Monday 19 December 2011

Park Hill Flats

Sometimes while out reporting you meet the most remarkable people. Grenville Squires is not just notable because of his name, for 28 years he was the caretaker of Park Hill, Sheffield's (in)famous council estate that towers over the city. Anyone who's ever taken the train to Sheffield can't have missed the huge buildings of flats at the top of the hill. They were built in 1957 and are Europe's largest listed buildings.

I went to interview Grenville at his home about plans to build a hotel at Park Hill as part of its redevelopment. Incidentally he's in favour of the idea as long as it helped the estate survive into the future, but it was when I was about to walk out of his front door that my ears were really thrilled. He told me a fascinating tale from his time as caretaker there and moments later was repeating it for me to record on my phone. Grenville then went on to tell me another cracking story.

Please be aware that the stories are a bit morbidly disturbing so if you're of a sensitive disposition, you may wish not to click play...

Monday 28 November 2011

Day One, BBC Radio Sheffield

I'm very excited to be starting my first day of a six month attachment at BBC Radio Sheffield where I'll spend most of my time reporting for the Toby Foster Breakfast Show. I'd love to hear your story ideas for South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire. If something unusual or exciting is happening to you or someone you know, or you know of an issue that people are getting behind, then do let me know. With a bit of luck, I'll get the story on the radio and maybe even online and TV too. I'm looking for stories in Sheffield, Chesterfield, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and everywhere in-between. Here's an example of a story I suggested that was covered on BBC Radio Sheffield and the BBC South Yorkshire website.

Email me: or tweet me:

Monday 31 October 2011

Journalism Training Website

If you’re a journalist or interested in a career in the media, I would highly recommend making use of a website that was until recently only available to BBC Staff. The BBC College of Journalism website is now accessible to all.

It covers advice on how to report on different specialisms such as politics and religion, as well as how to write for broadcast and a guide to the importance of accuracy and impartiality. It also covers some of the key media law principles that broadcasters have to abide by including contempt of court and defamation.

I’d highly recommend using the website to revise before interviews for journalism jobs or, if you’re a student, for media law exams.

In fact even if you’re not a journalist or a wannabe journo, the website gives you an insight into how we should best go about doing our job.

Monday 17 October 2011

Olympic Dreams, Rebecca Peake

As part of the Olympic Dreams series for BBC
Radio Derby I've been tracking the progress of four of Derbyshire's London 2012 hopefuls. Rebecca Peake is a shotputter from Kilburn and here's an article that my colleague who works on online has written using my interview with Rebecca:

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Ariel Magazine

I've been featured alongside four colleagues at BBC Radio Derby in the BBC's staff magazine Ariel. Five of us in the newsroom have already got, or are about to get, married! Click on the photo above for a closer look.

Emily and I are also on our wedding photographer's website. Danielle Benbow is relatively new to working on weddings but the quality of her photos is superb. Click here to see our pre-wedding shoot in Sheffield.

Saturday 3 September 2011

The Times Weddings Page

Yes, I know, I can almost see you cringe!

(Click on the picture to see a bigger version)

Journalists always get their facts right. Although in this case, Emily's parents have somehow gained a farm - much to their delight!

Monday 15 August 2011

Piss Pronouncing Worms

I know I'm a pedant but something that really frustrates me is hearing mispronounced words, for example "fus-trated" instead of "frustrated". Listen to what I've recorded on my phone, two sounds I hear most days on the commute to work and when I'm on my break. Can you guess where I recorded these two sounds and which phrase they have in common which is mispronounced?

Monday 1 August 2011

Olympic Dreams

Over the last few weeks I've been working on a series for BBC Radio Derby called 'Olympic Dreams'. I'm tracking the progress of four athletes in the build up to London 2012. They are Leon Taylor who is the Paralympic football team goalkeeper from Chaddesden, Rebecca Peake, a shotputter from Kilburn, women's boxer from Oakwood Talia Anthony and one of Derbyshire's most successful current athletes, the swimmer Ross Davenport. I've been out to see them train in Derby and Loughborough. My colleague Gavin who works on the BBC Derby website, has written an article from my interview and used a snap I took of Ross at the pool at Loughborough. Click here to read it.

