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JZ's Diary

Head of BBC Radio Scotland, Jeff Zycinski, with a sneak preview of programme plans and a behind-the-scenes glimpse of his life at the helm.

Photograph of Jeff Zycinski.
  1. Queen Margaret Drive

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 30 Jun 07, 11:53 PM

    Today I found myself back at Queen Margaret Drive in Glasgow, having been invited to give a short talk to my colleagues in the Gaelic department. I took the opportunity to walk through the newsroom which has now been vacated by the radio team. It was good to see one familiar face. James Cook - working for television today - spotted me wandering aimlessly through the empty desks and called me over for a chat.

    Then later, I received an e-mail from Scotland at Ten presenter, Colin MacKay, who was also feeling a little nostalgic about our old H.Q. He's given me permission to reproduce his thoughts here:

    " I first entered the portals of BH Gw in, I think, 1958 or 59 when, in my early teens, I came to be a boy actor with Kathleen Garscadden in Children's Hour on the Scottish Home Service. This course of action had been suggested to me by a TV designer whom I met in his Portakabin office near the West Gate, as the contractors were putting up the extension to the original QM College building. My careers master at school the other side of the Botanic Gardens was a friend of his, and the upshot was the designer said I should try hands-on broadcasting to see if I wanted to make it my career.

    Some days later, I nervously auditioned before Iain Cuthbertson, Effie Morrison, Bryden Murdoch, Leonard Maguire and other then repertory acting luminaries who were preparing for that night's programme. Kathleen smiled and said she thought I'd "do" … and I did Children's Hour on-and-off for four or five years before university and then 25 years of ITV took me away from all that.

    So, to return in 1992 to the scene of my childhood training and the affirmation of my desire to be a broadcaster, and to resume working in the medium I had started in, seemed a most natural progression.

    I will leave here tonight with very mixed feelings - excitement, obviously, about the brand-new experience of PQ but also great affection for this auld place. The intimacy of radio, its ability to create panoramic pictures in the mind by the use of words and sounds and silences - I had the privilege of realising its potential a long time ago in this very building."

    Well said Colin and if you want to have your old stroll through the old building then you can double-click on this little You Tube film. I'm still being asked about the ghosts that are said to wander the corridors...maybe you'll spot them yourself.

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  1. It's An Umbrella

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 28 Jun 07, 02:35 PM

    Clare English

    Apologies for the technical fault which have allowd this entry to sit blank for a couple of days. It was originally meant to include photographs from the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, pointing out how useful our branded umbrellas had been when the rain came down.

    Not that the blank space prevented a couple of you from commenting! Maybe there's a lesson there for me.

    Anyway, all being well, you should now be able to see a lovely photograph of our Book Cafe presenter Clare English.

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  1. Facebook Sluts

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 27 Jun 07, 11:40 PM

    Talking to our staff in Ednburgh yesterday I revealed that I had recently signed up for Facebook because everyone one else in the BBC seemed to be on it and I thought I might be missing out.

    The trouble is, I went on to say, I’m not actually sure what you’re supposed to do on Facebook. I keep getting invites from colleagues asking me to be their friend…and one senior manager at BBC Scotland posted a message on my “wall” poking fun at me for not having enough friends.

    This is online humiliation….it’s like those days when you’d get on the bus for the school trip and no one wanted to sit beside you. (Sorry…I’m trying to move on from these issues but they keep coming back to haunt me).

    Well, staff in Edinburgh are so switched on to all this internet wizardry and one of them - Lucy Adam - explained to me that I really shouldn’t accept every online friendship invitation because I would get the reputation for being a "Facebook Slut".

    What a wonderful insult. It tried it out a few times…spitting the words out with unwarranted venom. Then hissing it slyly from the corner of my mouth.

    It got me thinking that the world wide web must have thrown up a whole new vocabulary of cyberspace putdowns.

    Are there Google Whores out there? Or You Tube Creeps? E-Bay Spivs?

    Please let me know.

