Community Radio – what’s it for ?

For about the last four years I have been broadcasting regularly on community radio.  A frequent question has always been ‘Is anybody listening ?’.  It’s a question many contacts ask – How many listeners do you have ?  bainbridgeBeing on radio creates all sorts of openings – opportunities to meet with a wide range of people and to give a voice to those in our community who are often the ones not heard.

The question of listeners / viewers doesn’t arise in the same way about channels such as Facebook Live.  I did a live video yesterday about a demonstration outside a local school where the crossing patrol / ‘lollipop lady’ has not been replaced since she left in July.  So far, in about eighteen hours, that video has been seen 763 times.  The video I did of the last protest at the same venue had over one and a half thousand views.

So I’m having a bit of a ‘back to basics’ moment.  “What’s it All About, Alfie ?”, as Cilla Black sang back in the sixties.

Basic to my thinking are the views put forward by Cormac Russell in his TED talk   .  The media is full of stories of the indolent poor, who live on ‘Benefits Street’, who use food banks but spend their money (according to Edwina Curry ) on tattoos and dog food, who come from abroad to scrounge from over-generous Britain.  But the days of philanthropists like Carnegie (who gave away about ninety percent of his fortune) are long gone.  The emphasis these days is on helping communities fend for themselves.  We don’t simply look at problems to be solved – we look at strengths to be promoted.  Do-gooders don’t necessarily provide the best help.

The story is told of the attempt to create a new centrepiece in nearby New Bolsover.  Money is being invested in the repair of grade 2 listed buildings and in the building of community pride.  A landscape designer was tasked with producing plans.  When he showed local people his designs, their response was “Why would we need a fountain in the middle of the estate ?  The kids will get wet and it’ll keep everybody awake at night !  Why didn’t you come and talk to us first and get some ideas ?”

So.  Community radio ?  Where am I going with that ?  Now, I have to confess, I don’t listen to radio much.  I have no desire to have ‘sounds of the sixties’ blaring in the background.  I do spend hours crouched over a computer – listening, watching, reading, interacting, learning.  When I talk to local young people they say something similar.  YouTubers are the influencers.  Zoella,  Thatcher Joe, etc.  I watch television but, in our house, tastes differ.  I don’t watch ‘Midsommer Murders’ or NCIS (or whatever !).  We time shift things we like (Still Game is the latest joy ).

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for music programmes.  Driving in the car, sometimes I am in silence – thinking.  Meditating. At other times I listen either to classical music or to Radio 2.  As a public broadcaster, the BBC broadcasts music-only shows.  Its diet is not only serious politics.

A free media is not available everywhere.  Latest stories are of media people being arrested in Turkey and other middle eastern powers restricting what can be reported.

Radio must be only one of a group of related media.  All good outlets mix live broadcasting, web presence, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and relevant live events.

But fundamental should be our involvement with / discussion with the local community.  We don’t tell them what they need.  We listen.  We don’t simply report problems – we look for strengths.  We look for partner organisations in the community with whom we can work.  Local businesses are part of our community, to be promoted, learned from and networked with.  Politicians play an important role – we need to be talking to them

The same logic applies to our discussion with those who share the task of presenting / reporting.  We work together to share ideas, to decide ‘who does what’, to act collectively.  Discussion once a month seems to me not to be frequent enough.  In these days of Skype and conference calls we should be able to share ideas more often.

So why don’t I just go and present on our “George and Mel” YouTube channel ?  Daughter-in-law Angela in New York works as Head of Celebrity Talent at Tribeca Shortlist.  She tells us that most of the celebrities she ‘rides shotgun’ on are Internet based.  YouTubers.

But there is strength in numbers.  We learn from each other.  We encourage each other.  We critique each other.  The group of presenters is also a community – not just to be directed but to be given a voice.



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by George and Mel O’Neil

empty chair

A long time ago George worked with a young man who was with foster carers.  They spoke to him about his past, when he lived at home with “Bad Jackie” (his mother).  You will not be surprised to hear that the placement with those foster carers did not last.

