Behind the scenes of the workie at the BBC

Day five at the BBC and I think I have topped my favourite place to intern at. I have had an incredible week shadowing BJ’s (broadcast journalists), editors, directors and PA’s at BBC South Today, my local regional news channel and I have a newly found love and respect for TV broadcast journalism.

Reham Khan reporting on an OB (Outside Broadcast) outside Winchester Cathedral for BBC South Today

I am excited about my final afternoon as I prepare to go out on an OB (Outside Broadcast) to Winchester with Reham Khan, our local weather girl, Pete Doherty, a rather lovely and energetic producer and the brilliant cameraman Trevor.

As we drive to location, Pete, the producer updates me on the story and the plan, which is to interview a young actor and the director of ‘the Chronicles of Light’, a colourful performance of light and sound telling the history of the Cathedral and it’s people through the ages over 15 performances.

The OB BBC South Today truck outside Winchester Cathedral

This he explains is more of a newsy feature and entertainment piece than really a hard news story. He says it has taken him 15 -20 years to get here and be able to freely shoot these features which I find a little dis-comforting but I remind myself of the realities of getting into such a competitive industry.

Most professional journalists I came into contact with this week, said that they got into radio before TV and often that this is the way to do it. Pete says it can be easier to get a gig with a radio station but much more challenging for TV.

This doesn’t put me off, as I say, “Well someone has to do it, so why can’t it be me.” I think he likes this attitude, however, I secretly think that I have to make myself stand out in this industry and that can be very challenging, but by no means impossible.

The hub where all the footage gets ingested ready for live bulletins on air

I have seen the illusion of the newsroom unfold this week as I discovered how much work goes into producing two minute packages and five minute bulletins. It is pretty crazy the amount of preparation that goes into TV, more so than print and radio.

I fancy myself a producer or perhaps even a presenter in years to come after this weeks placement. It has really given me confidence, shadowing professional presenters such as the lovely Dani Sinha and great producers like Richard Spalding to propel myself forward in the industry and become the best of what I can be and achieve.

I really appreciate good journalism and great journalists when I see them and I have marvelled at Giles Goodman’s editing skills this week and Alex Forsyth’s breaking news reports. It gives me hope that real journalism still exists thanks to the hard work of a team in a sometimes difficult industry.

See BBC South Today for more info and episodes


Olympics updates

Ben Ainsley competes in Weymouth sailing Olympics 2012 Photo Dansk Sejlunion

Listen to this local news bulletin for HopeFm to find out about Tom Daly’s trouble on Twitter and why Weymouth is struggling to attract visitors to the Olympic sailing events

Olympic update bulletin


Would you get married in a Bournemouth beach hut?

Nowadays when old methods are replaced with quirky new crazes, Hannah Smithson visits Bournemouth’s annual Wedding Show  to find out what’s traditional and taboo this leap year…

Onlookers gaze at the amazing array of wedding dresses at the annual Bournemouth wedding show

According to tradition, on the last day of a leap year in February, which happens to fall at the end of this month in 2012, the ‘normal’ order of proposals is reversed and women can pop the question to the men. So ladies, will you be defying convention and asking your man the big question this leap year? There are hundreds of websites giving advice on the best way to do it, where, when and how but what happens once the question’s been asked and the answer’s ‘yes’…

Wedding planning- that’s what! Hundreds of couples and brides-to-be flock to Bournemouth’s International Centre’s Wedding Show every year, to get inspiration and ideas throughout the weekend for their special day.

Boasting to be the largest wedding exibition on the South Coast, over 130 local and regional exibitors turned up to showcase their wide range of luxury services and accessories to help you enjoy the big day.

A programme of features, included choreographed fashion shows, live performances from singers and musicians revealing that there is much more to a wedding show than one orginally thought. There was even a BH live fitness zone giving advice on how to slim down to fit into that all important dress and a ‘de-stress’ zone offering free ‘mini-treatments’, specialising in hair, health and make-up. To entertain those more concerned with music than make-up there was a ‘grooms zone’ offering a mobile fun casino and new for 2012, a champagne and Pimms bar.

From photo booths to ice sculptures this year’s wedding show had all the new trends and accessories to enhance your special day

With hundreds of options of photographers, venues and wedding cars available, its easy to see that one could get overwhelmed. Each Bridezilla was eagerly investigating to find the finest food, negotiating to get the best deal and dreaming to find the most magnificent gown. In the effort to create the most unique wedding event, businesses had come up with new ideas to entice their excited guests.

Photo booths, seemed to be all the rage this year, as I spoke to Oliver Reed, Director of ‘Say Fromage’ Photo Booth’s who said he came up with the idea four years ago when there seemed to be no one else doing it. He said: “It was a business I set up after University, I did my degree in photography and wanted to make some money out of it but had to be inventive.” He explained how photo booths were a great idea for weddings as it gave the power of the photo to the people in it. “People often cringe after a photo’s been taken but being able to take the photos yourself again and again with multiple free prints is great.” He likened photo booths to the modern day polaroid and showed me how you could dress yourself up with props, making for very silly pictures indeed. He said: “It’s great when you can get your own photos at weddings with great uncles and aunts you haven’t seen for years.” Say Fromage seemed to be the cheapest deal around with the hire of the booth, including free prints and props for just under £600.


