You should not need to take any action, but I thought you might like to know what will be going on in the background.

As some people may already be aware, the satellite operator SES Astra is making a number of changes to its fleet of satellites at the 28.2oEast orbital position over the next few years. These satellites are used for broadcasting television and radio channels (including those on Sky and Freesat) to homes in the UK.

The first of these changes will take place during February when the Astra 1N satellite, which was launched last summer, replaces the Astra 2D satellite, which is coming towards the end of its life.

The BBC currently broadcasts many of its television and radio services on Astra 2D, so as part of this replacement process BBC services that are currently located on Astra 2D will be moved across to Astra 1N. The services affected are:

BBC One (including all National and Regional variants)
BBC Two (including all National variants)
BBC Three
BBC Four
BBC News
BBC Parliament
BBC Radio 5 Live
BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra

The migration will be taking place during the early hours of the morning on Friday 24th February, between approximately 03:00 and 05:00 GMT. If you are watching or listening to BBC channels via satellite during this time you may experience some intermittent disruption to service. PVR recordings of BBC programmes made during this time may also be disrupted.

The good news for satellite viewers is that the tuning details used for BBC services on Astra 1N following the migration will be the same as those used today for services on Astra 2D. The signal strength of the new satellite will also be the same or possibly better in some parts of the country. This means that the change of satellites should be invisible to most viewers - there should be no need to update or retune your set-top box.

If viewers do experience any problems, your platform operator (which we have briefed about this change) would be best placed to provide assistance:

  • Freesat viewers should contact Freesat support on 08450 990 990
  • Sky viewers should visit www.sky.com/helpcentre

We have also contacted satellite and aerial installer trade associations - the CAI (Confederation of Aerial Industries) and the RDI (Registered Digital Installers) - providing them with information with which to brief their members in case anyone experiencing a problem contacts an installer rather than their platform operator. Furthermore, we will be putting information about this change on BBC Red Button page 998 because we know not everyone has access to the internet.

I hope you experience a smooth transition through the change.

Alix Pryde is the Director of BBC Distribution.

State of the Arts 2012: Artists shaping the world

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 10:46 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

SOTA12 (23 of 45)

On Tuesday 14 February, over 500 people from the arts community came together at The Lowry in Salford to discuss The State of the Arts. Miriam O'Keeffe, Director of the BBC Performing Arts Fund was one of the delegates.

The Lowry Arts Centre has been a hub of arts activity in Salford since long before Media City was a twinkle in Peter Salmon's eye. Sitting across the quay and overlooking the new buildings, the Lowry was a great venue to host the first annual State of the Arts conference outside of London, hosted in conjunction with the BBC. As the BBC Performing Arts Fund will be making the move to Salford in October of this year, we got to try out our new office for a couple of hours as well.

The Lowry, Salford Quays

The Lowry, Salford Quays

The theme of the conference was 'Artists Shaping the World' and this year 50 artists were awarded free bursaries to attend by the Arts Council, ensuring that artists and the arts were represented as talk about process and funding were centre stage. As everyone faces an uncertain future, the conversations kept coming back to the cuts and the choices that organisations and artists have to make with fewer resources. And the eternal question of 'what value the arts?'

Following the opening speeches I went to a session on Artists Shaping Communities. I was really inspired by the testimonies of other delegates working with arts in their local communities and the benefits of directly participating in the arts. We heard from choreographer Rosie Kay and Dan Thompson who orchestrated the riot clean up via Twitter as well as Liz Pugh from Walk the Plank on how working directly with communities, developing ideas together at a local level and how allowing local communities to have a say led to truly amazing work with long lasting impact. One of the pleas made in the sessions was that funders look at the amount of time required of organisations and artists to develop funding and project proposals.

State of the Arts Conference 2012

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

As the BBC Performing Arts Fund, we give directly to community groups such as choirs, dance groups and drama groups, so we have taken this on board. We are currently developing our grant schemes for 2012 which will focus on music groups and organisations and will endeavour to make the application process as straightforward and concise as possible. I was delighted to meet two people in the room who had received grants from us Zion Arts and Shilal Dance) and hear about the impact our grant had made.

