20 New Catholic Voices Complete Training

The Catholic Voices 2013 National Speakers’ Training programme, which ended in November, gave the 20 speakers a chance to apply the methods and techniques they learned in ‘real-time’ studio interviews.

The second ‘studio’ weekend in Salford's Media City took place in brand new facilities next to the BBC. Each speaker was grilled on the subject of Lord Faulkner's 'assisted dying' bill or the impact of gay marriage law, during four-minute radio interviews with BBC presenters, followed by TV interviews on the topic of Pope Francis, in which Catholic Voices were put up against ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ critics of the Pope. Thorough evaluation sessions followed, with playback of the interviews, and feedback, including from the interviewers.

During the stay in Salford, four of the group had the unique opportunity to go ‘back stage’ during a live broadcast of the Sunday Programme. From the control room they were able to observe the various members of the production team in their different roles, and form an understanding of the whole broadcasting process - how the programme is managed down to the second, as well as its many ingredients: down-the-line interviews, studio to studio ‘panel-style’ interviews and the insertion of pre-recorded pieces. It was a helpful and confidence-building experience for the group that took away much of the mystery and showed how the production team are eager for their guests to come across well.

Despite the studio focus of the weekend, there were quieter moments - the group came together for Mass each day and for reflective input from the chaplain, Fr Tim Byron SJ, who is also chaplain to Manchester University. There were times to unwind and socialise, and lunch at Prezzo.

The speakers returned to Hawkestone Hall in Shropshire, location of the first weekend, for the culmination of the training. The group came prepared for a panel exercise; each person gave a presentation on a newsworthy topic, providing background information and a CV-style re-frame.

Other exercises included an excellent presentation on Social Media from Fr Tim, followed by fruitful discussion, and a session which explored the possibilities of sharing from personal experience in a journalistic fashion. Times of prayer included Mass, Adoration and a prayerful examination of our personal ‘Catholic Voices journey.’ On Sunday we were privileged to be joined by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury diocese for a reflection and questions, Mass and lunch. We also made good use of the bar.

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