Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘From Our Own Correspondent’

Singing for One’s Supper

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 8th May, 2017

JF speaking at Newham HustingsThis afternoon I spoke to Kingston U3A about my Life as a Foreign Correspondent — undoubtedly the most popular of all the talks that I have been giving since I joined the lecture circuit a decade or so ago. Most writers and many broadcasters sing for their supper in that way, whether for women’s clubs, Rotary Clubs and other professional bodies and U3A — the University of the Third Age, which has hundreds of thousands of members in Britain (the Kingston branch has well over a thousand). So whereas many people, not least the young, get their information and entertainment online or through their mobile phones or other post-modern platforms, others still want to hear stories from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. And it is all about stories. Whether I’m giving a talk directly related to one of my books (such as on Oscar Wilde) or instead recounting my journalistic exploits round the world from the Vietnam War onward, or aspects of modern history and current affairs, such as the so-called Arab Spring, I paint a picture in words, exactly as I do when I am writing a script for Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent. Well-delivered, the spoken word can convey so much, without the need for visual illustration.

Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you do it?”, in other words, give talks, which I do mainly in London and the Home Counties, though for several years I lectured on cruise ships as well. “Surely it takes away valuable time from your writing?” Well, yes, up to a point that is true, though writing is a very solitary occupation and it’s good to have a speaking engagement lined up that means I actually do have to shave, get fully dressed and go out into the world and converse with real live people. Besides, these days writers of books, in particular, are urged by their publishers to go out and promote the product, not just at literary festivals, but in other fora, as well as keeping up a visible presence online and on social media. Finally, yes, the money does help. Unless one is fortunate enough to pen a blockbuster, writers’ income from their craft has fallen sharply in recent years. A recent survey by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), on whose Board I sit, discovered through a survey that the average income of writers in the UK is £11,000 a year. That means many are having to survive on much less. So speaking fees (usually calculated on a per capita basis on the size of the expected audience, can make all the difference, even when the group (and therefore the fee) is modest. But I mustn’t grumble. I am one of those writers and broadcasters who actually enjoys giving talks, unlike some of my colleagues who loathe it. So my advice to fellow scribes is: don’t knock it. Be brave! Go with it!


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The Voice of the Brain of Britain: Radio 4

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 7th August, 2011

Though BBC Radio 4 has never been my major client, I’ve enjoyed working for that station perhaps more than for any other media outlet. For a dozen years, I contributed regularly to ‘Thought for the Day’ on the ‘Today’ programme and more recently have filed pieces for ‘From Our Own Correspondent’. But my satisfaction is also because I am a Radio 4 sort of person, I guess, as I realised when reading Kevin D’Arcy’s entertaining book, The Voice of the Brain of Britain: A Portrait of Radio 4 (Rajah Books, 2007, £12.99). Kevin kindly gave me a copy when the book came out, but shamefully I’ve only just got round to reading it, but I can thoroughly recommend it as an informal but well informed analysis of what makes Radio 4 so special, in content and in concept. The ‘Today’ programme of course sets the political and news agenda for much of the thinking nation (especially those of us who live in London), but as Kevin rightly points out, it is so much more than just news and current affairs, embracing educative and entertaining material, including cutting edge comedy. Lord Reith might turn over in his grave because of some of the things that go out on the airwaves these days, but in general Radio 4 sets a standard that is unparalleled, as home or abroad.


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