Travel in style to your beach wedding in this converted luxury beach camper

How about this one- getting married on the beach in Bournemouth? Oh yes, there seems to be a business claiming to offer the first ever beach weddings in the whole of the UK on the sunny beaches of Bournemouth, the Uk’s very own version of Californian sands. But would it actually be sunny? Given Englands reputation for weather, I asked company director of Beach Weddings Bournemouth, Melanie Kiani– what happens when it rains? She assured me that there was a marquee in the event of bad weather and the reception would be inside whilst you’d actually get hitched under the roof of one of Bournemouth’s famous beach huts.

Following a success that saw seven million viewers tune in per episode, the cultural phenomenon, My Big Fat Gyspy Wedding is back this month, and with it the dresses! The popular channel four show returns to our screens and this time the ceremonies are even more outrageous and the pantomime style dresses have got even bigger. The modes of transport have likewise increased in size and style to fit the bride. Bournemouth Wedding Show didn’t quite have the dresses as seen on TV but it certainly had some alternative modes of transport- from carriages to Volkswagen surf vans.

So if you’re looking for a unique way to spend your special day this year then there is certainly inspiration to be found at the largest wedding show on the south coast or alternatively, catch the next episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on Channel 4 at 9pm on Tuesday 21st Feb!

Bournemouth Honours Red Arrow Pilot

Thousands of people in the Bournemouth area have signed a book of remembrance honouring the Red Arrow who died during the recent air festival.

Floral tributes have also been laid outside Bournemouth Town Hall.

On August 20, at approximately 13:45pm, the  Red Arrow pilot crash landed into a field near Bournemouth airport and died from his injuries.

The pilot was Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging, aged 33, from Rutland.  His Red Arrow Jet suffered a Mayday situation and went down over some fields just over Throop, after completing a spectacular aero-dynamic performance at the annual BournemouthAir Festival 2011.

The Red Arrows flying high at Bournemouth Air Show (Photo copyright Ibart PetitLoup Majkut (Bartosz Majkut)B

The incident is under investigation as details unfold about the final minutes of the accident.

A source close to the Arrows, who was deeply saddened by the news and wished to remain anonymous, said: “They were all lovely and would always do everything in unison. It’s so sad and really is tragic.”

The Red Arrows performing at Bournemouth Air Festival on Saturday just before Flt Lt Jon Egging crashed and lost his life (Photo copyright Ibart PetitLoup Majkut (Bartosz Majkut)

Becoming an arrow

The Arrows, known as some of the best acrobatic pilots in the world, and the public face of the Royal Airforce had performed at the show the day before and earlier on Saturday.

The Red arrows demonstrate to millions of people around the world every year and have completed more than 200 displays in more than 50 countries, including the Bournemouth Air Festival every year.

A birds eye view of Bournemouth Air Festival 2011 before the tragedy – who knew what the weekend would bring (Photo courtesy of iBart Photography)

Reports reveal that this was Jon’s first season but that Liuetenant Egging (known as Eggman), was a very professional and admirable pilot.

The Red Arrows help more than 500 UK charities a year, contributing many thousands of pounds to a wide variety of important causes. Airshow wristbands (that happened to brand the Red Arrow and Royal Airforce colours, red, white and blue) were selling out yesterday evening as people gradually became aware of the unfolding fatality.

There was a sense among serviceman that although death is a tragic thing, in the military it is a risk and one to bear as part of duty and many uniformed officers were re-iterating the professionalism and hourability kept at that level of rank but regretted the human cost and sent deepest sympathies and thoughts out to family and friends.

Flight Sergeant Ko of the Air Training Corp and young training Air Cadet said: “The Red Arrows are all professionals so if needs be they could put on another show tomorrow with the extra aircraft so I don’t think  it’ll hinder their performance.”

Human Reaction

Many air show goers were in disbelief when they heard the news and I spoke to Jim Robinson and partner from Poole and heard their reaction,

“Maybe it was a mechanical failure because they are highly trained pilots. Or maybe it’s to do with the government cut backs, you never know. That’s tragic.”

Chris, an Eco cleaning business owner, from Canford Cliffs, said: “We’ve been at the airshow all day but this is really sad about that pilot.” He added: “It’s tragic, but death is an enevitable thing and as part of the military, they have that professional attitude and know the dangers of what they do. It would be good if they did something tomorrow in respect”

Last night, when it had been confirmed that one of the renowned and talented Red Arrows had died, a memorial shrine was set up  outside the Red Arrows display on Pier Approach in Bournemouth. Security owner, former DCO (Detention Custody Officer) and watcher of the display, Gaz Jafri, 27, told of all the heartfelt reaction he had been seeing from the public throughout the day.

Security officer Gaz Jafri, 27, guards the Red Arrow and Royal Airforce display overnight

He said: “I’m physically touched about people crying and speaking about how much they love the Red Arrows.”

“They are the elite of the elitist and the best in the world.”

“As far as I understand, he had just come back from Afghanistan, so having survived that and then being involved in the tragedy that happened today is very sad.”

“We’ve been instructed by the Royal Airforce to continue the show, however, due to the tragedy we’ve been told that the Red Arrows will be grounded tomorrow as well as the Black Hawk.”

