Riyah Collins may have missed out on meeting Sir David Attenborough, but she’s had plenty of amazing opportunities during the first month of her internship with BBC Birmingham…
Culture is an interesting concept in Birmingham: incredibly fluid, broad, and also something that refuses to be pinned down or neatly packaged. As interns, we’ve been asked to consider how to define and package Birmingham’s culture so it can be used to differentiate the city and in the end, I imagine, be used as a marketing tool to attract people here. I love Birmingham for many reasons, but the city’s diversity and breadth of traditions and ways of life has always fascinated me. In my internship at the BBC, I’ve learnt so much already, and I feel very much at the centre of the city’s culture.
The BBC is often thought of as an institution representative of a traditional, white, middle-class audience. However, my mentor for the duration of my internship – the fabulous Jenny Wilkes, BBC Birmingham’s External Partnerships Manager (as well as much-loved WM-DJ) – has shown me how the BBC fits into Birmingham and how it’s working with people and organisations across the city to move away from this reputation and present itself as a BBC for everyone.
In a city like Birmingham, which strongly values diversity and inclusivity, I’ve really enjoyed working to help the BBC reflect these values. On my first day, I supported the BBC’s monthly Coding Club, where young people from the community are invited to practice their computer coding. I’ve also been working on the BBC Open Newsroom event, where people from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds are invited to BBC to learn about broadcasting, and where we learn what it is they look for in the news and how we can make sure the BBC’s service is right for all the people it represents.
I’ve also had the chance to shadow BBC WM for their ‘Open Doors’ project, which airs 21st-23rd November 2016 and invites a range of voices and opinions from across Birmingham’s diverse population. This involved heading back to the University of Birmingham campus for a day, where we met Alaa Khattab, a Syrian student who won a scholarship to the university to study a masters in International Relations. Speaking to him was absolutely fascinating and it was interesting to see how radio is developing to stay relevant in the digital age. In response to the prevalence of social media and its increasing importance in reaching audiences we filmed the interview in order to produce a short video for Facebook as well as broadcasting the interview on WM. I learnt that it’s not always enough to record what’s being discussed; the importance of having a visual record of an interview also needs to be considered.
Alaa Khattab being interviewed by BBC WM at the University
But the learning hasn’t stopped there and nor has the fun. I had the opportunity to pick up some social media skills in, quite possibly, the best way ever… When BBC Bristol hosted an advanced screening of Planet Earth II, I was invited to attend and take over the team’s Twitter page. I was certainly thrown in at the deep end; the event proved immeasurably more popular than predicted given that Sir David Attenborough himself was in attendance! In the end, it was all hands on deck, and I was able to do a bit of everything and learn more about pulling off events. Sadly I didn’t get to meet Sir David, but he did a Q&A at the end of the screening which was such a treat and something I won’t forget in a hurry (even if I did have to spend most of it looking at my phone Tweeting!)
Advanced screening of Planet Earth II in Bristol with David Attenborough
The opportunities that this internship has thrown up for me are too numerous to list, even in the first month! I’ve been loving every moment of it and not a day has gone past where I haven’t learnt something I know will be helpful in the future- believe me, my notebook is nearly full! I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by such talented people on a scheme committed to giving me so many opportunities to learn and develop and can’t wait to continue. In terms of thinking about the city’s culture, I’m yet to find a way to pin it down. But I am finding that perhaps its cultural breadth and dedication to inclusivity may be exactly what differentiates Birmingham, and I hope to take this idea with me throughout the rest of my internship.