Next week, the BBC and the Arts Council will announce the successful commissions for The Space.

Miriam O'Keeffe is Director, BBC Performing Arts Fund.

  • State of the Arts was hosted by Arts Council England in conjunction with the BBC, Salford City Council, Manchester City Council and the British Council.
  • Arts Council has archived all of the live-blogs curated during the State Of The Arts conference on Tuesday 14 February. The hashtag search SOTA12 includes comments from delegates. Hannah Nicklin has published a Flickr set of pictures from the event.
  • Follow the BBC Performing Arts Fund on Twitter. The website and blog showcases previous winners and provides updates on their progress in the performing world.
  • With the exception of the picture at the top of this post taken by Hannah Nicklin, all photographs in this post were shot by Richard Eaton.

Fifteen minutes with Joe Godwin, Director, Children's

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 15:57 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

In the week that the BBC's digital TV channels CBBC and CBeebies celebrate ten years on air, I spent fifteen minutes talking to Director of Children's, Joe Godwin at the department's new base in MediaCity UK, Salford.

We talked about his role and responsibilities at the BBC, his career to date and his motivation in making programmes for children.

Jon Jacob is the Editor of the About the BBC blog.

The thinking and work behind the BBC Sport website redesign

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 13:32 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A meeting, poring over designs on the wall

Editor's Note: This post was originally intended as a cross-promotion. Commenting is usually switched off on cross-promotion, the thinking being that comments can be left on the originating post - in this case, Scott's and Neil's post on the BBC Internet Blog. A number of readers have left comments on this post which have been passed on to the Internet Blog. Commenting has now been switched off on this post. Apologies to those who were hoping for a response here.

The BBC Internet Blog have published a couple of blog posts revealing some of the work involved in design and testing the redesigned BBC Sport website.

BBC Sport Product Manager Neil Hall describes the role of audience research, feedback and user testing in the development and release of the new site.

User experience creative director, Scott Byrne-Fraser picks up how the results of that research phase informs the resulting website design.

Mocked-up black and yellow designs for the BBC Sport homepage

Early visual concept designs for the sport homepage.

Such high profile, high reach websites - or 'products' - necessarily demand concentrated work briefing designers, refining ideas and delivering concepts. Some of this work is included in the post as well. My eye is particularly drawn to designer Alex Trochut's work on the banner illustration (below).

BBC Sport logos within swirling illustrations of different sports

Behind the scenes at BBC Radio York

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 08:44 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Tom Speight

Former BBC Radio Cumbria news editor and 5 Live producer Tom Speight (pictured left) is now responsible for training across the BBC's local radio stations in England.

Here he provides an introduction to a film made throwing light on how BBC Radio York delivers radio news to the region.

Delivering original journalism is never easy - especially when your patch is, on paper at least, a bit quiet.

So, when BBC Radio York, covering North Yorkshire, took the Gillard award in 2011 for doing just that, it felt like it was time to get under the bonnet of their news operation to discover just what makes it tick.

The BBC College of Journalism provides online and face to face learning for BBC journalists, by BBC journalists. In my role, I try to spread good practice around the BBC's local radio stations in England. This film is trying to do just that.

From Muffin the Mule to In the Night Garden and beyond

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Robert Seatter Robert Seatter | 13:52 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Annette Mills with Muffin The Mule

Hello Muffin! Annette Mills and Muffin The Mule wave at their loyal audience.

It's hard to believe that it's already ten years since the children's channels, CBeebies and CBBC launched: the first for pre-school, the second aimed at 6-13 year-olds. In marked contrast to other digital children's channels, they were free of advertising and largely British in content (90% and 70% respectively).

A useful moment perhaps to reflect back - to the first ever children's broadcast on the BBC, which came right at the very start of broadcasting itself. Just under 90 years on 5 December 1922, engineer A E Thompson (later called 'Uncle Thompson') made broadcast history when he presented a few minutes' entertainment 'just for children'. He told a story of Spick and Span, two dwarfs, and played a gramophone record called Dance of the Goblins. From that moment on, children's programming never left the BBC...