Working on this series, which has started on BBC Radio Derby this week, has given me a deeper interest in the sports the athletes compete in. I've really enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the athletes' training and the sacrifices they make in order to try to make it to London 2012. For example, Rebbecca (below) works as a lecturer at Loughborough College, trains before at lunchtime and after work. She trains for a week every month with her coach in Holland.

She's also a good laugh. Before researching my interviews with the athletes, I did research on them on the internet. This is one of the videos I found of Rebecca Peake, she says she was bored while on a training camp in the States!

Saturday 23 July 2011

Reporting on the Bombardier Rally

Today I've been covering the Bombardier march and rally in Derby. I reported live from the Bass Recreation Ground where the five to six thousand protesters gathered (photo 1), on the march through the city (photo 2) and at the rally on Cathedral Green (photo 3). I also recorded some interviews for Monday's breakfast show including one with Derby South MP Margaret Beckett. I took photos on my iPhone and emailed them on location to BBC News online. My pictures were used on the BBC article which featured on the home page of the BBC News England website.

It was quite amazing to see so many thousands of people marching through the heart of Derby with their colourful placards and banners against the government's decision to give a £1.4 billion contract to German firm Siemens rather than Derby-based Bombardier. I hadn't expected there to be as many as five to six thousand, and among them, so many Derbyshire people with no connection to Bombardier.

Below is a 60 second recording I made on my phone using the Audioboo app during the march. I let the recording breathe so you can hear plenty of the atmosphere.

Bombardier Rally (mp3)

Wednesday 13 July 2011

This Blog Will Save You Money!

I'd like to share with you some of my favourite money saving websites. I've always been keen on spending money wisely and these sites have helped me do that.


1. First and foremost, is an excellent website for finding out the cheapest way of buying just about anything. The website is run by Martin Lewis, who happened to do the same Broadcast Journalism postgraduate course at Cardiff University as me. It gives you an excellent overview of the ways to save money in the different areas we spend money on from travel to banking, and food shopping to mobile phones. It's well worth subscribing to the weekly email.

2. Use the 'shopping' tab at the top of the Google webpage to quickly do a price comparison of the item you're interested in buying.

3. Before going to eat out check for money off vouchers for restaurants in your post code. If you have an iPhone you can download the free app and just show the voucher on your phone rather than having to print it.

4. Thanks to a friend's tip, I've recently started using the cashback websites and Before purchasing an item that you've decided you want to buy, go to either of the websites above first and you will be directed though them to buy the item if the company is listed e.g. HMV, Tesco, Orange. If the company is listed , buy it via the cashback site and you'll get a percentage of the cost, normally around 5%, back in your bank account, although it can take a good few weeks for the money to arrive. Sometimes they do offers for example I recently got £120 cashback for signing up to and iPhone 4 on Vodafone.

5. If you are buying new electronic goods such as radios, TVs, laptops etc it's worth investing some time in finding the best product. Public libraries have the latest Which? magazines. It reviews products and recommends the best ones. Just ask behind the counter for the latest editions and find the item you want in the index. You have to pay for Which? subscription, hence going to the library to access the resource for free.

6. is an excellent website for finding out reviews of hotels and hostels when searching for holiday accommodation. Customers leave their feedback on the website and you can then book the accommodation on the website or try to find it cheaper on the likes of, or

7. Don't book your train tickets on as there is a £1 charge on each transaction. Go to which doesn't add this charge. If you're 25 or under, buy a 16-25 railcard for £28 to save a third on most journeys for a year. And buy it the day before you're 26 as I did recently to make it last as long as possible!