We know also about a young man, aged twenty one and autistic.  He lives with two carers in their own home as part of a supported living scheme.  The young man’s mother complained about something the carers  did.  Since then, seven months ago, the mother has not had chance to meet with her son.  She is told that he does not want to meet with her.   He has spoken with his mother, by phone, twice in the last several months.  The last call was about two months ago.  During the previous call, about a week before, he started to cry……then his mother started to cry.  The phone was passed to somebody next to the mother. The young man shouted, “YOU ARE RELIEVED OF YOUR COMMAND !”  When he was asked if this was from the recent Avengers film he replied, calmly, that no – it was from Dr Who.  Maybe the shouting was for the benefit of the people he lives with, who were standing nearby.  One of these workers wanted then to talk about how upset THEY felt about the actions of the parent.  The other stood in the background saying loudly, “Tell them !  Tell them !”

We have recently become interested in stories about what is called Parental Alienation.  Usually this relates to the situation where one parent in a separating family “badmouths” the other parent.  This manipulation of the young person can be conscious or unconscious, deliberate or non-deliberate.  Mixed messages can present problems for the young person caught in the middle – “Oh, go on then, phone your father.  I suppose you’d better get it over with !”

Other coercive relationships have similarities.  Cults try to distance possible members from their families.   So do organisations trying to recruit those who might carry out terrorist activities.  There is a wealth of information available on all of the above situations.       and

Think about the balance of power in fields such as social care.  Current thinking is that the best practice for people who need support lies in them have the chance to make decisions for themselves.  They should not be making choices to meet the needs of those who are supposed to offer support !

The latest news in the life of the young man described above is that, following a discussion with an inspecting body, he returned to the care setting and exploded at the carer .  Often inspections ask “Do you get chance to meet with your family ?”  The carer had to have hospital treatment.  The young man went to a respite placement for a few days then returned to the house of the carers.  He promised to behave better in the future.  If he felt angry he would go to his room.   At the time of writing nobody has found out WHY he exploded.  Many people believe that  occasional ‘challenging behaviour’ is to be expected from somebody labelled as having a condition such as autism.  Thankfully, as far as we are aware, nobody in this story has suggested the use of medication.  But that method of control has been used in similar cases.

Tony Benn, one time MP for Chesterfield, asked five important questions:

“What power have you got?”

“Where did you get it from?”

“In whose interests do you use it?”

“To whom are you accountable?”

“How do we get rid of you?


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Busy, busy !

im-busyEven the dog is busy !  It’s the start of the week and more jobs lie ahead of us !  Where did the weekend go ? The hours even whizz by as we try to get on top of the never-ending list of things-to-be-done.  So what’s the cost to us and what do we get out of it ?

On the plus side there’s the satisfaction of looking back and feeling proud of our achievements.  Somebody recently said, “I don’t know how you manage to get it done, never mind write about it !”  There’s the stimulation of meeting new people, learning new things and letting your curiosity lead you where it will.

On the negative side there’s the lack of ‘doing nothing’ time.  That’s why car journeys are so important – travelling in meditative silence.

“What is this life if, full of care,  we have no time to stand and stare ?” as William Henry Davies put it.

Right….back to work !

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Cyril the Squirrel

I’ve done four weeks ‘standing’ as a market trader in Bolsover town centre. On each Friday I have manned my market stall, offering appointments either locally nor on Skype, for either counselling or for life coaching. Over time I am getting to know local people. People stop to chat about what’s happening in their lives. Banter builds up with other traders – “If I have to tell customers again the price of those plastic squirrels (another traders !) I’ll go nuts !”stall

So when I make my first appointment I celebrate by buying one of the plastic squirrels. At the suggestion of another trader I name him Cyril. As in ‘Cyril the Squirrel’. Like Oleg, the baby Meerkat.

But I’m fascinated that the public don’t really know what are meant by counselling and life coaching.

Counselling is a talking therapy used to help when you have a problem – like in your relationships with other people, in your opinion of yourself or when other worries in life seem overwhelming. There are occasions when you need to ‘sort your head out’, to make a plan about what needs to change in life to bring you happiness.