To listen to live interviews from the Air show click here 01 Track 01 6

To watch a video taken of the memorial site click here memorial

A facebook site has now been set up following the memorial of Flt Lt Jon Egging Bournemouth memorial for Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging of which there is already 10,168 people following up from 7,650 yesterday afternoon.

Phantom Opera

If you’ve seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s,  Phantom of the Opera, at Her Majesty’s Theatre you may have seen one of the most spectacular operas on the West End. Perhaps then you may not be expecting a local village amateur drama group to deliver quite the same entertainment quality.


In a quaint little town in the Oxfordshire countryside last week you may have seen something entirely different.


The Sinodun Players’ rendition of Terry Practchett’s Maskerade, adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs, was not quite as thrilling, nor as magnificent, nor as spectacular as the actual Phantom of the Opera but Prachett’s parody of this famous story was quite simply fabulous!

In the opening scene a shreiky Christine (Natalie Lester) didn’t quite resemble something of the beautiful Christine at Haymarket. Her slightly fuller co-star Perdita (Samantha Fields) or Agnes Nitt (her alter witch ego) and Cinderella-like chum who unlike the affected pre-madonna Christine who could not hold a tune, Perdita proves to be the actual star of the show when she belts out one of Dr. Undershaft’s operatic favourites, holding her tune perfectly.

When the Ankh-Morpork Opera house owner and befuddled former cheese Merchant, Seldom Bucket (Peter Smithson), starts to receive letters signed from the Opera Ghost his nose ruffles. Unbenounced to him the Opera house had always had a ghost but it didn’t used to kill people.

When Granny Weatherwax (Dida Moore), the indomitable and inquisitive first half to the duo of the Witches of Lancre, (minus one), accompanied by the curious and crude Nanny Ogg, (Ginny Avery),  spend their time causing mischief trying to unravel the mystery which echos the storyline of the Phantom of the Opera, they find out that at this theatre, the producer really “hates opera”!

Salzella, (Graham Watt) the mysterious, supercilious and sadistic producer succeeds his counterpart opera lover, Dr Undershaft (John Jones), after he is found strangled and strung up! In more spine-chilling yet patronising and rather amusing notes the Opera Ghost strikes again with messages saying “Beware! hahaha…. Signed the Opera Ghost.”

The Maskerade leaflet

Directed by Paul Cleverly, this stage adaption was highly professional, with an ever changing set, including clever adaptions of classic stage props as well as a digital screen backdrop used for special effects for when Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax embark on their coach journeys.  Accompanied by fantastic costumes and a slight hint of song from the actual musical the play was a well-rounded culmination of humourous satire alongside a more serious moral of hiding behind invisible masks and seeing through the seems.

Although, some of the acting at times could have been over done and pantomime-ish the performances given were mature yet appropriate to their roles whilst the storyline, mirroring the Phantom of the Opera was set in Pratchett’s fictional, fantasy Discworld, quite rightly explained within the play as, “Fiction- where reality meets fantasy”. Nanny Ogg, especially held her own in delivering a crudely comic role, contrasting with Granny Weatherwax’s serious demeanour and quest to “Do good!”

Nanny Ogg: “They were rattling their knobs”

Granny Weatherwax: “Not at our time of life Nanny Ogg.”

The underdog character of Walter Plinge, (Joel Webster) finally triumphs towards the end to uphold his new position, standing up straight as the new Operatic producer. A suspiscion falls on him at the beginning of Act Two that perhaps he is the Opera Ghost until Granny Weatherwax unmasks him – revealing things are not always as you see them.

In a tense yet hilarious fight scene between Walter and the actual baddy of the story, Salzella,  the latter is stabbed and reveals that actually he doesn’t really like Opera at all in his final, fake, knife-stabbing moments.

The engaging parody of the theatre within the theatre helped create the atmosphere in the wings of the Corn Exchange in Wallingford. The chandelier hung, as the audience waited for the terrible moment it came down. It remained stable till the end of the show, that was perhaps my only disappointment. But could it really beat the Chandelier at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Probably not. But then this was not the Phantom of the Opera. This was simply great acting, a fantasticly delivered storyline in one of Pratchett’s fabulous fantasy worlds and quite frankly, downright good entertainment!

The final evening saw Steven Briggs in the audience to watch his stage adaption unfold and all ticket sales and donations went to the Alzheimer’s Society (inspired by Mr. Pratchett himself and the reason for the performance). For further donations, please go to Alternatively visit the Corn Exchange Website on

The Phantom death sets the mood of “Maskerade”
The Sinodun Players rehearsing at The Corn Exchange, Wallingford
Ex-Cheese merchant and Ankh-Morpork opera owner Seldom Bucket receives a nasty letter from the Opera Ghost
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax set out to solve the mystery of the Opera Ghost 
Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax journey through Pratchett’s Discworld amidst Paul Clerverly’s carefully designed set
The Opera Ghost corners Perdita 
Nanny Ogg finds the Opera Ghost in Box 8
Granny Weatherwax suspects Walter Plinge as the killer


A dual to the death reveals Salzella as the real Opera Ghost and Walter Plinge as the unlikely hero of the sordid tale

The Beginning of the End?