8. And perhaps my favourite tip...when you're booking single train tickets (and two singles can often be cheaper than a return, especially when booking well in advance) scroll down to see if the first class ticket is cheaper. I went to London from Derby recently and it was cheaper in first class. Don't ask me why!

Please leave a comment below if you have any other ideas on how to save money.


I've thought of a ninth way I save money! You can get John Lewis and Waitrose vouchers by using the John Lewis Partnership card (credit card). You get more points when you use the card to pay for goods in Waitrose and John Lewis. I've had the Partnership card for more than a year now and have earned £60 in vouchers - with more than a little help from Emily! Just make sure you pay off the credit card bill on time.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

A Day In The Life

BBC Radio Derby has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark the event, a video of a day in the life of the radio station has been made. It gives you an insight into what my colleagues and I get up to at work...

Saturday 25 June 2011

Muddled Architecture

I've been in Poland this week to celebrate the wedding of my brother and new wife and had a bit of time to explore Poznań.

While looking around the city I came across an overbearing monument (left) that immediately reminded me of the Soviet war memorial at Treptower Park in Berlin (right). Confused why in contemporary Poland the era of communism would be commemorated, I took a closer look. I realised the monument near the railway station was in fact to mark the end of communism in the country. I'm still puzzled by the choice of a grotesque and eerie style of monument to remember those that died in the Polish uprisings against communism. After a little more thought it did occur to me that no communist would have chosen a religious symbol!

Monday 13 June 2011

Taizé Video

If you've never been to Taizé but have wondered what it's like there, here's an excellent video for you to watch...

Friday 27 May 2011

Misleading Journalism

This type of journalism really annoys me. It gives journalists a bad name. The headline in this Metro article is 'We'll Stuff Take That!' and yet if you read the quote from the The Wanted in the article below, you'll see that it has nothing in common with the headline. They say: "We want to be big or bigger than Take That", not we'll stuff them or we'll be bigger than them. A trivial example I know, but far too often newspaper headlines simply do not fit with the stories. Poor journalism.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Pride Park

It was BBC Radio Derby's 40th birthday last month and we've been marking it by looking back at some of the key events in Derbyshire and East Staffordshire over the last four decades. I made a package on Derby County's move from the Baseball Ground to Pride Park in 1997. I went along to the recent home game against Hull where I took this photo and recorded lots of natural sound which included the fans going through the turnstiles and crowds chanting. You can listen to my package by clicking here.

The first football match I ever went to was at the Baseball Ground with my dad. We slipped in at half time for free and stood on the terraces. Pride Park is a fantastic place to watch football thanks partly to the fact that Derby County are still able to attract 25,000 fans to every home game despite this being a disappointing season. You can listen to some of the other BBC Radio Derby 40th anniversary packages here.

Monday 9 May 2011

BBC Radio Derby, Sony Station of The Year...Again!

BBC Radio Derby has tonight been named Sony Station of The Year for an unprecedented third time in five years (and second year in a row)! It makes all the hard work everyone at the station puts in worth it. It may not look state of the art, but we create award winning radio in this former car show room. Click here to read what the judges said about us. Here's the video of our team collecting the award...

Tuesday 3 May 2011

iPhone. A Reporter's Friend.

I've written the following as a guest blog post for the website which covers all things new media.

My work as a BBC reporter has been helped enormously by finally giving in and investing in an iPhone in November last year. I now heavily rely on it to help me tell stories. I’m often the radio car reporter, which means I drive a people carrier around my patch (Derbyshire and East Staffordshire) and broadcast live for the breakfast show on a range of light and hard news stories to do with fires, rubbish bins collections, hospital targets and Derby County to give you just a few examples. I use my iPhone from the start to the end of my working day.

After being woken by the phone’s alarm at 4:45am, I use it on the train to work to check Twitter, Facebook, and the BBC Derby and Derby Telegraph websites. I look for any stories we need to be covering on the BBC Radio Derby breakfast show and some background to the stories that I will be reporting on.

