Radio storytelling champions from around Australia gathered in Sydney between 20-21 June, for a weekend of training and mentorship. Feedback from both the participants and the industry professionals who provided guidance and hands-on advice, shows attendants left feeling enthused, up-skilled, motivated and even gastronomically gratified.

Part of the National Features + Documentary Series, the two-day workshop included a masterclass in recording techniques as well as sessions on scriptwriting and critical listening.

“It was such a rewarding weekend… priceless,” commented last year’s overall winner, PBS Radio’s Maddy MacFarlane.

MacFarlane was back to provide mentorship to this year’s competition entrants. She joined professional session presenters such as award-winning documentary producer, investigative journalist and consultant Sharon Davis, Radio National’s Marty Peralta and ABC producer and journalist Lorena Allam.

“[It’s] so good to see people taking on the radio doco form,” said Allam after leading masterclasses on Saturday. “I really enjoyed the day. It is a good learning experience, as a producer, to find ways to unpick and talk about what you do.”

The 12 burgeoning participants – chosen by a selection panel on the strength of their documentary pitches – also found practical activities like audio editing and collecting sound effects for sonic IDs, of great use. Those initial pitches are now really taking shape.

“The training over the weekend was fantastic, some of the best training I’ve ever experienced,” said attendant Suzanne Reece from Radio Adelaide. “Being mentored through a project means I’ll work my way through the next steps of [my] learning curve much more quickly… I very much value it.”

“The presenters talking through examples of their own work, and just meeting face to face with other producers from different states and chatting about our projects was really inspiring,” remarked another participant.

Stations benefiting from this skill sharing series now in its second year, include Vision Australia, Canberra’s ArtSound, 2NSB, 3CR, PBS, 4ZZZ and Fresh Adelaide. Apart from taking knowledge back to fellow broadcasters, the idea of informal networks springing up and resource sharing across call signs, are added benefits.

“I think the Melbourne stations will have some meet-ups and see each others’ stations,” said Maddy Macfarlane. “Beautiful!”

“The competition has been a great opportunity for so many people in the sector,” says CMTO Training Manager, Giordana Caputo. “What really excites me is that they’ll take these skills back to their station networks and share not only the skills, but also the fact that community radio volunteers can make high quality, long form, spoken word radio. Spending time with our mentors, all of whom started out in community radio, means participants can see options for their storytelling passions and also future career paths.”

After lead-up preparatory on-line workshops, the intensive weekend included audio breakfasts and coaching lunches to make the most of each day. Now back home, these rising feature producers are concentrating on putting new found knowledge into action and completing their radio features for national broadcast via CRN later this year.

“I thought it was fantastic. The food alone was worth going for,” said another weekend participant, not the only one to single out the “amazing food” catered by two community radio sector friends.

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