The ongoing debate about the demise of newspapers continues but today marks a very important day that we may remember in history as the beginning of the end of print! Today, News of the World published their final edition of their 168 year old red top and Hannah Smithson went to find out what Bournemouth locals thought about the end of the paper, the phone hacking scandals behind it and the future of Journalism as we know it!

The final edition of The News of the World on Sale at Bournemouth Pier, News and Gifts


With a slight reluctance to comment, shopkeeper and seller of News of the World at Pier, News and Gifts in Bournemouth, Albert Bence, 19, from Landsdowne eventually revealed to me that most of the News of World papers had been sold that day and they were almost sold out. He included his views that in fact it will just turn into The Sunday Sun and said “It will just be the same journalists on that paper”.

Moving on to interview a couple from the older generations, Mrs Elizabeth Chick, 70, and Mrs June Partington, 75 from Farnborough had popped down to Bournemouth for the day but admitted you’d have to be blind if you weren’t aware of the closing of the News of the World today and the phone hacking scandals behind it. Mrs Chick voiced her opinion and said: “She’s the editor so she’s still responsible”. When asked if she thought Rupert Murdoch himself was aware of the phone hacking that went on in the midst of one of his biggest selling newspapers, will a loyal readership of 7.5m she replied: “He knows every moment, every little thing that happens to him.” Mrs Partington doesn’t believe they should of closed the newspaper because of the phone hacking scandal but thinks: “they should have got rid of the top ones.” Both ladies insist that they would hope this is not the end of newspapers as they claimed they didn’t even have the internet at home and were all for newspapers staying, insisting they have grown up with them.

Is this the beginning of the end of newspapers, I asked Steven Sims, 33 and local restaurant owner in Bournemouth. He responded: “There is nothing quite like sitting down with a cup of tea and a newspaper.”

He admitted that he thought this was someone of his generation speaking and that perhaps younger generations that have grown up with ipads and Kindles wouldn’t echo his same sentiments.

On the phone hacking scandal he recognises: “Even if it was talking about footballers wives or Jordan’s new boyfriend, it is scandalous!”

“It’s breaking the law and you’re not telling me that the people at the head of this newspaper didn’t know that.”

It has been announced today that News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks will accept invitation to appear before MPs examining phone hacking next Tuesday.

Mr Sims continues to explain that Rupert Murdoch must have known about the phone hacking but says: “Ultimately, I suppose, it has to stop at the editor.” When asked if as a reader and citizen if he found out that Rebekah Brook came to work on The Sunday Sun whether he would feel put out he said: “Absolutely”.

On the prospect of Rupert Murdoch taking over BSkyB, Steven, a long time business man reveals that it is just basic business and said: “He would be monopolising a market”, “Where’s the equality and freedom of opinion” and agrees that David Cameron needs to step in and said: “I don’t care who your drinking buddy is, when you’re Prime Minister of a country it’s your duty and responsibility to step in”

Recent reports from the BBC say, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation withdraws bid for control of BSkyB amid pressure over phone-hacking scandal.

On a final note when asked whether this will spark a debate over good and bad journalism and whether the public should trust the press in future, Mr Sims said:

“There’s a lot of hypocrisy, yes your average every day person would say, bad journalist, they adapt the news to meet their story but we will all still rush to buy a newspaper.”

“News as a whole never will end and the act of opening a newspaper and purchasing from your local store or having dropped through your letterbox something that’s printed on paper with black ink, yes those days might disappear and you might open up your emails to read the news or you might load up your kindle and read it off of there, yes I dare say in the next 30 years that’s where we’re going but will news ever end…? I don’t think that’s possible is it.”

Sporting Spirit in Brazil, World Cup 2014

Brazilian fans beat the drums in Rio - photo copyright Hannah Smithson

Brazilian fans beat the drums in Rio – photo copyright Hannah Smithson

The excitement and buzz in the air on the streets of Rio when Brazil beat Cameroon 4-1 was immense. Now, after being pulled apart in the semi-finals against Germany, with an unbelievable score of 7-1, what would the atmosphere in the host country be like?

Initially, the football and 2014 World Cup hadn’t been the reason I’d booked my holiday to Brazil, but it soon became a big part of why I’d visit this amazing country again. The spirit of the people and the culture is infectious. But just as they are elated and joyful on a win, so too can they be ‘humiliated, humbled and torn apart’, as one BBC commentator put it after Germany scored their fifth goal before half time!

During the tournament in Brazil, when they were still very much in the game, that South American passion for the sport shone through; boys were playing with their fathers in their back yards, girls were giving football a go and tourists were joining in spontaneous games with locals, striking up conversation and camaraderie. That might be why there were so many tears in Belo Horizonte last night. Victory meant more to them than just winning –  football had become an escape from poverty and a means of bringing a mammoth nation together, despite adversity and dissent.

And, perhaps the best thing Brazil can take away from such a big blow, is that, the game has attracted the world to a country which has yes, learnt humility on their home turf, but their football team has also represented a nation which was so alive with hope and excitement only days ago, and which now must reflect on the lessons to be learnt from such a defeat. Brazil should not be punished now, but should find resolve in its spirit. Don’t we all suffer massive defeats in life? And often there is always a lesson to be learnt?

