Apple and biscuits: my week with BBC Wood Norton

BBC Wood Norton

Apple and biscuit. Not a snack, but a microphone. On the last Tuesday of January, I found myself in the company of several other like-minded radio enthusiasts, each of us gazing over a selection of archaic microphones like kids in a sweet shop, as our tutor picked out his favourites and explained the differences between them. The STC 4021, an omni-directional microphone, was known as apple and biscuit for its distinctive shape. Before that session, I had no idea what an omni-directional microphone was; in fact, before last week, my knowledge of the technical side of radio was so much weaker than it is now. But you can learn a lot in five days, and Wood Norton was the perfect environment for it.
To summarize it neatly, I spent the last week of January with the BBC Production Operations team learning about the field of radio operations; in other words, the ones who push all the buttons and make everything sound right. The course was run by members of the team from BBC Radio 5 Live in Salford, and among things we learned about the responsibilities of studio managers, how to operate mixing desks for different types of shows, and of course the ins and outs of microphones! Sometimes, it was a challenge just keeping up with how much content we were going over- and we weren’t just being spoon fed slide shows, we were there pushing the buttons ourselves. It was certainly nerve-wrecking at times, but equally as thrilling.
Outside of office hours, me and the other “pupils” (I use that term loosely- even though we were there to learn, it felt too informal and was too much fun to be anything like the traditional definition of education) frequented the Wood Norton Hotel, a Victorian stately home that became a station for broadcasts for the BBC during the Second World War. With the training college a few minutes into the grounds and with little reason to venture into the town of Evesham, staying away from home made the trip feel more like a unique, one-off experience, tucked into a corner of Worcestershire that I have never had the need to venture to previously. At times this isolation veered onto the edge of an idealistic, dream-like existence; this was something I could happily see myself doing every day.
More than anything, it was so refreshing not just to learn about radio, but to be constantly surrounded by people who were as equally enthusiastic about the subject as I was. Each person had their own unique background and perspective on the field, and it’s always enlightening to encounter a new viewpoint on the industry and a different reason for wanting to get into it. Now I’m home, I’m all the more enthused about pursuing a career in the radio sector, but at the same time it has really opened my eyes to different opportunities that I hadn’t considered before. It’s fair to say this January took the biscuit, and I mean that in a good way. Add a few slices of apple and there’s definitely a huge smile on my face going forward.