At the end of the month NNBC radio becomes N Live radio – the station’s new manager Shelly Stevenson describes what brought her to the county…
I first fell in love with radio when I was five. My Mom got me a small reel to reel recorder. I think she sent away cereal box tops for it, that’s what you do in the States. Instead of getting a decoder ring, or a mysterious code reading film I got this small toy (but functional) recorder.
What do you do when you have the opportunity to record? You make up stories and, naturally, pretend you are on the radio. It was fabulous. I developed a real interest in telling stories on radio.
And I wasn’t afraid of hearing my own voice. Some would say I developed a taste for it!
Fast forward to High School in Sebastopol California, a particularly creative place. We had a form of radio station, theatre was a big deal, and some alumni had gone on to Hollywood. Like most teenage girls, I had decided to be an actress – and that decision changed my life. An argument with my mother about this career destination meant that I had to leave home before I graduated High School. I did graduate – but while sofa surfing at a friend’s.
After graduating High School, I ended up in a New Monastic community (though not called that then) in Santa Rosa as part of the Jesus Movement. I was, for all intents and purposes, sort of a novice – and the concept of acting in any capacity (even legitimate theatre) was thought of as an offer from the dark side. Living in the community meant I had to live by their rules – so – no acting– no way, no how.
After some time, I was asked to leave because I wanted to date a ‘heathen’ as well.
I married that particular guy and immediately had a daughter. So immediate – it was nine months to the day after the ceremony.
After this detour of a few years, I found out about a group who were starting a community radio station based in something that looked very much like a cupboard. I heard that they needed ‘Tech Ops’ – people to run the desk while the presenters were on reel to reel or cart. This would mean working in the middle of the night – all alone in that cupboard.
I loved the idea of working in radio so I jumped at the chance.
My glamourous position of Tech Op meant that I also noted the output of the transmitter, which took up most of the space in the closet, on a clipboard at 1am and 4am. For this midnight monitoring of equipment I needed an FCC Broadcasting license. I applied, got it and knew that I was (technically) a broadcaster from that moment.
I graduated from ‘Tech Op’ to news reader. News from the wire service would print on the telex (really – it was that long ago) and the news reader would read selected stories on air.
The first time I ever said anything live on air was on KCLB in Santa Rosa. It was a story about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I don’t remember what the story was at all, just that ‘Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial’ was really difficult to say.
I was hooked. I didn’t come to news from an interest in it – quite honestly I was young and only interested in me – but being on air had the same buzz as acting on stage. You were live – and anything could happen. And because I was new – it often did. Once I managed to take us off air by leaning on the wrong thing. Now that gets your heart racing too.
A couple of years after this and I ended up in Belgium working with the American Army – my husband was in the forces there. I worked on the US Armed Forces Network producing and presenting a weekly news show called ‘The Benelux Agenda’, a news feature show that involved interviewing local people. Because I was at SHAPE, ‘local’ meant people from most of the NATO countries – all in one place. I loved it.
I always wanted to find out what makes people tick. Being a journalist was the best way having a legitimate reason for being nosy.
We moved to Brussels to work with NATO – and while there I worked at the wire service based at the American Embassy.
Another life change – the heathen husband and I split up.
By some weird chance and the internet, I ended up at Heart working as Showbiz Shelly Bell on the Cox and Bumfrey breakfast show. It was three brilliant years and fabulous fun. Hannah Cox and Stephen Bumfrey were great to work with and so good at what they do. So funny, too – once I understood what irony was.
At the same time I was working for various other stations; creating programmes for production companies, or working direct. I was furiously busy – and constantly on the move. I was in my element until one day, about 16 or so years ago, every single contract and bit of radio work that I had – within a space of a month – all went away.
People moved, situations changed, the station’s audience changed – it was all gone.
After a week or two of mourning – because really – it felt like that! I saw an ad in a local paper. They were looking for someone to work with a community radio group.
It was the perfect antidote – I loved the blend of community group and community voice.
A brief moment out to be the Programme Manager for a DAB station, then onwards to developing Community Radio stations and training the groups to run then. I fell into lecturing for Broadcast Journalism and Media production at Coventry University – and with all of the weird and wonderful strands of my chaotic and disparate life, it made sense to work for the Northampton Community Radio Station, NNBC – now Nlive.
All because I loved the idea of telling stories – and possibly the sound of my own voice.
All of that led me to NLive to work with a creative family of presenters and producers, those on air and off. The University owned radio station that wants to connect all of the bits of Northampton together – like a very colourful multi-media creation.
What could be better?