There would be little victory in picking apart the mistakes of the players and coaches or reasoning a shocking scoreline down to missing men. True, Brazilian striker Neymar is received as a God-like figure in Brazil; the youthful footballer will probably remain a national boy wonder and Thiago Silva will still have his face graffitied all over the streets of Rio, and remain a national treasure, but my heart goes out to the other 11 men who had to battle through an overwhelming 90 minutes of shear pain and frustration – most of whom looked shell-shocked as they walked off the pitch deflated and desolated.

Despite disappointment that the hosts are now out, there remains something about the beauty of the game, the competition, the uniting of nations that was utterly attractive and soulful during the tournament, and I got the feeling that Brazil was just as spirited and colourful World Cup or no World Cup. I’ll probably remember the devastating score and loss for Brazil whenever anyone mentions the 2014 World Cup in years to come, but I’ll never forget the mental pictures stored away in my mind of their victorious celebrations after their match against Cameroon.

A sea of green, blue and yellow t-shirts displayed the Brazilian flag colours, as patriotic fans flocked to Copacabana beach to watch the epic game on the big screen. Strolling along, I couldn’t get Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana’ tune out of my head, as we zigzagged through the throng of party-goers attempting to find a free spot amongst the crowd. The sport had attracted thousands of fans to the waters edge to watch the teams battle it out. And, after a fighting fit Neymar, scored his first goal, the ocean of spectators went wild! Usually concerned with more feminine practices of yoga and meditation, my mind turned to the simple yet fascinating play of football and the thrilling match that was unfolding before my eyes. Fireworks lit the sky in the distance, the beating of drums sounded a base through the streets and the smell of the warm sweet sea air infused the senses. It dawned on me then, that Brazil, victorious or not, had heart and that would continue long after the game ended.

Beaten by the World Cup champions but not defeated in spirit!

Check out Rio in Rio documentary on Monday 10:35pm

Falkland Islands Defence Force new recruits start training

On our second day in the Falklands we jumped straight in and did what I was hoping to do at some point – film the military. Fellow colleague Caroline decided that it could be a great documentary project to follow the new Falkland Island Defence Force (FIDF) recruits through their 12 week training program, so we set off with them on their journey with our cameras close by.

Falkland Islands Defence Force new recruits in their first week of training

Falkland Islands Defence Force new recruits in their first week of training

Journalists tend to work out of hours a lot of the time because you have to go where the story is and that can be anywhere at any time. So on our second evening here, after a gorgeous meal from the Malvina House Hotel (the nicest restaurant in town) we made our way to the FIDF hall where we caught up with two new recruits Jacob and Marcus.

Recruit Marcus Morrison spoke to us for the first time as one of our main characters for our documentary

Recruit Marcus Morrison spoke to us for the first time as one of our main characters for our documentary

Upon arrival it was hard to know how these recruits would react to the cameras but they went about their training whilst we eagerly filmed them rifle training and warming up. Having never filmed the military before, I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly they were afterwards when we interviewed Jacob and Marcus. Marcus being a Falkland Islander with family here and more senior recruit, with Jacob being a younger contractor over from the UK. We chose these two contrasting recruits to be the main characters of our documentary, who we would later follow through the training process. We left with plenty of shots for our stock footage – to save up for our edit at a later date and were told about the FIDF recruits first exercise the next weekend.IMG_0236 First recruit training weekend I really didn’t want to get up this morning. But in the spirit of FIDF we trekked out to Mount William in the early hours of Saturday morning and headed up the cold mountain with the  troops. Josh and I had drawn straws with Caroline, who ended up in the beautiful Sea Lion Island lodge, filming all kinds of wildlife, whilst Josh and I roughed it in the wild. But what an experience. We had been briefed by Colour Sergeant Trev Law, who had told us that the highlight of this first training weekend with the new recruits was to conduct a surprise attack on the group in the middle of the night. Slightly concerned, we cautiously continued to film the new recruits learn about camouflage and field exercises.

FIDF new recruits out on their first exercise in the field atop of Mt. William

FIDF new recruits out on their first exercise in the field atop of Mt. William

As the sun set we were tasked to put up our tent in the dark, to which we set about enthusiastically. Quickly, Colour Sergeant Law realised we had missed out on training of our own and decided to do us the honour. A few minutes later and we were cosying up in our nice North Face tent and toasty FIDF sleeping bags. Under the stars, alongside the military, I fell into a deep sleep, until I was woken up by the sound of gunfire.

Under the stars, alongside the military, I fell into a deep sleep, until I was woken up by the sound of gunfire.