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  1. Out Of My Shell

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 27 Jun 07, 11:39 PM

    Jeff Zycinski & Gareth Hydes in Rogano

    One of Glasgow’s most famous restaurants is the Rogano Oyster Bar, just off Buchanan Street. Its Art Déco frontage had always appealed to me but, until last night, I had never once stepped foot in the place. Frankly, its reputation had intimidated me and, well, I had heard it was quite a pricey place to eat. Nor, for that matter, had I ever tasted oysters. Where I grew up, oysters were rarely on the menu. Whelks, yes. Oysters, no.

    Then, late yesterday afternoon, I was in Edinburgh, having a meeting with Richard Melvin from Dabster productions, when I suddenly remembered I had to catch the train back to Glasgow to rendezvous with Gareth Hydes from Children In Need. Gareth’s actual job title is difficult to remember, but let’s just say he’s Pudsey Bear’s enforcer. (Well when you’re bright yellow with impaired vision, you need some muscle to back you up.) Anyway, I threw on my jacket and made for the door.

    “Tell you what,” said Richard, “I’ll come with you.” Now, you may think Richard is just a wild, free-spirited sort of guy, but in fact he had an ulterior motive. No sooner had we boarded the train than he produced an iPod and made me listen to highlights of Real American Folk…the series he made in New York with Dean Friedman. It's sounding good.

    And so, an hour later, the three of us were standing in Queen Street station and Richard – clearly influenced by his recent jaunt across the Atlantic - suggested we try the Rogano. He’d never been there before and neither had Gareth. Yes, you can see I run with a sophisticated crowd.

    We walked into the Rogano. I half-expected to be turned away at the door, but we made it past the threshold without even a raised eyebrow from the man on the door. It was smaller than I had imagined, but the wooden booths and thirties styling didn’t disappoint. It was modelled after the interior of the Queen Mary, apparently, but It was like being in Manhattan during the era of James Thurber and Dorothy Parker.

    We shared a bottle of chilled white wine, a big plate of oysters and in no time at we had sorted out the problems of the world and I suddenly developed psychic powers. Yup, in an amazing display which surely astounded everyone around me, I pointed to one of the waiters and said “You’re Polish aren’t you?”

    I should point out that this was before he had spoken a word to us.

    “Yes, I am….” He admitted, “and are you also…?”

    I nodded then flashed by BBC Security card like it was an FBI badge to confirm my identity. I then gave him the English and Polish pronunciations of my name…then my Dad’s life story and, for good measure, my views on Polish players in Scottish football teams.

    The prices? Cheaper than some of the new restaurants in Inverness, which was reason for celebration and another bottle of chilled wine. I’m sure Richard uttered the words “this is all on me” but he now denies this.

    And those oysters?

    They tasted just like big whelks.

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  1. The Truth About Richard Marvin

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 26 Jun 07, 12:16 AM

    Richard Melvin

    I'm in Edinburgh this morning for the monthly staff briefing. Lots of exciting things to talk about. The last set of Rajar figures were good and I'm trying to recruit producers and researchers to join our Big Think about future programmes and services.

    I also have to talk about our podcasting plans and a special project we've cooked up for this year's Children In Need appeal.

    And later, a meeting with Richard Melvin, supremo of Dabster productions and the man behind our forthcoming series with Dean Friedman.

    Except that Richard also goes under the name of Richard Marvin and I'm going to try to persuade him to let me tell you the story of his secret identity.

    In fact I might offer to donate a tenner to Children In Need if he volunteers to spill the beans himself.

    Watch this space.


    Ah yes, the emotional blackmail worked a treat. Richard confessed that he uses the Marvin name to call up BBC Radio Scotland programmes and take part in quizzes. He says he developed this habit just after he quit smoking. But here's the really sad part: so far he hasn't won any prizes.

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  1. Lost In Jazz

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 25 Jun 07, 11:37 PM

    Sushil  Dade

    To the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow this evening, where Sushil Dade is producing the very first BBC Radio Scotland Young Jazz Musician of the year competition. He offers to give a me a tour of the backstage area but gets completely lost in the maze of corridors.

    “We should have left a trail of breadcrumbs, “ I tell him.
    “You wont write about this on your blog will you?”
    “That depends..”
    “On what?”
    “On whether we ever get out of here and see our homes and families again”

    The event itself turns out to be another fantastic night of live music. It’s almost a full house as our Jazz House presenter, Stephen Duffy, introduces the six finalists and most of them still in their teens. They offer a range of performances that includes piano, alto saxophone and vocals, but I’m particulary impressed by drummer Doug Hough. There’s such a blur of activity on the skins that I’m convinced he has three hands with two sticks in each fist.