Once I’m at work and have printed off the details of the five or so stories I’ll be covering, I set off on the radio car and often use my phone to help me get to the locations. I use Google maps as a reassuring back up to the unreliable sat nav in the car.

If I have time when I get to the story, I often use the Google app on my phone to do some further research such as finding out statistics, for example I recently went to a story about the closure of Sure Start Centres in Derby and I used my phone to find out exactly what they are. I found a definition from the government website and used that in my live. I use this research to more effectively challenge the interviewee or to help set the scene when the presenter throws to me and before the interview starts. If I’m doing a story where distance is important, I’ll use Google maps to find out how far two places are apart.

After I’ve finished my live I take photos of the locations and people I interview and then email them from my phone to the presenter, producer and web team. It allows them to upload the photo straight to the BBC Radio Derby Facebook page which the presenter will then refer to on air and sometimes the snaps are used for articles on I also upload some of the more interesting photos on my personal twitter feed and sometimes record a video on my phone to enhance my blog posts, here’s a good example.

I’ve recently started using the app VR+ to record audio on location and then email it to the newsroom in seconds. The app came into its own recently when I was reporting from Birmingham Crown Court on the murder trial of Sylwia Ciapcinska. The court is a 25 minute walk to the Mailbox, the BBC building in the city, and I wanted to get my material on air as soon as possible once the verdict had been returned. I used the app to record my report on the court steps for the news bulletin and an interview with the police as well as the victim’s parent’s statement. I then emailed the audio to my colleagues in the newsroom in Derby which meant they very quickly had material for the news bulletins. It also meant that when I went to the Mailbox to do an interview about the trial with our drivetime presenter from one of the BBC Birmingham studios, I could focus on quickly typing out my script rather than dealing with the time-consuming process of sending back audio form the Birmingham newsroom.

The iPhone is an incredible aid to reporting and is an exciting way of enhancing the way we tell stories by, for example, adding photos and video. The next step for me is to use my phone to broadcast live which I know the radio car reporter at BBC 3 Counties Radio in Luton does. I’d encourage reporters and wannabe journalists to embrace new technologies like the iPhone. Don’t be put off by the hindrance of learning how to use the iPhone or even its price tag as it soon becomes a very big help indeed.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Royal Wedding Banned!

I've been at The Alexandra pub in Derby this morning doing a live report from the radio car. The royal wedding will not be shown tomorrow and any talk about it is banned. Here's my tease (a short piece tempting you to stay tuned) and my live...

Pub Ban Royal Wedding by markansell

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Reporting on Oxford United

I never thought I'd have the chance to report on Oxford United but on Easter Saturday I covered the Chesterfield match at the Kassam Stadium for BBC Radio Derby - albeit from the opposition's perspective. My pre match, half time and full time reports had to be brief. I wonder what you think about me singing during my half time report? Too much? Perhaps, but I think it's important to inject personality into reporting and I feel it fitted the mood of a club celebrating promotion. Here's my pre match, half time and full time reports...

Oxford v Chesterfield by markansell

After the game I went pitch-side tointerview Oxford United's defender Damian Batt on my iPhone. He was voted by the Professional Football's Association as the best right back in League 2. I forgot to stop the recording at the end of the interview so you can hear a bit of small talk afterwards...

Damien Batt interview by markansell
I also interviewed Chesterfield Manager John Sheridan...

John Sheridan interview by markansell

It's been about 4 years since I last reported on football but I really enjoyed it. When I was a student I used to go to a lot of Sheffield United matches at Bramall Lane with my friend Paul and I'd write half and full time reports and read them to my audience - him! Very sad I know but I love the challenge of summing up the action. The aim is to try to capture the essence of the game in an engaging way.

Friday 22 April 2011

Sylwia Murder

I've been in Birmingham this week covering my first murder trial. Sylwia Ciapinska was a 24 year old Polish teacher who came to live in Burton to earn money to buy a house in Poland. Just two weeks after she moved to England, she was murdered by her Polish housemate Tomasz Sobczak.