It's easy of course now to laugh at the many BBC 'Uncles' and 'Aunties' who popped up on air in the 20s/30s - they had great names such as Uncle Mac, Uncle Rex, Uncle Caractacus, Aunt Sophie - and their patrician tone. Easy too to mock the safe world the early radio programmes conjured up, with those memorable opening words: Are you sitting comfortably?

Children watching television.

Children watching Andy Pandy

Later, TV gave us Muffin the Mule, and the unforgettable cast of Watch with Mother: Andy Pandy, Bill & Ben, The Woodentops etc. But all these programmes were based on a real desire to talk directly to its child audience, and to give them a small, safe broadcast island. In essence, no different to Children's broadcast aims today.

A young fan gets up and close to observe the finer detail of In the Night Garden.

But behind the scenes in radio and later on TV, it was a bitter battle for children's airtime and funding. The current digital channels come at the end of that. Valiant champions - invariably women producers - fought for the importance of children's broadcasting both inside and outside the organisation. Many traditional voices castigated it: even as recently as 1991, Schools Minister Michael Fallon called BBC Children's programmes 'wicked, brazen and sinister'. To and fro went children's programmes in the 1950s and 60s: to Adult Programmes, to a Family Unit, and back to Children's TV again. And finally to where it is now, in one creative centre, defined, safeguarded and globally successful. Spick and Span, Muffin, Andy Pandy, Bill & Ben, would all, I think, be pleased and proud.

  • CBBC and CBeebies have announced their new season of programmes for their 10th anniversary year. Read more on the BBC Media Centre website.
  • There are more clips, photographs and BBC history on the BBC Story website.
  • Watch an archive clip from Blue Peter in 1986 in which Janet Ellis and Phillip Schofield explain how a broken stopwatch caused mayhem for the CBBC 'Broom Cupboard'
  • To mark the anniversary of CBBC and CBeebies, there's a collection of signature tunes will be published available to fathom out on the About the BBC AudioBoo account. Test your knowledge with the first clip.

The truth about older women and the BBC

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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson | 10:10 UK time, Thursday, 9 February 2012

Let's not mince words: those that say that the BBC has a case to answer about the way it treats older women on the air are right. We do.‬


We're hardly alone, of course. Look at any other broadcaster, at any advertising hoarding or some newspapers and you're likely to be confronted by an obsession with young women's faces and bodies and an ageism far more pronounced and disturbing than anything you'll ever see or hear on the BBC. You'll find plenty of photographs of older men - politicians, film stars, celebrities of one stripe or another - some handsome, some frankly a little gnarly. But you'll discover that older women are chiefly notable for their absence. ‬


By contrast, if you've been watching BBC drama and comedy in recent weeks, you would have caught Gillian Anderson, not just stealing the show in Great Expectations but rubbing shoulders in prime time with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, Sue Perkins, Penelope Keith as well as many of the best-known characters in EastEnders and our other popular serials. If factual programmes are your thing, you'll have found yourself bumping into the brilliant Mary Beard, not to mention Deborah Meaden, Anne Robinson, Alex Polizzi, Mary Berry and many, many more. Perhaps you think it's the BBC's news and current affairs output where the real dearth lies? Only if you overlook Kirsty Wark, Martha Kearney, Sarah Montague, Fiona Bruce, to name but a few.‬

A thoughtful critic of the BBC might accept that list. They might even accept that the BBC does a better job in this regard than other British broadcasters. But they might also go on to make two searching points. First, that there is an underlying problem, that - whatever the individual success stories - there are manifestly too few older women broadcasting on the BBC, especially in iconic roles and on iconic topical programmes. Second that, as the national broadcaster and one which is paid for by the public, the BBC is in a different class from everyone else, and that the public have every right to expect it to deliver to a higher standard of fairness and open mindedness in its treatment both of its broadcasters and its audiences. If the BBC isn't prepared to take this issue more seriously, what hope is there that others will start to do so?‬