    The judges, chaired by Dave Batchelor, agonise over their decision and finally proclaim pianist Alan Benzie as the winner.

    He comes on to the stage, I shake his hand and give him his certificate and £500 cheque.

    “Er…what do I do now?” he asks.

    “Just play,” says Dave, and so he does….to a rousing reception from the audience which tells us that judges got it right.

    Stephen Duffy and Alan Benzie

    Sushil appears and offers to show me the way out of the building.

    If you don’t hear from me soon, follow the trail of crumbs.

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  1. Mary Ann And Bunnyboy

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 24 Jun 07, 05:58 PM

    From Arizona, U.S.A comes an e-mail from my friend Mary Ann telling me she's going to be on the radio. It was Mary Ann who inspired me to begin this blog on the BBC Scotland website, so of course I'm curious that she's now venturing into broadcasting. Or narrowcasting, actually.

    Mary Ann

    It turns out she was making a guest apperance on the twice-weekly dj bunnyboy podcast. Now, before today, I had never heard of this show but I clicked on this link supplied by Mary Ann and found myself hooked for almost two hours on what sounded like a conference call between close friends. It had that kind of voyeuristic appeal. Audio blogging, if you like.

    dj bunnyboy

    I mention this because, after more than a year of trials, the BBC has finally been given the go-ahead to launch a series of official podcasts. The BBC Radio Scotland downloadable programmes will kick off at the end of July and early August and will feature highlights from our existing output.

    But in the U.S., it seems, things are moving at a much faster pace with amateur podcasts being gathered and scheduled under umbrella websites and individual hosts, presenters and d.j.'s building their own fan base and cult following.

    Yet for all the current buzz around user generated content and citizen journalism, the research I've seen indicates that very few people actually go to the bother of creating video or audio content.

    Most prefer to watch or listen to the stuff that's put out there by other people. Those of us who merely post a comment on a blog or message board are still in the minority compared to those who simply read, view or listen.

    Will that change in the future? I'd ask you to tell me, but statistics suggest that most of you wont.

    But don't let that stop you!

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  1. Signing On

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 24 Jun 07, 05:45 PM

    Regular diary reader, Al Issener (which sounds like a makey-up name, but is probably traceable on one of those clan heritage computers you see in tourist shops) seems to share my love of signs and posters.

    Sign near Broxden

    This particular example, he tells me, was spotted on a farm just south of the Broxden roundabout.

    Taken at face value, it suggests that farmers are coming up with wonderful ways to make a fast buck out of, well, a fast buck. On the other hand, it could be a satirical comment on the mass media.

    Think of it as the slogan for a pay-per-view TV channel and you'll catch my drift.

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  1. Highland Games

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 23 Jun 07, 11:02 PM

    A proud (but damp) day for the Zed family as we headed for the Bught Park in Inverness for the junior Highland games. Ten schools from as far apart as Skye and Sutherland were taking part and our 12 year old daughter was competing in two track events and the tug o' war..

    Well, not only did she win one of her races outright, but her school team triumphed in the entire competition. The smile on her face as she held up the trophy for the official photograph more than made up for the five hours I had to sit in the rain, waiting for Mrs Zed to turn up with a flask of hot coffee.

    Not that she had been shrinking from her parental responsibilities. On the contrary, she had been braving the elements herself while our 10 year old son was at football training on the other side of town. He, in fact, received a medal last week for his efforts in the school team.

    So, as the end of the school year approaches it was time to reflect on the decision we made last year to relocate from Glasgow to Inverness. As you can imagine, it was the worries about our childrens' disrupted schooling and broken friendships that had preyed on our minds.

    But it seems to have worked out. Two great report cards, lots of new friends and now we have a Highland Games champion in the family.

    Who would have predicted that?

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  1. I'll Be The Judge Of That

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 22 Jun 07, 04:28 PM

    Lately I've been asked to judge a number of competitions. This week I've been selecting photographs for a photography competition and I'm also one of several judges for the Burnsong song-writing competition.

