Thursday 25 November 2010

Listen up

I still feel rather shy about talking about the radio spot I do with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon on National Radio, every second Wednesday just before midday.

I'm the 'arts commentator' - which still makes me squeak a little when I hear my name on the trailors during Morning Report. I did a series of shows late last year (I think 5 or 6 leading up for Christmas) and have been doing this fortnightly spot since June this year.

Conquering my nerves about live radio is probably the thing I'm most proud of over the past year. I've gone from having a sleepless Tuesday night and feeling like hurling for most of Wednesday morning to looking forward to going up to the studio and having a chat with Kathryn.

Kathryn's terrific to work with. There's nothing better than hitting on a topic that she really enjoys. On the best days, it feels like we're having a great conversation, not broadcasting.

For myself (it might be different for other people), the key to public speaking of any type is slipping into a slightly different persona. On the radio, running a workshop, MC'ing a conference (did that for the first time this year - crippling nerves, total adrenaline rush) - in all these situations I'm a slightly bigger, chirpier, hopefully funny version of myself. I try really hard to put warmth across; there's no better word I can think of for it. And from the feedback I get, people seem to respond.

But I still get a bit of a electric shock - combined embarrassment and pride - when someone says 'I heard you on the radio today'. It's funny knowing that my family and my friends tune in. Not to mention complete strangers. That's the weirdest bit. Occasionally - on a really great day, like yesterday - I'll tweet after I get out of the Radio NZ building, but usually I don't draw attention to it.

The past two shows though have been so much fun, and so satisfying to do, that I did want to share them. The first was on John Parker, on the occasion of him being awarded a Laureateship. That show was done with Kathryn in Auckland and me in the Wellington studio, which I always find harder, but I was really pleased with the result. I felt like we managed to get the sculptural nature of John's pots across the airwaves - no mean feat.

The second, on yesterday's show, was on Karl Fritsch and the two shows he has on/on shortly at Hamish McKay Gallery and City Gallery Wellington. Kathryn was in the studio like normal, and Hamish and Carey very kindly lent me some rings from Karl's show to take up with me for the spot. It made all the difference - a real, immediate engagement - and I hope people heard that. The best moment was when the show ended and the producers came through to look at the pieces too. I felt like I'd done something small but good for art.

In both cases, it was passed on to me that the artists heard the spots and appreciated the pieces. This means the world to me. I genuinely feel that the arts don't get enough positive airtime in this country, and I'm grateful for an opportunity to help remedy this.

You can access the John Parker spot on this page, and the Karl Fritsch piece on this page.

I can't end this post without a shout-out to Richard and Helena and Dempsey who run the RadioNZ website, which is a thing of great wonderfulness.