I accept both of these arguments in full.‬

There has been a revolution at the BBC in recent years in the role women play in leadership positions. Of the twelve members of our Executive Board, five are female, all of them (and no, there isn't a completely satisfactory way of saying this) 'older' women. Critical BBC services - including both Radio 4 and BBC Two - are in the hands of exceptional women controllers. BBC News, once an almost entirely male management domain, is largely led by women.‬

But we've yet to see the same rate or scale of change on the air. In terms of interviewees on current affairs programmes like Question Time or Newsnight, it is a simple fact of life that many aspects of British national life are dominated by men. I believe these programmes do their best to find opportunities for women to appear, but David Dimbleby is right when he says that it would be wrong for the BBC to distort the reality of the distribution of power and influence in this country in the name of artificial gender balance. ‬

What is true, however, is that we have too few women in key news and current affairs presenting roles, especially when it comes to the big political interviews. Stephanie Flanders is doing an outstanding job for us as BBC Economics Editor but, again, too few of the most senior on-air specialist journalists at the BBC are women. That's why we're delighted to have recently appointed Allegra Stratton as Newsnight's Political Editor, though of course we gave her the job not because of her gender but simply because she was the best candidate‬.

I don't believe for a moment that the BBC is riven by sexism or ageism. As Ann Widdecombe commented last week, it's quite wrong to conclude that any replacement of an older woman by a younger one (or by a man) is automatically proof of prejudice; all sorts of factors come into place in creative and casting decisions. The public would be alarmed if the BBC did anything other than choosing presenters strictly on merit and regardless of sex or age.‬

Nonetheless, the Miriam O'Reilly case - she won an employment tribunal after being dropped from her presenting role on Countryfile - was an important wake-up for the whole BBC, one which I hope will mark a turning-point on our handling of this issue. Miriam has behaved with remarkable dignity and forbearance throughout, but she was not treated as she should have been by the BBC. We have a duty to ensure that no one has to go through a similar experience in the future. With others, Miriam has now launched a new charity to draw attention to and campaign about the role of women in the media. We will support her work in any way we can.‬

So what is to be done? First, we have to understand the extent and character of the problem. This is why, as Chairman of the industry body that looks at fairness and representation of every kind, I commissioned the report "Serving All Ages" which looked at British TV as a whole. Interestingly, it showed that issues of age were not front of mind for most members of the audience (quality of output, where the BBC scores very highly, was their top concern), and indeed that, of all age groups, it was the young rather than the old who tend to feel most unfairly and negatively portrayed by the broadcasters. But a significant minority of respondents - and not just older women themselves - did tell us that they felt that older women were 'invisible' on the airwaves. That perception, and the reality behind it, is what we have to change.‬

We must develop and cherish the many outstanding women broadcasters we already have and make sure they know that, like any employees and freelancers, age will not be a bar to their future employment by the BBC. Where we can, we should bring great female talent back to the BBC, as we're doing so successfully at the moment in Rip Off Britain 2012 with Angela Rippon, Julia Somerville and Gloria Hunniford. I am also pleased to see that Danny Cohen has announced plans today to bring Anneka Rice back to BBC One prime time. We should make sure every BBC editor and producer understands their role in helping us address this challenge.‬

This is an anomaly which has its roots deep in our national life and which cannot be solved overnight. Ann Widdecombe - who clearly enjoyed herself immensely on Strictly Come Dancing last autumn - is surely right when she warns against a knee-jerk or politically correct response to the issue. We shouldn't turf out other much loved and respected presenters and reporters in an attempt to achieve an instant fix, and no one (not least the older women in our audience) would thank us for doing so. ‬

We need to identify the talent and the opportunities over time. But we are determined to act and already, on the BBC News Channel, on BBC1 and on other services, we're beginning to see a difference. Progress over time by the BBC is important in itself and will, I believe, be welcomed by all our audiences, young as well as old. But I hope that it will also encourage other broadcasters and media players to follow suit.‬

Mark Thompson is Director General of the BBC‬ ‪‬

How the BBC Share Take Care campaign is supporting the Safer Internet Day 2012

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Martin Wilson | 16:47 UK time, Monday, 6 February 2012

A recent BBC survey commissioned for the BBC's Share Take Care campaign suggests that only 40% of young people are aware that personal information shared online stays online forever. Now think of the reported 250 million tweets generated everyday and combine it with what the 800 million Facebook users are sharing and you get an awful lot of personal information floating around the internet - and potentially staying there forever...