    In both case I protested to the organisers that I know very little about either photography of song-writing. In both cases they dismissed such protests and said something along the lines that they were keen on the amateur point of view.

    It has been good fun, mind you. For the photography competition I only had to make a choice from a shortlist of eight images. I chose two that I thought told a story.

    The Burnsong process is more complicated. The competiton attract hundreds of entries, but, in the early stages, each judge is given five CDs and asked to listen to just one hundred different tracks. I started this two weeks ago, made my initial shortlist of ten songs and have spent this week listening to those again and writing up my reasons for each choice .

    There have been some wonderful songs on those CD's and I just hope most of my final choices make it through to the next stage.

    I'll tell you more when I'm allowed to reveal all.

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  1. The Longest Day

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 21 Jun 07, 11:47 AM

    I was waving at Fred MacAulay through the studio glass in Inverness this morning, but I just couldn't get his attention. He was up north to film some sequences for a forthcoming TV series and therefore presented his morning show from our studios here. I managed to grab a quick word with him after the show and we compared notes about the weather conditions on the A9 last night. Awash it was. It was, of course, The Longest Day today and I loved Fred's explanation for filming on a day when you get maximum daylight.

    "If you've ever seen how long it takes me to record a thirty second piece to camera, " he said, "you'll know why the producers need all the daylight they can get."

    Then at lunchtime I headed up to Bogbain Farm on the outskirts of the city. The fram is now a family adventure centre owned by friend and fiddler Bruce MacGregor. Every month they have a ladies' luncheon with a guest speaker. Bruce had asked me to talk about my job as well as my reasons for relocating to Inverness. I think I coped with most of the subsequent questions, but was slightly taken aback when someones asked me if I get paid for doing these kind of talks.

    "Do you think anyone would pay me for this kind of performance?" I asked her, and I could see that the rest of the audience agreed I had barely earned my free lunch.

    For the record, I'm not allowed to accept payment for such talks, but I if organisers offer a fee I usually ask them if they'll consider making a donation to Children In Need.

    Across our programmes Tom Morton was popping up from his home in Shetland where, of course, they had more daylight than anywhere else in Britain. Tom also hosted a special edition of his afternoon show from the waterside at Lerwick and the lives music was terrific.

    Tom was still going strong when I heard him on Archie Fisher's programme later that night and when both were comparing notes about their favourite piece of traditional music, I was completely persuaded by Tom's choice of Margaret's Waltz.

    The version played by Aly Bain, is simply beautiful and a wonderful end to a long day.

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  1. Off The Rails

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 20 Jun 07, 12:02 PM

    What a night! I wasn't sure I was going to get home alive. The trouble started at Perth train station. Once again the service from Glasgow Queen Street arrived minutes late so they wouldn't hold the connecting train to Inverness.

    Once again, without apology, passengers were herded together and told to wait until taxis could be organised. I've endured this nightmare trip twice this year so my heart sank when a saloon car pulled up and they told us that three of us would have to squeeze in the back.

    I caused a fuss...calls were made...a people carrier arrived and I got in beside three American backpackers.

    But before we could set off, more taxis arrived outside the station and there was a foul-mouthed exchange of views between the drivers and the man from First Scotrail. All witnessed by the American tourists, of course.

    Then we set off up the A9 where rain and fog didn't deter our driver from exceeeding trhe speed limit and over-taking at the very limits of the dual carrigeway stretches.

    Still, I had a great conversation with one of the backpackers who introduced himself as Chris Oliver from Georgia. He had just graduated in business administration and he and his companions were spending 21 days touring Europe. They'd allocated one day for the north of Scotland and were determined to see Loch Ness. He showed me the scars on his arms - surgery after baseball injuries - and I fielded his various questions:

    Chris: Do you guys believe in the Loch Ness Monster?
    Me: No.
    Chris: Are there wolves roaming wild here?
    Me: No.
    Chris: Killer snakes?
    Me: Not really.
    Chris: Where can I buy a farmer's bunnet?..

    Actually I was a bit more expansive that my answers here suggest, but it was interesting to view Scotland through the eyes of a tourist. Apparently the dollar exchange rate is really hurting their budget, so I suggested a few restaurants in Inverness that wouldn't break the bank...including the famous Castle "snacker" on Castle Street.