Suddenly, Josh and I realised this was the chance we had been waiting for – to get out there and film the men in action. Using all blank rounds, to our relief – we stepped into the line of fire into what was effectively no mans land with our camera to catch the fire fight on tape. Both sides were doing surprisingly well in the dark as the new recruits defended their side of the mountain, the older FIDF members played the enemy, who were carefully closing in on their position. IMG_0616 Soon one of the men approached us and “updated” us on their situation. Two of the enemy had been captured and one was shot dead but the allies were regaining ground and taking back the mountain. Although a simulated exercise, I couldn’t help think how real this all felt and how similar things might have been just thirty years ago out here on Mt. William during the Falklands conflict. I suddenly had a new appreciation for the conditions those men had to fight through – the bitter cold and wind relentlessly wearing down morale. IMG_0646 But here we were, and morale was high as the new recruits acted out their first proper exercise in the field.  After more machine gun fire and as the last flares were set off to light up the night sky, we realised that we weren’t going to get much more on camera in the pitch black of midnight, so with one last breathtaking gaze at the stars, the gunfire died down and we headed back to our tent. IMG_0656 The next morning, we caught up with Marcus and Jacob who had endured a sleepless night and were looking a little worse for wear, but didn’t want to show it. Marcus talked us through their tactics in response to the surprise attack and we bagged our last interview of the day as a tired and weary Joshua Saunders attempted a final piece to camera to sum up our piece. During a rather proud stroll down the mountain, we reflected on our first FIDF experience filming out in the field. It was, to say the least, quite thrilling. Check out our piece online that went out on Falklands In Focus

Jet escorts, bitter winds and puffing pig dolphins

After only a week and five days of being on these islands they call British overseas territory, it really does feel like a home from home. The Falkland islands are still hotly contested isles in a historical foreign affairs dispute that goes back decades and culminated in the 1982 Falklands war between Britain and Argentina, but I couldn’t have felt more welcomed by the islanders here that have an identity all of their own.

Mid way to the Falklands, we had to make an all-important stop on Ascension Island for re-fueling, which was a bizarre experience. We stepped off the plane after an 8-hour flight full of inflight meals and movies to an almost deserted island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. It felt like some kind of scene out of Lost as we were herded like sheep in to what can only be described as a sort of outdoor cage just off of the runway. We proceeded to make the most of duty free as the warm humid air blew in just south of the equator.

Back on towards the Falklands and my excitement started to swell. It all seemed very surreal at this point but my nerves had vanished and all I had left was a curious eagerness inside me, the kind you get when you anticipate your arrival into a foreign lands.

Our air bridge into the Falklands from RAF Brize Norton took a whopping 17 hours but was worth the journey as we were escorted in by the MOD’s typhoon jets to landing. I have to say it was an impressive welcome and only got friendlier as the days went on.


An MOD jet escorts our flight into the Falklands

We met our neighbours and housemate Rosie pretty much straight away who explained the local culture and customs to us, of which were all too familiar to our British traditions. We were later taken to our house which will be our home here on the islands for the next nine months.

On the drive, the rugged countryside reminded me of the description from journalist Max Hastings book, Battle for the Falklands. I am slowly making my through it but as I gazed out the window to the baron rolling hills of dried sandy grass and jagged grey rocks, showered with sheep, I tried to imagine what life was like over 30 years ago. The wind was tempestuous and it had an Antarctic bite to it that made me realise just how cold it must have been for the soldiers of the 1982 war. They say some died of frostbite and hyperthermia. I took a moment to think about those lost.


Josh and I at one of the memorial sites next to Surf Bay


Modern, spacious and warm were my first impressions of our cosy house as we opened the front door- warm respite from the bitter cold winds outside. I wondered if the weather would get any better during our stay and was reassured that we’d arrived just as the Falklands is blooming into Spring and Summer. I now had a base. Clean sheets, soft towels, a comfy bed and a cup of tea inside me- I now felt at home.

Once unpacked our fellow housemate and colleague Caroline who’s already been here for two months, decided after lunch it was time to take us to the beach. A counterintuitive move I thought as it began to rain outside and I slowly got the impression the attitude was – if you can’t escape the weather here then why not embrace it. Everyone has a pair of walking boots and everyone is ‘outdoorsy’. Surf Bay is closest and most popular stretch of sand here. I was stunned by the white glow off of the beach when we arrived. Had it not been sunny I could have mistaken it for snow. A local islander and tour guide, Stacey McKay, later told me that the sand here in the Falklands is one of the whitest in the world. As we stood staring out into the Ocean we joked about wanting to see penguins, native to the Falklands. I stood taking pictures to send back home, documenting my surroundings when I suddenly saw something flutter in the waves.

Puffing pig or Commerson dolphins in the waves at Surf Bay

Puffing pig or Commerson dolphins in the waves at Surf Bay

At first glance I thought it to be seabirds and then noticed whatever it was was surfing the waves- and retracted the thought of sea birds. I pointed and yelled “Look, there’s something in the waves”. I could make out it was small, barrel shaped and black and white. I thought we’d hit the jackpot and seen penguins on our first day here and both Josh and Caroline suddenly started focusing on the rolling barrels to get a glimpse. There they were again but this time I zoomed in and could tell they had fins and tails. “They’re dolphins not penguins”, I exclaimed and they were indeed surfing the waves in closer and closer to shore. Whether they could see us I don’t know, but they were very friendly. Later on that night at the local watering hole, The Vic, a local surfer, Jay Moffett, told me that “the black and white ones are Commerson dolphins, otherwise known as puffing pigs”, I laughed and thought that was very cute as he continued to tell me that they were a very curious species and would often surf alongside him when he was in the water, in which I replied that he was mad for going in at this time of year.