Sometimes in our rush to get to grips with the latest bit of online kit or app we forget to apply the common sense that we live by in the offline world with potentially embarrassing or even damaging results.

As part of BBC Learning's commitment to media literacy and in partnership with The UK Safer Internet Centre, the BBC's Share Take Care campaign is about helping everybody, from the CBeebies audience to the over 55s, giving them the skills and knowledge to make their online activity safer and protect their reputation on the web.

BBC Share Take Care Logo

Throughout the week, programmes across the BBC will be prompting conversations about the unintended consequences of over-sharing online and raising awareness about the little things you can do to manage your online reputation and help others manage theirs.

Inside Out kicked off the campaign by highlighting stories from around the UK on Monday while Panorama looked at the issue of cyberbullying.

On Tuesday, Safer Internet Day itself, Radio 5 Live, BBC local radio and BBC News Online will be carrying stories and features. BBC Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra presenters Scott Mills, Fearne Cotton, Greg James, Gemma Cairney and Tim Westwood will all be supporting the campaign during their shows with special features, including Westwood doing a 'safety rap' to a Biggie Smalls track. Listeners will also be able to play a new online game in which their choices affect the presenters' online reputations throughout the day. BBC News School Report students will be interviewing Richard Allan, Facebook's Head of Policy in Europe.

Don't miss the four special online episodes of the award-winning Horrible Histories on the CBBC website. Using their own distinctive brand of humour, the Horrible Histories team will raise a smile as well as awareness of the potential risks around over-sharing online while over on the CBeebies website the grown-ups blog will also feature information on internet safety. The ShareTakeCare website has a dedicated support section providing top tips and video clips to help you better understand and manage the risks - including a video from Meera Syal (below) who has seen firsthand her own child being bullied online.

In the online world the rules of engagement change as quickly as the technology. Therefore we must stay alert to the possible consequences of how we use technology and take a common sense approach to what we do online and how we help other people in our lives do the same. That is easier said than done and we can all do with a little guidance from time to time, so this week you can put a question to the 'ask an expert' panel on the https://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/parents-film.

BBC Learning is committed to helping people on their learning journeys to develop the skills and knowledge to fully participate in, and make the most of, this exciting and ever-changing online world.

So go on, use it, enjoy it and have fun with it. Share, but do take care.

Martin Wilson is Head of Media Literacy at the BBC
  • Submit your questions about how to keep your children safe online via the BBC Webwise blog.
  • Find out more about the BBC Share Take Care project via the Webwise website.
  • The wider Safer Internet Centre project has more information on using the internet safely and responsibly.

500 Words 2012 storywriting competition launched

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 17:12 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

2011 Winners

The Winners of 500 Words 2011

BBC Radio 2 Executive Producer Helen Thomas writes for the BBC Radio blog today launching the second annual 500 WORDS short story writing competition for children, In addition to naming the members of the already secured judging panel including Dame Jame Jacqueline Wilson, Chalie Higson and David Walliams, she also shares BBC Radio 2 breakfast show host Chris Evans' experience presenting the programme in which the 2011 winners featured.

Chris Evans described it as one of the most moving programmes he's ever been involved in - and the reaction the show received via text and email really did bear that out.

We had truckers telling us they had pulled over at the side of the road in floods of tears, people unable to leave the house until they heard how a particular story concluded, and kids that were refusing to get out of the car at school, because they wanted to know which tale could possibly top the one they had just heard!

It was a very different Radio 2 Breakfast Show that the nation woke up to that morning, but it was one we were all immensely proud to have been involved in.

Read the rest of this entry on the BBC Radio Blog

  • Find out more about the competition on the 500 Words website.
  • Read some of the stories submitted to last year's competition.

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