    And yes, Chris did want to sample haggis. Don't they all?

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  1. Lamont's Still Smokin'

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 18 Jun 07, 01:51 PM

    Lamont Howie

    My old chum and former colleague Lamont Howie has launched a blog, detailing his attempts to quit smoking.

    Lamont now works for BBC Radio Stoke and, as you know, England is preparing for the ban on smoking in public places that Scotland adopted more than a year ago. All the same arguments are being rehearsed and, like Lamont, many nictotine junkies are using the ban as another good reason to give up the ciggies.

    A lot of people have been asking me about Lamont lately, mainly because of one of the videos we posted on the bbcradioscotland You Tube site. Lamont organised all the outside broadcasts we staged as part of the station's 25th birthday celebrations and, in the video of those events, he's the only person who actually gets to speak.

    He says one word - his own name - and that's because we originally had an introduction to that video but Lamont kept fluffing his lines and getting angry with himself.

    I think that was the day he started on the fags.

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  1. Boleskine House

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 18 Jun 07, 01:32 PM

    We had some vistors staying with us this weekend - Shona trained it from Glasgow and Catriona flew in from London - but the weather let us down badly. We had wanted to show off all this glorious Highland scnery we'd been boring on about for months, but rain sent the family scurrying into the local bowling arcade. Mrs Z. won, in case you're interested.

    Then, last night, the weather cleared slightly and we managed a trip down to Dores so that Catriona could take photographs by the shores of Loch Ness to prove to her London friends that she'd actually been to Scotland.

    Having done that we piled back in the car and heading along the single track road towards Foyers. It was then I remembered we'd be passing Boleskine House and graveyard and, as the sun began to set, I raked my memory to piece toghether the basic story of Aliester Crowley. Crowley, I recalled, had bought Boleskine House just before the end of the 19th centrury so that he could perfom some kind of occult ritual. He later sold the house to fund the publication of his book, but Boleskine has remained the source of many a spooky tale. It was once owned by Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin fame, but is now a private residence and visitiors are not encouraged. Of course, as we neared the gatehouse of Boleskine I couldn't resist pretending the car was developing engine trrouble and that we might be stranded on this eerie spot until rescued by the AA... or the angels.

    Well, at least I thought it was funny.

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  1. Desperate Fishwives

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 15 Jun 07, 12:37 AM

    Coming soon to BBC Radio Scotland.....

    Desperate Fishwives

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  1. The Rain Cam' Poorin' Oot O' Ma Breeks, But Och I Didna Care

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 14 Jun 07, 10:03 PM

    Cameron Stout

    This summer we've asked Cameron Stout to host a short series of programmes in which we'll invite listeners to nominate their top 100 favourite Scottish traditional tunes. The series is being produced in our Aberdeen studios from where researcher Matt Ludlow e-mailed me to ask if I might help start the ball rolling by suggesting three personal favourites and explaining the reasons for my choice.

    Now, this isn't as easy as it seems because you start to second-guess yourself and even wonder if the tunes you have in mind are actually Scottish at all.

    Take Highland Cathedral, for instance. I have a vivid memory of this being performed by the Bathgate Brass Band, accompanied by a lone piper, in the very first edition of Let's do the Show Right Here. I'd like to nominate that tune, but everyone knows it was composed by two Germans. Does it qualify?

    Then there are songs from Scotland's great music hall tradition. When the Alexander Brothers had a hit with Nobody's Child, they recorded Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl on the b-side. I can still sing that song off- by-heart and it always conjurs up childhood memories of Christmas and Hogmanay.

    But if I had to plump for one tune that I always find haunting and emotional it would have to be The Dark Isle.

    If you'd like to cast your own vote then just follow this link. In just over a month we'll be revealing the top five favourite Trad tunes.

    Meanwhile, I'm available for parties and weddings.

    Oh she's a fine wee lass, a bonnie wee lass, was bonnie wee Jeannie McColl.....