Life coaching is when you want to make the most of who you are – to develop your abilities to the max. To be the best you can be. So you systematically, with help, make a plan about how you develop many different aspects of your life. Because life is made up of lots of ‘bits’ which interact to make a whole ‘you’. If you want to look your best, for example, comfort eating to deal with what’s on your mind doesn’t help.

And in either discussion we don’t do ‘labelling’. All that… ‘What type of personality are you ?’ is in the same category as ‘What star sign are you ?’ Sorry, that’s our approach !cyril Others may do things differently. It’s a free country. But if you want ‘You suffer from Borderline Fell out of Your Pram Syndrome’, you need to see somebody else !

And just curing symptoms doesn’t help. If you suffer from panic attacks, there’s little value in simply teaching relaxation (which does have its place). It would be useful to talk about what causes the panic attack.

Cyril the Squirrel doesn’t have any special powers. He doesn’t cure people, he’s just a mascot. The person who decides about your life is you.

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Going Shopping

When I go shopping I make a list of the things I want.  I don’t list the things I want to avoid (‘don’t get that hotpot with mushrooms in !).  I know that I may need to go into different shops to buy different things – I won’t get the new trainers I need when I go into the butcher’s.

Life’s a bit like that.  I’ve often been asked recently to explain what Life Coaching is.  It’s a bit like looking for the things you want in life and knowing how to get them.  Figure out what it is you want – not what you want to avoid.  And you know that you’ll need to look at different areas of your life to figure out the different things you need to make for a happy life.

My problem with making lists, either for shopping or To Do lists, is that I imagine, having made the list, much of the job is done.  I get to the shop and forget where I’ve put the list.  Or  I forget to go back to the To Do list and tick off what I’ve done and which jobs have yet to be completed.  The same list doesn’t last forever – I need to make a new list every time I go shopping or occasionally make a new list of things yet to be done.

Over the last few years much of my conversation about life planning has been with people described as having a learning disability.  But often they’re not allowed to ‘go shopping’, even though official guidance suggests they should each have a ‘person-centred plan’.

And it’s suggested goals should be ‘realistic’.  Why ?  I have a person centred plan, worked out this January – to be reviewed in about six months time at the latest. I hope my approach was: “If you don’t have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true ?”

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Friday 13th – First day as market traders.

First Day as traders

So this is the podcast about our first day !  Main feature – it was COLD !  Lesson for next time – wear more clothes.  And make the stall more interesting.

Shane's pictureMore information at:

Resolutions Facebook



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Get a Person Centred Plan

Wellbeing.  Health and happiness.  It’s what we all wish for.  To have a life where everything is the best it can be.

But the different parts of life all interact.  You want to look after your family but you don’t have the money to do everything you want to for them.  Or health issues get in the way.  Or relationships with those who should be your nearest and dearest have gone a bit out of tune.  Or you’re not very sure what it is you really believe.

So our suggestion is that you sit down with somebody (we can do it !) and make a plan about what YOU want and how to make it happen.  We call it a Person Centred Plan  (you are that person !).  Of course things will change and it’ll need to be reviewed before too long.

Top of both our lists (Me ‘n’ Mel) at the start of the year was to sort out the ‘stuff’ that’s been filling our house for years.  De-cluttering.  It’s working !  I’m a bit of a hoarder but she’s asking pointed questions (“Do you actually use it ??”).  Academic papers, never read from 2009, are unlikely to be tackled soon.

So if you want to make a plan, use the template below.  We can help you move toward the life you really, really want.

pieChart_jpg 3

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Feeling foolish !

Cecil in the US (presumably) sorted me out. The last time I posted on this site was in October 2015, since which time I have gotten married, had a reception (not in the same year !) and developed a career in radio, together with wife Mel.  My version of WordPress was wildly out of date !

