Thursday 5 November 2015

Task 61: Do a live interview on BBC Radio Sussex

Let me begin this post by saying that even just writing the title has caused a little whoosh in my heart rate. Bear with me whilst I take you back very briefly to my childhood and adolescence.

As I remember it, I was quite confident during childhood. Someone needed to do a reading in school assembly? Tick. Leading role in Wind in the Willows? Tick.  Piano solo at Christmas concert......and so on. Then I moved into my teens and suddenly I grew like Topsy on speed.  With that unexpected growth, not to mention frizzy hair (no hair-straighteners in those days) and breakouts, came chronic self-consciousness (comments like 'Are't you TALL Vivien!!' and 'When are you going to hit the ceiling?' from well-intentioned adults didn't help) and my days of performing in front of an audience were over.

Or so I thought. But when I started training to become a psychotherapist and then went on to study for a PhD, presentations and teaching became part of the brief. And oh how I hated it!! I would do anything to avoid standing up in front of people and talking to a sea of faces, and I became very skilled at avoiding such situations.  When it came to drawing up the list of sixtyat60 tasks, I did wonder about including a task in the Facing Fears section where I would have to do some kind of presentation or speech. But I chickened out....

I was into the fourth month of my challenge when Alzheimer's Research UK decided to do a press release on my antics. I held my breath and started planning some avoidance strategies. One inquiry came through from Splash FM, after which the story appeared to go cold, and I breathed again. Then all of a sudden I was contacted by Fiona Paris, a producer at BBC Radio Sussex (word on the street is that she was tipped off by my saxophone teacher Sarah) and I was invited to their Brighton studios last Tuesday for - wait for it - a live interview.  AARRGGHH........all my old self-consciousness surfaced, my heart rate soared and for a moment I was tempted to say 'Oh such a shame, I'm busy that day and for the rest of my life'. But then I thought of how much this interview would mean for Alzheimer's Research UK. How could I turn down the opportunity to raise their profile and potentially increase funds?  And so I emailed back to Fiona in a faux-relaxed way saying 'Yes I'm free, thank you for inviting me.'       

I arrived at Radio Sussex studios last Tuesday afternoon with my heart sitting in my mouth and my stomach clenched to the size of a pickled walnut. I thought of the kinds of strategies that I might suggest to a client faced with an anxiety-provoking situation:

a) identify someone whom I think would be confident in this situation and act as if I'm them

b) smile (yes, I know that sounds cliched and ridiculous, but believe it or not, it is a tried and tested CBT technique, especially for social anxiety!)

c) picture all the nice things I'd do after the interview - take the dogs for a walk across the forest, have a large glass of chilled sauvignon blanc at the pub, visit the Jerwood Gallery.... 

So I entered the hallowed Radio Sussex studios, smiling away like mad and telling myself I was confident pre-teenager Vivien. What I quickly discovered was that the presenter Joe Talbot was not only very well informed about what I was doing and why (that made so much difference), but he was also extremely skilled at asking the right questions and helping me believe that it was just him and me having a chat, albeit one where we had to wear headphones, which did feel quite strange. Here's a photo of Joe (ignore chef in background - nothing to do with me).

The interview passed surprisingly quickly. I was aware of continuing to feel very anxious, but the anxiety seemed happy to sit quietly tying reef knots in my stomach, and it didn't affect my breathing and talking. I was given plenty of opportunities to highlight Alzheimer's Research UK and Joe also promoted it magnificently. I was asked about various tasks. I admitted to having just had the tiny tattoo done. I explained about Arthur the corn snake. I described the disastrous Anna Ternheim weekend. I identified the saxophone task as my nemesis. And I left the studio having presented Radio Sussex with a jar of Mrs Hunot's crab apple jelly.  

In the past I've tended to engage in a long and critical post mortem after doing a presentation (why did I say this? why didn't I mention that?), so when I arrived home I took the dogs for a brisk long walk across the forest, I got Andrew to take me out for a pub supper (large glass of SB a given) and I had a very fine debriefing pub lunch the next day with my friend Linda. I also started to get excited about my imminent visit to the Jerwood Gallery.  And then the media manager from Alzheimer's Research UK was nice enough to contact me to say how pleased they were with the interview, which was a massive relief and made me feel that it was worth every scary moment. 

So how does Task 61 fit into the above? Well, during my conversation with Joe Talbot, it had emerged that this was my first ever live radio interview and in a quick aside, Joe had joked that it should be added to my list as Task 61. On listening to the interview, my sixtyat60 moderator Miss Lucy Hunot decided that this was a very fine idea.  'Listen Mum' she said, 'That radio interview was far more of a challenge for you than getting a request read out by Graham Norton, it's got to be on your list!!'  I've now complied with my moderator's instructions, and Task 61 is included in a new section called 'Surprising spin-offs'. The great thing is that I can tick it off immediately - hurrah!   I can't provide any photographic evidence, but here's a link to the interview if you're brave enough to listen to it (you'd need to fast forward 2hrs 40min and I think it's available for another 3 weeks).

A very big thank you to Joe Talbot and Fiona Paris for inviting me into Radio Sussex studios - and to Sarah my saxophone teacher for her part in making it happen. Now let's wait and see if any other surprising spin-offs pop up over the next few months - anything could still happen and let's face it, probably will......

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at  

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