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  1. It's A Sign, I Tell You

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 13 Jun 07, 09:57 PM

    Last night I was sitting in the rooftop restaurant of the BBC's H.Q. at Paicific Quay when I suddently found myself being introduced to Steven Purcell, the Leader of Glasgow City Council. Stumped for small-talk, all I could think of was to congratulate him on the massive poster that now adorns the old Post Office building in George Square. The poster is part of Glasgow's bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

    Commonwealth Games bid

    Of course, first thing this morning I thought of all sorts of brilliant and witty things I could have said, but it was too late. Besides, the truth is I am weirdly fascinated by posters and advertising. Why, only the other day I found myself speculating about some of the characters we came to know and love from TV adverts. I like to imagine they're all having fun in a rest-home for fictional advertising folk. Picture the scene as the original Captain Birdseye shares saucy sea stories with the original Milky Bar Kid. Or what if the action hero who delivered chocolates in those old Milk Tray ads is now morbidly obese, having gorged himself on mountains of soft centres.

    But I digress.

    I see Glasgow City Council have developed a new scheme to tackle illegal fly-posters. They've ben slapping "cancelled" stickers over posters recent music festivals. I'm not sure this will work. Music fans will soon decide that a "cancelled" sticker is simply the work of council killjoys and promoters will soon see this stamp of authority as an edgy status symbol .

    But if you really want something to be upset about then consider the sign that has disgraced the wall outside Glasgow's central station for many a decade. I've always thought of this as blatant prejudice against shy and modest vehicles.
    Be warned; only gregarious cars seem to be welcome in Glasgow.

    sign at Central Station

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  1. Now Everyone's A Critic

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 11 Jun 07, 04:41 PM

    I got a call from Ailsa Macintosh this morning, confirming plans for a new competition which will see our Movie Cafe programme team up with The Scotsman newspaper and the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

    Essentially listeners will get the chance to write their own review of a film - either good or bad.

    "So what's the worst film you've ever seen?" I asked Ailsa, who, as one of our bright and cheery Senior Producers, clearly doesn't entertain such negative thoughts and had trouble coming up with an instant answer. I, on the other hand, have a brain ful of bile and was able to list my worst choice movies with ease.

    "Bram Stoker's Dracula, " I told her, "closely followed by Titanic and then Pearl Harbour."

    I explained my theory that a bad film is one where the story ends but the movie continues for another hour.

    That could be said of the recent Pirates of the Caribbean flick, but at least that looked as if everyone involved was having a damn good time. It was difficult not to get caught up in the collective enthusiasm on display. It was like watching kids play an elaborate dressing-up game.

    Of course, not everyone agrees. If you want a masterclass in film reviewing you could do worse than look at this video of Mark Kermode....who doesn't cut Johnny Depp and chums a lot of slack.

    P.S. The link to the entry form is here

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  1. Exotic Highland Dancing

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 9 Jun 07, 04:29 PM

    Nairn Dancers

    Listening to John Beattie on Sports Weekly this morning would have brought a swell of pride to any Highlander. John was in conversation with "shinty guru" Hugh Dan MacLennan and each seemed to be trying to trump each other with descriptions of the wonderful Highland landscape, wildlife, weather and the multitude of sporting and music events available to anyone heading up the A9 to Inverness this weekend. Those included, of course, the Camanachd Cup and the Rockness festival at Dores.

    Which doesn't explain why the Zed family decided, en masse, to get out of town and head for the seafront at Nairn. Until, that is, you realise that the bandstand there was the venue for yet more Highland 2007 antics, including a quite memorable display of belly-dancing which left onlookers- men, women, children even dogs - open-mouthed with appreciation.

    dog at Nairn

    I had actually been thinking of taking up belly-dancing myself, after hearing an inspirational report on the subject from BBC Radio Orkney reporter Dave Gray.
    What held me back - apart from two burly men in white coats - was the fear that my physique might not be best suited to public exposure.

    Now I'm convinced I could stomach it.

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  1. Rock And (Filled) Roll

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 7 Jun 07, 08:35 PM

    Now here's something you don't see every night of the week in Inverness. Presenter Vic Galloway and his producer Muslim Alim caught sitting in the BBC car park munching their way through some sissy picnic snacks.

    "Not very rock 'n' roll," Vic admitted.

    Both are up north for the weekend of live music that's avaialble as part of the Go North and Rock Ness events. In fact, I've just been listening to Vic present his Radio 1 show from the Inverness studios.

