I got a call from my theatre booker a week or so ago. He asked me if I was free if he took a booking for 26th April. I was taken by surprise as I wasn’t expecting to be back performing quite so soon. It was only when he clarified the booking as being for April 2022 that it all made sense. Well there’s no harm in planning ahead I suppose.
Recently, I have come up with a standard reply when asked if I am free for some date in the future. I usually say, ‘Hold on let me check my diary…’ I usually wait 2 seconds and then say, ‘I’m free’. That laissez faire attitude to the demands on my time nearly got me into trouble this week as I had 2 events taking place on the same day for the first time in months.
A month ago, I had been asked by Swansea City to host their final Swansea City Business Networking event. Thank goodness I put the booking into my diary straight away. That’s Wednesday 14th April sorted I thought.
When last week I was asked if I could be available to record an interview for ‘Songs of Praise’ on Wednesday I went through my routine, ‘let me check…I’m free’. Thankfully my brain isn’t as completely addled as I think it might be after lockdown because I suddenly thought, hold on a minute, Wednesday rings a bell.
I explained to the TV producer that after months of very little in the diary and rarely more than one event on any day, Wednesday already had a morning booking. With a little jiggery pokery we manage to move my TV interview to the afternoon.
That’s the thing about coming out of lockdown, hopefully, I might have to check my diary a bit more often.
The Wednesday morning Business Networking Event went well. The Club has adapted well to the constraints placed on gatherings by the pandemic. This event once again was being held over the internet.
It started well, before it started properly. I woke up to find a package of Welsh Cakes and Welsh Tea put together by Te Eto Cakes and Bakes which had been sent to all of the participants by the Club.
The 3 speakers all had a different perspective on the changes to our city.
Rob Stewart the Council leader shared slides and figures about the investment in the new Copr Quarter as well as further plans for the city centre. Paul Morton, the head of Vodafone for Wales and Mercia explained how his company had provided the internet capacity that will turn the Copr Quarter into a world leading connected centre. The WIFI services will be available to all no matter what network they are on but fair play, he nearly persuaded me to change provider after his presentation.
Our final guest was Julian Winter the new CEO of Swansea City. Julian came into the job during the Pandemic but has still been able to communicate with the fanbase despite not being able to meet many of them. In fact, Julian told us that due to the constraints on mixing there were still some members of staff he had yet to meet in person.
What became clear from all of them was that despite the pandemic there is no excuse not to plan and not be prepared to be our best going forward.
One of the topics covered during question time was social media, good and bad. As you might know following shocking online abuse of some of their players, Swansea City led a 7 day social media blackout. The idea was to highlight the need for social media companies to act more responsibly when it comes to online abuse. A number of clubs and organisations joined with the club and the blackout.
With that in mind I asked both Rob Stewart and Julian Winter how they felt knowing that there were thousands of people out there who could do their jobs much better than them? It was plain to see online with the comments from all those anonymous, keyboard warriors.
It was interesting how the 2 leaders took different views. Rob Stewart often actively engages with the online criticism, calling out those who he feels get their facts and the story wrong. Julian Winter doesn’t engage personally online but does monitor the chatter through his team of media experts.
If you are in the public eye this type of abuse does go with the territory but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt…believe me, I know! I don’t think there is a ‘correct way’ of dealing with it, but one thing is for sure we could all do with a little help from the people who run social media…and we could all do with being kind.
I got to New Siloh Landore, or the Liberty Church as its now known, in plenty of time for my interview for the TV show ‘Songs of Praise’. I managed to get a parking space at the back of Brynhyfryd School, my old school, just as the kids ran out of the school gates heading for home. I couldn’t help but wonder how 50 years has passed in the blink of an eye since I did exactly the same thing.
Brenda Edwards and Mal at the Liberty Church (New Siloh) filming for Songs of Praise
My interview in New Siloh was with Brenda Edwards. Brenda came to the public attention by getting to the final 4 on ‘X Factor’ in 2005. She has since become a regular in the West End and now a regular presenter on ITV’s ‘Loose Women’ and BBC’s ‘Songs of Praise’. When I got to the church the filming of Brenda’s links had to be put on hold because of all the traffic and noise at the end of the school day.
I told the producer not to worry and that I would have a snooze in the car until they needed me. I couldn’t get to sleep at all. The problem wasn’t the kids or traffic it was the incredibly loud laughing I heard, which I later traced to Brenda.
Brenda is a character; funny, loud and full of life and what a life she has had. She was brought up by her Grandmother, a pastor of a Pentecostal church, when her parents were killed in a car accident when she was a young child. In recent years she has also coped with cancer and with her appearances on Loose Women she has encouraged women to be brave, fight and confront the disease.
Brenda had also done her research before coming to Swansea. She had chatted to her good friend, Swansea boy and West End performer Andrew Simeon, who I’m pretty sure sang on one of my projects when he was a student at Gorseinon College. Nothing puts a guest at ease as much as the interviewer telling you that you have friends in common.
A few weeks ago, when I filmed a number of songs for the programme it was such a busy afternoon that I didn’t really get to savour being in the building. On Wednesday it was a small production team and we had time to chat.
New Siloh has a real place in my life. It was the Chapel where my great grandfather would conduct the choir whilst my grandmother Myfanwy played the organ and my auntie Ceridwen played First violin in the orchestra.. It was also from the balcony that I think I performed in public for the first time in a school carol service.
When Brenda asked questions about what the building meant to me it really made me stop and think…and I got quite emotional.
That’s what a good interviewer is able to do, put themselves into the background and make the guest really consider about their answers. I won’t forget Brenda; in fact, we hope to record a duet sometime in the future…I’ll need to check my diary. One thing is for sure, next time I’ll be pushing her into the spotlight.