You may well be thinking I’m going to write about two members of a rock band who put the ‘l’ into longevity. But this Mick and Keith never met but because of the actions of one I met the other.
Mick Bailey was my sociology lecturer. He was an inspiration. He stammered on a King’s Speech scale but that didn’t deter him (or us, his students, for that matter). That was the first lesson: don’t be put off by the challenges. He introduced me to Maya Angelou and encouraged me to go university. Until that point I’d only been told what I wasn’t capable of and my comprehensive school teachers had a very long list. Not so, Mr Bailey. He was a further education sociologist – a radical, an unassuming mentor.
Fast forward a few years and after graduation I decided I wanted to be a journalist. The careers adviser – henceforth known as ‘the careers discourager’ said: “you don’t stand a cat in hell’s chance of getting on to a journalism course“. To give him his due, places were like gold dust. I don’t remember his name but I remember how inspirational his words of discouragement were.
On my journey to a not-a-cat-in-hell’s-chance-course I found my way on to an amazing journalism course for unemployed people based at Trinity and All Saints College, just outside Leeds! I got great books, great teaching and amazing work experience. I spent about four weeks at BBC Radio 5 – I was there on its very first day of broadcast. I also spent the same amount of time at Spectrum Radio which was a community radio station that opened up at the same time as stations like Kiss FM and Choice FM. I couldn’t get a look-in at those stations but Spectrum snapped me up. That’s where I met Keith.
Keith Belcher was always surrounded by a plume of cigar smoke – wherever he went. I, who knew nothing about radio, was determined to get some news on air. I came up with a what’s-on-type slot based on events in London. I wasn’t the best of broadcasters but Keith called me into his office and offered me some shifts reading the travel bulletins on the station. I couldn’t read my way out of a paper bag but he gave me the chance and I was eternally grateful.
Five days before Christmas 2016 I discovered that Keith Belcher had passed away. I was an aspiring journalist, he believed in me and I never looked back.”
What of Mr Bailey? I don’t know. I’m still searching.
And by the way, I did get on to the ‘not-a-cat-in-hell’s-chance’ course. Thank you to Mr Careers Discourager.