    He's back on BBC Radio Scotland tomorrow night with his Most Wanted show.

    If I remember, I'll take him in a Scotch egg.

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  1. The Lengths We'll Go To

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 7 Jun 07, 08:21 PM

    "Tell me Jeff, " said the man in the hotel, "do you think length is important?"

    To explain, I was in the Presidential Room at the Ramada Jarvis hotel in Inverness, taking part in a session organised as part of the Go North event. I was on a panel of commissioners which included colleagues from the BBC and an Entertainment commissioner from Channel 4.

    The conference room was packed out and the chap who asked me the question about length was of course talking about the duration of programmes. That didn't prevent an outbreak of sniggers and some tasteless story about pornography told by, well, me actually.

    Things got back on an even keel when the discussion moved on to the support of new talent and live music and as the session ended I was approached by a charming lady called Lynda Henderson who told me about the work of Radio Fyneside in Argyll.

    Three of the other panel members had come armed with DVD and Powerpoint presentations. As usual it took forever to get the audio visual equipment working so I was glad I'd decided to wing it.

    In these cases the projector always works but the laptop fails. I must develop a presentation that relies only on hand shadows.

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  1. Jan Byrne And The Wallbirds

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 6 Jun 07, 10:22 PM

    Producer Jan Byrne reluctantly agreed to front our latest You Tube film as she talked about life behind-the-scenes at The Highland Cafe.

    The programme is produced in Inverness and is heard in the north of Scotland live on Wednesdays then repeated across the country of Friday evenings.

    The week's programme featured a live session from a trio called The Wallbirds. The band comprises three cousins who got together just six months ago but have already secured a recording contract. The Wallbirds are also playing at Rock Ness this weekend.

    Their jaunty melodies belie some dark imagery within the lyrics and they're my tip for the top....which of course means the kiss of death.

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  1. Search For SoundTown 5

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 5 Jun 07, 04:59 PM

    Siobhan Gault

    Producers and researchers from our Radio Events team are on the road this week, making a final decision about our next SoundTown school. All will be revealed by the end of this month, but the school will be in either Perthshire, Dundee or Angus.

    Meanwhile, our existing SoundTown school - Kelso High - is at the centre of plans for a big finale event which will coincide with the town's Civic Week in July.

    If you're interested in the origin of this project, which involves building a radio studio within a school, then there are three short films now on our associated You Tube site. The films were made with the staff and pupils of Doon Academy in Dalmellington, way back in 2003.

    Doon Academy

    The films are now an interesting part of our archive and I'm guessing that most of the pupils featured in the video will have moved onto to bigger things, but it would be interesting to go back there and find out.

    The films also feature guest appearances from the likes of Tam Cowan, Gary Robertson, Gavin Esler and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

    Gavin, in particular, was very eloquent about the importance of the BBC being involved with community projects, but I think his efforrts to chair a transatlantic discussion between two groups of pupils was as challenging as anything he's had to cope with on Newsnight.

    Gavin Esler

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  1. Jennifer, Jeremy And The Future Of Radio

    • Jeff Zycinski
    • 1 Jun 07, 05:16 PM

    Amazing how the connections we make on the web can prove so fruitful. Today I was asked to speak to the BBC's Audience Council for Scotland as members gathered for a meeting in Inverness. It was chaired by BBC Trustee Jeremy Peat and I was asked to talk about those "hard to reach" audiences, including younger people.

    I have to confess I relied heavily on the dialogue I've been having with Jennifer Jones, one of the media students who took part in our recent election day programme. Jennifer is deeply immersed in the future possibilies of Web 2.0 and social networking. She recently let me read her dissertation on the subject.

    I cited her as an example of an audience member who now had so much media to choose from and was just as interested in providing content as she is in consuming it.

    The presentation seemed to go well and the Audience Council members appeared really engaged and excited by the thought that audio content from radio stations could be reconfigured and made available in online zones for specific sections of the audience. I also suggested that radio broadcasters would have to engage with the whole nature of social networking, so that the content acts as a stimulus for communication between listeners.

    As an added bonus I produced this photograph of Jennifer - one she had posted recently on her own blog.

    There was a bit of a stunned silence at that point.

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