The Chiswick Calendar, Editor Bridget Osborne – Profile
By Bridget Osborne
The question I’m most often asked is ‘Does The Chiswick Calendar make any money?’ the answer to which (‘No not really’) is then followed by a slightly quizzical ‘Why do you do it?’ I don’t really have a satisfactory answer to that other than that it’s fun.
At 17 I went to Philadephia on an exchange visit with a school group and on return we were interviewed by a local radio reporter. I knew straight away that was the job I wanted to do. Being a journalist gives you carte blanche to talk to anyone. Whereas my friends used to laugh at me and roll their eyes when I struck up conversation with a stranger on the bus, being a journalist meant I could pursue my natural nosiness and get paid for it. Nominally I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford, but spent most of my time in a caravan in a field doing hospital radio and working for Radio Oxford with a view to getting on to the post grad Journalism course at Cardiff and working at the BBC.
I know it sounds corny, but if you are standing at a pit head at dawn talking to pickets during the Miners Strike or you’re with the Israeli Prime Minister as 9/11 unfolds, you feel that you are a witness to history. I was a trainee journalist on BBC Radio 4’s sequence programmes Today and The World Tonight in the early ’80s, learning how to produce and report. By 2001 I was a senior producer in television, producing Hardtalk on BBC World TV. Ehud Barak was supposed to be talking about the latest twist of the Middle East peace process as we watched the twin towers fall, and he was the first to call it as an al-Qaeda strike.
In 30 years at the BBC I worked in the Radio 4 newsroom, on You and Yours and Midweek, with the occasional Any Questions / Any Answers and Desert Island Discs in the mix and short stints in Newcastle and Belfast reporting; five years at Radio 5 Live from its inception in 1994 before moving to television to spend 12 years producing HARDtalk. I’ve taught media law and trained journalists in how to do interviews.
Life after the BBC has been an even bigger adventure. I work a lot with Zeinab Badawi, a HARDtalk presenter who has a particular expertise in Africa. Born in Sudan, she wanted the story of the Black Pharoahs, builders of the many Sudanese pyramids, to be more widely known. We were at Unesco in Paris in the office of Deputy Director Getachew Engida when he mentioned Unesco’s General History of Africa – eight leather bound volumes of African history put together by African academics from an African perspective. He was bemoaning the fact that despite the passion of the first Independence generation of African leaders, African history still wasn’t really on the curriculum in African countries. So we decided to make a TV series for Unesco to make available to schools, universities and state TV stations across the continent. Four years and twelve filming trips later (to Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Africa and Zimbabwe) the first series of The History of Africa with Zeinab Badawi was broadcast on BBC World TV in July – August 2017.
Over the same period we’ve been establishing The Chiswick Calendar. Set up in November 2014 as the brainchild of my business partner Nick Raikes, The Chiswick Calendar now encompasses a website, a Club Card scheme, a weekly newsletter, video production for our own website and for others, Current Affairs events – public discussions, debates and interviews on matters of importance to Chiswick people, a monthly Jazz night at George IV, occasional Cabaret nights at London Auctions and the odd picture exhibition. The really brilliant thing is that I’m now in touch with a bunch of people who pour their energy and passion into organising interesting things in Chiswick and who also do it mostly for the fun of it.