My need for my website became urgent with my plan to become a market trader, starting this coming Friday (13th !).  Keeley Flint offered a course in Bolsover about becoming a market trader.  I interviewed her on radio (Elastic FM), asking how somebody like me, a counsellor, could work as a market trader. “You’ll have to wait, I’m counselling somebody round the back of the stall at the moment” ??  No, she said, anybody can have a stall, a bricklayer or a solicitor.  Then, I thought, people sell solar panels at supermarkets.  They don’t actually hand you a solar panel.  They sell a service.

So here we go.  Counselling and Life Coaching !  Starting with Making a Person Centred Plan.  I have one.  Mel has one (she’ll be there too, offering to help people make a plan.).

It’s another adventure !

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George, The Boor

I’ve been publicly ‘outed’ as an ill-mannered boor and a disgrace !

It all happened at a shopping-centre coffee shop. There we were, queueing for two coffees and debating whether I could get away with a packet of fruit and oat biscuits all to myself. Other Half was agonising about having put on four stone since yesterday (or something) so dare not eat anything more for the next fortnight.

 There was a man in front of me in the queue. He hadn’t moved forward, nearer the till, as I tried to edge my fingers round the packet of biscuits. Yes, I probably did brush against him. He asked loudly “Are you aware that I’m here !  You could say Excuse Me !”

 I immediately gushed with apologies. Over the top, really ! “I DO beg your pardon !” It was probably obvious I didn’t mean a word of it. The casting of my eyes to heaven in the exchanged glance with the barrista probably conveyed my true feelings. He could have moved forward a bit. Maybe he had issues about staying behind the line to afford full confidentiality to the customer currently at the till.

So how did I get to be this outcast from society ? I am Scottish and educated in a Catholic seminary. I don’t easily shake hands even, so how do I become this rugby scrum groper ?Am I turning into the militant pensioner who elbows young people aside to ensure my continuing rights ?Am I going through ‘The Change’ ? Or is it just that my stars were in a particular alignment on that day which allowed me little control over my actions ?

 To what degree do we label people in our lives ? One of the worst I’ve heard was, of a young man, “You’ll never change him ! He’s a born petty thief !” “Stealing-itis” isn’t a condition I am aware of ! We trade terms like ‘learning disability’ and ‘mental health problems’ as if they offered a comprehensive summary of an individual’s whole being.

 But it’s more widespread ! “Posh”. “Daily Mail reader ” . “Luddite !” I use labels as much as the next man. They don’t really tell me anything.

 Other Half, ten minutes later, remarked “That grumpy old guy’s left now !” I inwardly high-fived her. She and me together against the world !

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Learning Disability and Basic Independence

We came on holiday – myself, partner and her son aged 18. He has autism and is described as having a learning disability. On our first night out at the entertainment provision at our holiday village (a gated community of mobile homes) he disappeared. About half an hour later he reappeared, having treated himself to a session at the bungee jumping attraction on site – not jumping off bridges but a more modest arrangement where one is strapped into a harness and hovered over a trampoline.

He looked like he’s had a good time and it struck me that this was probably the first time he had ever gone solo like this – usually he would have a support worker with him. In addition to this he was in France !

The following night he got himself a temporary tattoo. He organised it all himself and was soon sporting a mermaid on his upper arm. When we went to the beach he spent ages well out from the sand doing his own meditative thing.

Over the next couple of days he ventured further. He sat in the cafe and ordered his own food. He played pool with who-knows which friends he made for himself. Some kids heard him speaking English and practised their few forbidden words in English “Hey, suck my c*ck !” – but these seemed later to be the mates he was playing pool with. A couple of them walked past us as we lay by the pool – wow, that young woman looks quite hot ! But what if they are taking advantage of him ? Then we counted up the cost of bottles of Orangina on site and knew that he’d bought himself one a number of times.

His mum is a Makaton trainer. (Makaton is a language assisted programme using signs and symbols for people with communication difficulties) She signed, long distance, her concerns that he was ok. He reassured her. I tried my few signs. He cast his eyes to heaven and ignored me.

We forget how little opportunity some people have in life for basic privacy and the chance to make one’s own decisions. The chance to travel on one’s own, to go shopping or to choose un-approved friends is something that young people have to fight for. How much more difficult is it for those already adult to claim the same right ?

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