The Crown Court in Birmingham is a long way from the BBC building called The Mailbox, so I decided to use my iPhone to record my report for the news bulletins, interview with the police and statement of the victims parents (left) and then email them back from the phone to the newsroom in Derby. The app, VR+, worked a treat. The sound quality is really impressive and it took just a couple of minutes to email back the 3 bits of audio. I'd recommend it to any radio journalist. Here's my bulletin piece, recorded on the steps of the court, minutes after the guilty verdict... Sylwia Court VP 19 April by markansell

As soon as I'd sent the bulletin report, I hot footed it to The Mailbox to do a live illustrated 2 way, or in non-journalism speak, interview with a presenter, for the BBC Radio Derby drivetime show from one of the studios. I used the audio I recorded on my phone as part of the 2 way...
Sylwia Court Drive 2 way 19 April by markansell

Before and after the days' events in court, I went to Burton to record a backgrounder (a report telling the story of what happened to Sylwia). It was broadcast on the Breakfast Show, the morning after the verdict and sentencing... Sylwia Backgrounder 20 April by markansell

It was a disturbing story to cover but nonetheless fulfilling - there is no more gripping a drama than in court.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Young and Unemployed

I've been looking into the stats on the number of young people in Derby who are are claiming job seeker's allowance. I found out that over the last 3 years it was up 77% to over 2,000 18 to 24 year olds. I went out in to Derby to ask random young people the daunting question, "why aren't you working?" And this is what they told me for this morning's breakfast show on BBC Radio Derby...
Everybody I spoke to was frustrated but nonetheless friendly and not in the least bit threatening. It just shows that with a mic in your hand you have the unspoken permission to ask people almost anything and that most people don't mind being asked questions. I remember when I was a teenager on work experience at an Oxford commercial radio station I was asked to go out and vox people on their sexual health, and people answered!

Sunday 10 April 2011

Birds of Prey in Risley

I recently had the great pleasure of going back to Risley, the Derbyshire village where I spent many a happy weekend in my younger years. My Bonnemaman (Belgian Grandma) and Grandad lived in a lovely big, old house (left) with outhouse after outhouse next to garden after garden.

As part of a nature series for the afternoon programme I went to a bird of prey centre in the village. The lives I do in the afternoon last

longer than for the breakfast show where we cover many more stories - so I had plenty of time to get my hands on a very dangerous animal...

Friday 1 April 2011

Fish Feet!

Today I was reporting live at a new 'fish therapy' shop in Burton after stories in the press claiming that it could be dangerous to have fish nibbling on your feet...

Afterwards, I recorded a video on my phone...

Thursday 31 March 2011

Earth from the Edge of Space

One of the stories on the latest University of Sheffield alumni email not only took my breath away but also provided me with an excellent interview for the breakfast programme on BBC Radio Derby. Two PHD students built a helium balloon fitted with cameras and launched it into the atmosphere to record the earth from the edge of space at a cost of just £350. The video they made is well worth watching... I noticed that one of the two, Chris Rose, is from Derbyshire and they launched the balloon from Ashbourne. This provided more than enough justification for setting up the story for breakfast show. Here's the interview with the presenter Phil Trow...

Thursday 24 March 2011

Audio Wedding

My friend (and best man) Matt Willis and I gave our friends Joel and Issy an unusual wedding present - an audio diary of their special day. Our edit lasts 47 minutes but here is our 5 minute, cut down version...
Joel and Issy's Wedding short by markansell

I hope you enjoyed it. Matt and I have even considered setting up a business offering engaged couples this service. After all, it's more intimate than a video of the wedding, and the pictures are better of course!

In case you'd like to hear more, here's the full version:

Joel and Issy's Wedding by markansell

Saturday 12 March 2011

Reporting on Travellers' Story

A group of Irish travellers in rural South Derbyshire have had their application for planning permission to live on a field in Church Broughton rejected. They bought the land and started living in caravans there without planning permission so applied after the council put a stop notice on the development.

