Getting teams out of their bubble: my workshops at the BBC.
On a Wednesday afternoon in central London, six journalists and producers are returning to a room deep in the heart of the BBC’s New Broadcasting House. They’re on their way back from a Story Safari, one element of my day-long course on storytelling. A Story Safari involves going outside and exploring the immediate vicinity, sparking curiosity and getting the senses working.
My course is designed for BBC TV news journalists looking for a fresh approach to their work. This year it’s toured around the UK to Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow.
The journalists return to the room full of excitement about what they’ve discovered from their ‘safaris’. Jim works in the BBC London newsroom. Although he’s familiar with the streets, walking them every day, he says he made new discoveries just by looking up and spotting architecture he’d not been aware of before. Scott is a reporter at BBC Spotlight in Plymouth — he walked around Berwick Street market in Soho talking to traders about how the market has changed over the years. Oleksandra is from BBC Ukraine in Kiev. Her stroll down Oxford Street opened her eyes to the cultural differences between her home city and London.
I’m an independent storyteller, coach and consultant. My course looks at the art of storytelling in a different and fresh way. I don’t work inside the BBC and I don’t work in a newsroom: the value I bring is of outsider. Although my course revolves around storytelling, the value for attendees is simpler than that. It’s getting people out of their bubbles. It reinvigorates them.
If you work in a newsroom, it’s rare you’ll get the chance for much fresh air, let alone a walk around the block to explore local streets. A Story Safari is liberating, giving journalists and producers permission to do just that.
“The course was very useful. It was just a really valuable opportunity to step back, breathe and think about how we make films and tell stories,” says Scott.
Other elements of the day-long course include: the importance of ‘living the story’; examples of news stories from outside the BBC; a creative exercise in making mundane stories more interesting; and an exercise in improv storytelling.
“Let’s face it, in most jobs it’s rare to press the pause button, to take a day out and reflect on what we do and how we do it, and also, why we do it; to look at our industry or craft from a different angle. That’s what I’ve designed my course for — getting journalists fired up about storytelling.”
James Harrod is the TV training manager at BBC Academy, he explains why it was important to hire someone with a very different mindset and approach.
“The BBC is renowned for its outstanding reporting and compelling storytelling across its factual output. But in order to maintain its world-class reputation, it needs people like Ian to inspire reporters and producers. Ian brings a fresh approach to storytelling. He gets delegates to boil down the essentials of what makes a good story and then suggests creative and realistic ways of telling it. He asks trainees to step back from the daily churn of news cycles and reflect on how to tell stories differently. After attending one of Ian’s sessions, our colleagues go back to their department feeling refreshed, energised and full of new ideas. I highly recommend him”.