It doesn’t take me long to adapt and two days in, after a little orientation of the islands I felt like I knew my way around and that small town girl in me was fitting in very well. It was now time to start work…

This is a student webzine I have been working on for a year and here are the links below to each issue of Pebble. Please delve inside to read some features I’ve written and enter the wonderful world of Pebble…


The Changing Colours of the Murray River

I am loving Sarah Wills’ travel blog- inspired! 🙂

“You’re going to the Falklands?!”

“You’re going to the Falklands!? But isn’t that really dangerous?” This was my mothers reaction when I told her that I had landed a nine month internship working for Falkland Islands TV when I finished my degree. My reply went something like- “no mum, that was in the 80’s, it’s perfectly safe now and in fact there are more military personal on the island than sheep, and there are a lot of sheep!”

The Falkland Islands - the beware of mines sign acts as a timely reminder of the military history the island holds- now to discover some of its secrets

The Falkland Islands – the beware of mines sign acts as a timely reminder of the military history the island holds- now to discover some of its secrets Photo by Caroline Scott

And that was it. Discussion over. It was decided, I would be jetting off to the other side of the world for the best part of a year to work with the local TV station on the island to report the local news and produce TV packages to send back home. The best part is there are three of us going from our University course and we all get experience presenting, producing, editing and directing! I don’t think you’d ever get to do that straight away anywhere else so that’s really exciting to start with.

My friend Caroline has already been out there for two weeks and seems to be loving it. She’s been on screen presenting the news already and looks perfect for the part. She said she’s already had all four seasons in one day so advised me to pack for all weathers. With a only a month to go now before I head out with my partner in crime Joshua Saunders, I have already started to tick things off my packing list. Packing for nine months is no mean feat! So I thought it best to be well prepared and start early.

Quite honestly, I really don’t know what to expect out there. I know that I will be living and working on a tiny island in the Atlantic which is closer to the Antarctic than other inhabited countries! In other words I’ll be making friends with lots of penguins rather than people. Now I’m sure I’m just being dramatic and I have been informed there are a few social watering holes to hang out at and that work takes up most of our time anyway. And I guess that is kind of the point behind the TV station- for people to get to know the Falkland Islands better from behind the lense. I am really excited to be part of a small island community as well and think I will fit right as a “small town” (ok tiny village) girl!

I am keen to dig a little deeper into the history of the Falklands as well and plan to visit all the memorial sites based there. I am fascinated with its military history as small signs and landmarks remind us of the lives lost there during the war. And there is still tension there. Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner still vows she wants the Malvinas back despite the referendum earlier in the year that showed the majority of the islanders wanted to stay British. This foreign affair dispute is something I’d like to understand better for sure. Who knows this could be the beginning of my career as a war correspondent or foreign affairs journalist. Watch this space…

Crepes and Waffles work to empower women

Where do you turn as a struggling single mum in country that has no welfare state? Crepes and Waffles, is a unique restaurant chain that was opened in 1980 and only employs women and often single mothers. The unique company was set up by a couple who had the idea straight out of University to help empower women by providing them with reliable employment and a substantial pay cheque at the end of the month whilst they can still find time to study and look after their families. With a Crepes and Waffles on every corner, it is clear to anyone who visits Colombia, that this chain is successful with it’s ethics, employees and it’s ice cream. Listen to this podcast where I find out from Norma, manager at Crepes and Waffles, how she sees herself as a role model for the women here striving to be independent.


Crepes and Waffles chain restaurant in Colombia Photo by Hannah Smithson

Women’s Link Worldwide help protect human rights

In the developed world we sometimes take our right to choice rather than chance for granted. In a country where sex education is minimal and the Catholic church have considerable control over educational establishments and traditional attitudes among society, the fight to bring awareness to controversial issues such as women’s reproductive rights and abortion in Colombia is a tough one.

Women’s Link Worldwide  is an international human rights non-profit organization working to ensure that gender equality is a reality around the world and at home in Colombia.

They strive to advance the acknowledgement of women’s rights as a human right through the implementation of international standards and strategic work with the law to close the gap between rights on paper and rights in reality.

Katherine Barnes is a representative of Women’s Link in Colombia and explains how they are working to promote women’s rights and family planning.

Music  by  Kevin MacLeod  is licensed under a  CC Attribution 3.0.

Conjugal visit

Girls at a local prison in Cartagena queue up for the conjugal visit Photo by Hannah Smithson


UN praises Colombia for tackling teenage pregnancy

For the majority of people in developing countries, basic resources and access to family planning services are inadequate. The most recent United Nations (UN) State of the World Population report 2012 estimates that 222 million women around the world still lack access to reliable services, information and supplies. This especially puts adolescents, the poor and ethnic minorities at risk of unintended pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) warns that much more financial support and political commitment is needed to meet their international Millennium Development Goals for improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality by 2015.


In September 2012, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director and Under-Secretary General of United Nations visited Colombia and highlighted the high figures of teenage pregnancy in the country: one in five women between 15 to 19 years old has been pregnant.

“Colombia has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Latin America. This is an obstacle for the development of the country”, he said. More alarmingly, 64% of those pregnancies are not intended.

Since 2006 UNFPA has been supporting the Colombian government in designing a model for ‘youth friendly health services’, including counselling, contraceptive methods, HIV testing, right up to prenatal care. The Ministry of Health and Social Protection has been implementing this model, with continued technical and financial support from the UN.

