Bailrigg FM Leads to Broadcasting Success for Andy


28 May 2019 15:56
Andy Walton

Broadcaster Andy Walton (History and Politics, 2003, Fylde) already knew when he arrived at Lancaster that he wanted to be a radio presenter - it had been his ambition since the age of eight, when his grandfather presented him with a small radio set - but he still marvels at how well his time there prepared him to fulfil his dreams. Now a busy writer and broadcaster who contributes regularly to Sky TV, Radio Five Live, Radio 2 and also provides communications as a consultant for the Christian think tank Theos, Andy is acutely aware of how much he owes both academically and in terms of practical broadcasting skills to his three undergraduate years. 

He says: ‘My time at Lancaster opened up a whole world of possibilities to me through my study, but also through the different people I met from around the world. The experience I gained on student radio also confirmed to me that broadcasting was what I wanted to do with my life.” 

Brought up in Bolton, where he had been volunteering for hospital radio since the age of 14, he decided to come to Lancaster University after his social worker father Martin (Religious Studies Cartmel 1977) took him to visit the university when he started to look at options and he was immediately captured by the atmosphere. He says: “It was a little universe and the kind of place that I really wanted to live in for three years.” 

He had been advised that as a potential broadcaster he needed a good degree as a basis for his career, and opted for history, but then he encountered what he describes as Lancaster's ‘point of genius’ - the built-in flexibility of the first year allowing him to study politics and sociology too. He found the politics so interesting that he switched to the joint honours course. Some lectures still stick in his mind, such as ‘legendary’ historian Dr Alan Warburton on First World War memorials and poets. He also remembers the excitement of Dr Peter Wilkin’s lectures on mass communication. He says: “I really enjoyed what I was doing so it did not feel like a chore.” 

Equally important to Andy was his busy life outside lectures. Already passionate about radio, he could take a step up onto Bailrigg FM - one of the only 24 hour student FM stations in the country - starting with the 11pm ‘graveyard shift’ and going on to have his own daytime programme, which included lively interviews around the Iraq war with lecturers and a weekly show with the Student Union President. 

It proved an excellent grounding for his future career. Many of the people with him went on to work for production companies, having learned from each other. Later working for the commercial station Magic 1152 in Manchester, Andy had no qualms about filling two minutes of chat live on air between the sport and the news, because he had had to do exactly that in his three years at Bailrigg FM. 

His Christian activities were also very important to him whilst at university and continue to form the bedrock for his life and career. He joined the Christian Union straightaway and was elected President for his second and third years. He says: “My life is informed by my faith and the social and cultural affiliations that come from that.” 

After graduating he stayed in the area and took an MA in Broadcast Journalism at UCLAN and gained his first professional job in radio at The Bay, reading news bulletins, reporting and commentating on Morecambe FC. From then he moved on to Premier Christian Radio before his recent appointment as Head of Media Relations for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. 

He also took an unexpected opportunity for a broadcaster, of spending 10 months as a monk with the Community of St Anselm. The mixed-sex religious community set up in 2015 by the Archbishop allows a group of people aged 20-35 to take time out of life to contemplate and concentrate on their faith. 

Describing the experience as ‘incredible’, he says: “It was not a year of group therapy, but there was a sense in which, as you discover more about community, you discover more about yourself in relation to other people.” He laughs as he points to some similarity with life in Fylde College, sharing a kitchen and wandering into the JCR for company. 

Since completing his retreat as a monk in June 2018, he has been freelancing as a journalist and broadcaster. His passion for communication is as strong as ever and he is curious to adapt to the media landscape as it changes. 

He sees himself as an advocate for faith, which he says is portrayed in the media as ‘either extremist or weird’, whereas he observes that the majority of people of faith are deeply concerned about their neighbours: “I’m keen to be a voice to put that message across,” he explains. “The role I see for myself is to put forward more rounded views of faith.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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