Michelle Thomas, Recipient Of

2017 Audio Award Winners Announced at Radio Academy Festival

The Whicker’s World Foundation announced the first ever winners of a new kind of audio funding award yesterday at the Radio Academy Festival in the British Library, in front of an audience of Radio Royalty including Vernon Kay and Nicholas Parsons. 

The Radio Academy Festival was held over from the 23rd May out of respect of those killed in the Manchester bomb attack and those who could not have attended as they had to cover the story.

Founder of Falling Tree Productions Alan Hall revealed the winners and runners-up of the first ever Radio and Audio Funding Award (RAFA), with the Foundation’s Artistic Director Jane Ray, announcing the second Recognition Award for Excellence in Documentary (RAFED) at the gala event. The Whicker’s World Foundation’s awards event was hosted by broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli. The awards were created to celebrate and encourage great audio documentaries. They have been generously funded by the legacy of celebrated journalist Alan Whicker.

Whicker wanted to encourage excellence and empower talent which might otherwise never find a place in today’s highly competitive industry. Whicker’s World Foundation, launched in 2015, has already awarded over £200,000 for radio, podcast, film and TV documentary meeting the Foundation criteria of ‘Taking us into new territory, being authored but not partisan; with an emphasis on strong original storytelling’ and creative use of the medium.

Founder of Whicker’s World Foundation, Valerie Kleeman, programme consultant and Whicker’s partner for more than 40 years, said: “Alan Whicker’s first move away from print journalism was to sound radio. He had an abiding love for this medium – which is why RAFA and these awards are particularly special for the Whicker’s World Foundation.”

The Radio and Audio Funding Award Winners

The £5,000 RAFA went to Tom Glasser from Tring, Hertfordshire, for Sounds Inside – with an Alan Hall masterclass in sound production

In prison for the first time, many inmates are surprised to discover that they are not only cut off from the day-to-day business of the outside world, but also transported to an alien soundscape. In the company of ex-con Carl Cattermole, this programme will take the listener into a unique acoustic world. Sounds Inside will spend 24 hours inside HMP Brixton, exploring a unique soundscape, from the slamming of metal doors to the silence of the harsh Dickensian architecture. 

Judge Alan Hall praised the programme as: “A fascinating subject explored through a compelling character, rich in sound potential.” 

Tom Glasser (right) and Carl Cattermole (left), winners of the 2017 RAFA

Runner-up Award of £3,000 went to Jodie Taylor from Hastings for A New Normal: Audio Diaries of Syrians in Europe

A New Normal is a series of audio diaries made by Syrians who have recently arrived in Europe, offering an unusually intimate insight into an experience that most will only know of through news coverage. Via first-person accounts of diarists’ day-to-day experiences as they try to set up new lives, this project hopes to give listeners an idea of the small details – the daily mundanities and absurdities – of starting anew in an strange country having left everything behind. The project is led by Jodie Taylor from SE15 Productions who, alongside producers Olivia Humphreys, Andrea Rangecroft, Astrid Hald and Carol Nahra, will work with diarists in Germany, Sweden, Greece, Turkey and the UK.

Judge Fi Glover said: “We felt that, although many stories have been told of the life of the refugee, this promised us a moving and insightful account of the reality of establishing a whole new life in a strange country. We liked the tone and the depth we heard in the audio pitch.”

Jodie Taylor, runner-up of the 2017 RAFA

A £1,000 special prize was awarded to writer Michelle Thomas from Bala, North Wales, for I’m Not OK, The Mental Health Podcast, as seed money towards a parallel career in broadcasting. Michelle is also being introduced to key leaders in BBC factual radio including Saturday Live, the Radio One breakfast show and Woman’s Hour.

This serialised podcast documentary is a journey through the world of mental health as Michelle Thomas uncovers the common ground that unites us through our personal struggles. Exploring the stigma, anxieties and social pressures that define our modern age through a series of powerfully honest encounters with an array of unique voices, this series will create a unique space in which contributors can tell their personal mental health stories. From Aaron, who describes his severe panic attacks as ‘a migraine in the chest’, to Taryn who became a bodybuilder in her quest for the ‘perfect’ figure, this promises to be a frank and important look at one of the epidemics of our time. 

Judge Fi Glover said: “We thought this to be really ear-catching audio detailing how episodes of poor mental health actually feel and how talking about it really helps – we felt this was a refreshingly open approach. The contributors were articulate and willing to share their thoughts on a very difficult subject without embarrassment or fear.”

Michelle Thomas, recipient of a £1,000 prize to go towards her podcast idea

The Recognition Award for Excellence in Documentary (RAFED) winners

In addition to the RAFA, Whicker’s World Foundation awards the RAFED (Recognition Award For Excellence in Documentary ) an annual £5,000 prize recognising the best audio project, over 15 minutes in the past 12 months. The runner-up receives £2,000.

This year the first prize was awarded jointly to Eleanor McDowall for A Dancer Dies Twice and Cicely Fell for Dust Bowl Ballads. Each will win £2,500

Eleanor McDowall- A Dancer Dies Twice

A documentary about first and last dances and what happens when an instrument as finely tuned as a dancer’s body begins to change. Producer Eleanor McDowall follows ballet dancers from the beginning to the end of their careers, from young dancers training at the Royal Ballet School to former principal ballerinas and one influential dance company that refuses to let age be a limitation.

Judge Sarah Geis said “I thought it was beautifully, meticulously produced from start to finish. It transported me somewhere, I could feel the movement and grabbed my knee when the dancer’s knee crunched.”

Cicely Fell – Dust Bowl Ballads

A fierce drought in Oklahoma’s ‘No Man’s Land’ – a region that was the heart of the 1930s Dust Bowl – stirs up dust storms, memories and myths. In this parched terrain of ghost towns and mirages, the wells are running dry but the stories continue to flow. Cicely Fell talks to locals about their memories of growing up in the Dust Bowl, an area once thought to be an elegant, tree-lined Utopia, now a barren land where the storytelling spins out of the landscape itself.

Judge Jonathan Freedland said “It was evocative, even magical at times and approached the people of that region without prejudice. It is very original in its storytelling.”

Cicely Fell (left) and Eleanor McDowall (right), joint winners of the 2017 Audio Recognition Award

The runner-up Audio Recognition Award of £2,000 was awarded to John Fecile for Blink Once for Yes.

Aged 20, John Fecile’s younger brother Mike sustained a traumatic brain injury after he leapt from a fourth floor balcony. Four years later, the family made the heartbreaking decision to end his life by withdrawing food and water. This documentary combines interviews and intimate scenes with the family as they look back on the decision that they made and examine how their feelings have changed over time.

Sarah Geis said “It had some of the strongest most memorable, most visceral, can’t turn it off radio moments. I admire so much about it- the weaving of all of the voices.”