Dr. Osotimehin visited the capital Bogota, touring two hospitals with ‘youth friendly services’ to see how the country is progressing towards achieving some of the international development goals and said:

“I am pleasantly surprised by the government’s commitment to the prevention of teen pregnancy. This program of youth-friendly services is an example for many countries in Latin America.”

Speaking at the launch of the most recent state of the world population report, Dr. Osotimehin makes the case that access to family planning is a human right and points out that for just one dollar for every person on earth, everyone could realise this right. He highlights that UNFPA’s participation in the Youth Friendly Services Program helps train professionals from health teams and provides technical expertise in the delivery of mass communication strategies to make sure everyone is aware of their rights to services.

Unchallenged though, Dr. Osotimehin says the lack of family planning and increasing teenage pregnancy rates especially amongst adolescents perpetuates poverty, gender inequality and can lead to population pressures in developing countries that are already struggling to meet basic human needs.

Are the UN on track?

Sylvia Wong, Sexual and Reproductive Health Specialist at UNFPA in New York, explains why teenage pregnancy prevention and improving maternal health continue to be important goals for the UN:

“We know that complications for pregnancy and childbirth is the number one killer of girls who are between 15-19 years old in developing countries worldwide and if you’re able to prevent the pregnancy in the first place, that would reduce her risk of maternal death.”

The UN has been criticised for their slow progress for meeting their goals by 2015. Sylvia tells me that the UN is on track but that it could be better.

“There has been some progress, but I don’t think the progress is good enough because there are still too many women who are dying from a preventable death”, says Sylvia.

Colombia’s case study

Sylvia highlights Colombia as one of the countries where there is good practice in place when it comes to sexual education and sees it as very ‘progressive and innovative’.

“Colombia is doing quite a lot in recognising the issue of adolescent pregnancy and getting at the root causes of some of the issues; so they are buttressing work on education, especially comprehensive sexuality education and ensuring access to services for young people,” says Sylvia.

Girls at the Juan Felipe foundation regularly receive sex education and self-esteem lessons Photo by Hannah Smithson

Girls at the Juan Felipe foundation regularly receive sex education and self-esteem lessons Photo by Hannah Smithson

Profamilia assess adolescent pregnancy rates in new study

Profam copy

Psychologist Darly Naiyive at sexual health clinic Profamilia works to promote contraception and to provide family planning services Images by Hannah Smithson

An independent study from private sexual health clinic Profamilia, assessed the rates of Colombian teenage pregnancy in the first study of its kind in the capital. Results showed that adolescent birth rates had decreased by 1% in 2012.

Psychologist at Profamilia, Darly Naiyive, says that teenagers get pregnant in Colombia for many reasons, but boils it down to a lack of sex education, strong anti-abortion laws in a very Catholic country, and a traditionally macho culture embedded within society. She explains how Profamilia’s best practice in promoting contraception and providing family planning services can help women struggling with these obstacles:

“Profamilia has been highlighted because we protect women’s sexual and reproductive rights. We see family planning as a right for the women but also the patient needs to work together with the law.”

Human rights lawyers jump in to help fight for women’s rights

Katherine Romero is a Senior Attorney for Women´s Link Worldwide, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in Colombia working to enforce women’s sexual and reproductive rights, including the right to an abortion, and explains the work she does in Latin America and all over the world.

“Here at Women’s Link we understand that the legality of abortion has consequences among the vulnerable population and adolescent populations because they don’t have any information about how to get an abortion in a safe manner,” says Katherine.

She explains she was part of the legal team that part de-criminalised abortion law in Colombia in 2005. The Constitutional Court in Colombia then ruled in 2006 that abortion is legal in three cases; when a woman is raped, when there is a danger to the mother’s health or when there is a malformation of the foetus. Katherine and her team are now working hard to apply these rights among the women of Colombia, to spread awareness and access to treatment.

“The legality of abortion has a complete correlation with maternal mortality rates in adolescents because they don’t know how to do it in a safe manner.”

Consequently, it can be very dangerous for young women to get pregnant in these countries, Katherine explains. An underlying attitude in all these similar cases she tells me is that women´s bodies are seen as objects that in most cases don´t belong to them.


Photo by Hannah Smithson

“We have a specific exception for adolescents –all sexual relations with girls under 12 years old constitutes a rape. This is the interpretation of the penal code. So if a girl of 12 years or under gets pregnant she has the right to an abortion. But if a girl is over this age and isn’t in one of those three circumstances she doesn’t have the right to an abortion in the eyes of the law”, says Katherine.

Colombia therefore is in a transitional state as Katherine explains: “With our work to implement the constitutional courts decision we are one step forward in relation to Uganda, Tanzania, Peru, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chile in recognising that all women’s rights are human rights and that the right to abortion in Colombia is for all women. We also make sure that the government and all their agencies have the obligation to give the service.” But she points out that there is still more to be done.

Sylvia from UNFPA praises the work of sexual health clinics such as Profamilia and NGOs like Women’s Link but concludes that improving maternal health and reducing teenage pregnancy are goals that need to stay on the development agenda after 2015.

“While we have seen the global mortality ratio decline over time which is good news, in my opinion it is still too high because even one death because of maternal causes is just one death too many.”