Pandemic-inspired student audio drama takes home Gold

Thu 18 November, 2021
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A Covid19-themed audio drama created by a group of University of Bedfordshire students has won the top prize in their category at the Community Radio Awards.

This marks the third year in a row that radio productions from the University have won Gold awards at the Community Radio Awards, following a 2019 win for student James Montague, and last year’s victory for staff member Terry Lee and his daughter, Primrose.

Created by final-year students, ‘Beginning of The End– originally aired on the University’s community radio station Radio LaB 97.1FM – is a self-contained 27 minute piece that follows characters navigating their way in a fictional world three years into a deadly pandemic.

The piece was awarded Gold in the ‘Arts & Creative Radio of The Year’ category at the ceremony.  

Media Communications graduate, Fariza H Sultana, who wrote the script, said of their win: “We are very proud to have won the Gold award at the Community Radio Awards.

“I did not expect for us to win, so when it was announced I had to rewind the livestream and listen twice, just to make sure that I heard it right. It was a very emotional moment for all of us, it is indeed a very big achievement for us as a team to be recognised by the radio community.”

Manny Donhkon, Media Performance for Film TV and Theatre graduate, produced and edited the winning piece, as well as playing a starring role in the drama.

He commented: “It was a great experience watching the awards live online. The way the judges described their viewpoints on the piece gave me goose bumps – I don’t like tooting my own horn, but I loved the recognition there.”

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns were the main inspirations behind the project and Manny says this was down to the topic being at the forefront of everyone’s minds at the time.

He said: “Being locked up for too long really boosts your imagination, I suppose. Looking outside the box at the possibilities of ‘what if…’ and turning that into a podcast. It was clear this was the only thing on our minds at the time as lockdown was our reality.”

When creating the winning piece, the group also took inspiration from a host of zombie apocalypse and sci-fi movies, including ‘Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Train to Busan’ and ‘I Am Legend’.

Fariza said: “I had always taken up the writer's role whenever I had the chance and I had written scripts for the radio unit previously as well. But, for this particular project I had to spend a couple of days writing it, because I had to be very precise and conscious about how I present it.

“I had a lot of fun writing it because I got to be creative with it – it felt like I had control over my story as a writer.”

The successful project was created between December 2020 and January 2021 and, with the UK spending much of that time in lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic, the group had to be creative when it came to recording individual dialogue.

Fariza added: “There were times when things got frustrating because we couldn't meet up and make decisions but eventually we worked everything out as a team.”

Terry Lee, Senior Tutor in Radio and Audio, spoke about their achievements, saying: “Nothing makes me prouder than seeing our students achieve national recognition for their audio work - especially when it is the result of a group effort. ‘Beginning of the End’ is a technical achievement and a listening treat – a fantastic and inspiring example of our University's radio output.”

Dr Carlota Larrea, Head of the School of Culture and Communications, congratulated the team on their win.

She said: “Radio LaB continues to gather external accolades for their student work, and I congratulate the students and the staff who created or supported this particular programme. The station is a great professional opportunity and platform for students, as well as serving the larger University and Luton community.

“Radio is now more popular than ever through the explosion of podcast production and, in this area, the series Fantastic Noise designed and grown by Terry Lee, was at the forefront of reflecting this development and I am confident that the station and the radio provision will continue their excellent work.”

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