It's well known in the journalism world that travellers do not often agree to speak to the media so I was very pleased to gain their trust so that they were happy to be interviewed.

I made a package on their story before South Derbyshire District Council made their decision to reject planning permission (As well as the package, we also interviewed a local councillor on the BBC Radio Derby breakfast show to ensure that our coverage was balanced)... I also did a live report on the story soon after they moved to the village in November 2010...

Friday 4 March 2011

Hot Tub Mascot

One of the most enjoyable aspects of being the radio car reporter is the range of stories I get to cover.

Hard news is what you live for as a reporter but it's great to be able to do some light hearted stories from time to time. Serious stories often tell themselves (you stick to telling the listener the hard facts) whereas lighter stories offer the opportunity to be more creative. Today, for example, I reported from a hot tub...

Podcast Powered By Podbean

And the other day I went to Derbyshire County Cricket Club as they're in search of someone to be the mascot. I gave it a go...

Podcast Powered By Podbean

I've made some changes to the blog - a new name: 'Behind The Stories' which sums up more accurately what I'm writing about and a new, more exciting design. After three and a half years, I felt it was time for the blog to be refreshed. I hope you like what you see.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Funeral For Fire Death Children

I spent today in Ashbourne covering the funeral of the four children who died in a house fire in Hulland Ward last month. I, and the other journalists from BBC East Midlands Today, ITV Central and local newspapers, were allowed to sit at the back of the church during the service. It was an emotionally draining day and I couldn't help feeling out of place - being exposed to so many people's grief inside the church. My colleague Dave has put together an excellent photo gallery of the day.

And here's one of my four live reports on the funeral...

This breakfast show trail shows the range of stories I get to cover everyday...

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Taizé in Rotterdam

Over New Year I was one of the 30,000 young people that met in Rotterdam for the Taizé European meeting. The Taizé Community is an ecumenical Christian monastic order based in Burgundy in France. It welcomes hundreds of thousands of young people for pilgrimages every year. I've been there many times and did a week in silence there in September 2008.

Every New Year, the community hosts a meeting in a different European city. There is a prayer service three times a day, workshops and the opportunity to meet other young people from around the world. It was an amazing experience especially on New Year's Eve when I was a part of a group of about 100 young people who sang, danced and chatted our way into 2011, booze-free.

Here are my photos taken on my iPhone...

The slideshow includes:
  • The inside and outside of Ahoy, the gig venue for the huge meeting.
  • A visit to a Mosque in Rotterdam which allowed people of both faiths to learn about one-another.
  • Some of the sights in Rotterdam including unusual architecture and a photo which demonstrates the love the Dutch have for bikes - they grit the cycle lanes but not the pavements!
  • My favourite Dutch food, the flavoured custards called Vla.
  • Fireworks that were going off on the street in Rotterdam on New Year's Eve which were bigger and louder than any I've seen before.
  • Photos of me and my cousin Peter, plus friends I made out there.
  • And New Year's Day in Amsterdam before flying home.
This video gives you a glimpse of what it was like during one of the prayer services that took place three times a day...

And undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of Taizé, silence...

The songs are meditative and repetitive and put you in the mood for prayer. This is a new song and one that I really love...

If you're interested in reading more about Taizé I'd recommend reading the Letter From Chile.

Thursday 27 January 2011

House Fire in Hulland Ward

This is one of the few stories I've worked on which has continued to play on my mind long after my working day is over. Over the last couple of days I've been covering the disturbing story of the death of four children in a house fire in Hulland Ward near Ashbourne. This was the first time I've been on a story for BBC Radio Derby where TV crews from Sky News, BBC News, ITV News etc were there. Yesterday I did seven lives for the breakfast show from the scene, including this one...

I then went to Ashbourne, where the childrens' mother works to report for the mid morning show...