Saturday, April 14, 2012
Yesterday morning I appeared on Radio 4's Woman's Hour in a feature about the history of women's cricket. This was sparked off by me getting in touch with the programme regarding the latest Archers storyline, which suggests:
a) There are still people out there (Alistair Lloyd in this case) who find the idea of women playing cricket surprising.
b) Women/girls may be able to practice with men, but they should never be able to play in matches with men (this appears to be the viewpoint of the new Ambridge cricket coach).
The messages I wanted to get across in the interview were that given the long history of women playing cricket in this country (dating back to at least 1745), the first viewpoint is utterly outdated, and that given the massive raising of standards since the Women's Cricket Association was formed in 1926, the idea that no woman would ever be able to reach the standard required for a men's side is utterly ridiculous.
See if I succeeded here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/whnews (podcast for 13th April)
I was incredibly nervous as this was my first experience of trying to communicate my research to the media, and it was also live - no second chances!
However, in retrospect and now that it's all over, I can safely say that it was an amazing experience. I had a long conversation with one of the show's researchers the day before going on air, and then yesterday morning found myself in a tiny studio in London surrounded by a ton of technical equipment and scared to touch anything!
As I was initially alone in the studio, I used the opportunity to take some sneaky photos of my surroundings (see above). Later I was joined by the lady who was on air right after I was, talking about red nail varnish (it's certainly an eclectic show!) We were both listening to the whole show through headphones and about 15 minutes in there was a soundcheck from Salford, so I simultaneously had Woman's Hour playing and the sound engineer speaking into my headphones...a little bit disorienting!
Then Jenni Murray started interviewing me and I was suddenly, despite not being able to see her, quite starstruck! Given that I listen to Woman's Hour most days it was a very strange and surreal experience.
Afterwards, when I came out of the studio, I had that shaky feeling you get after an incredibly nerve-racking experience, where it's difficult to walk effectively.
Communicating with the media about academic research makes giving a paper at an academic conference feel like child's play. But I think it's an incredibly important part of what we as academics should be doing. I'm so grateful that, even though I didn't perform perfectly, and even though I've been outed on national radio as someone who listens to The Archers, so many more people will now be aware of the long history of women's cricket in this country, and some of the issues surrounding this. I don't want my eventual PhD thesis to sit on the shelf, gathering dust in a musty library somewhere. I plan to seize the opportunities, like yesterday's, which will enable me to avoid this. Other academics should be doing the same.
(Many are. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01bf42n as an excellent example.)