The Buzz of Live Sport

Amy Scarisbrick

Amy Scarisbrick (History, 2011, Fylde) tells how her reporting skills gained from Lancaster University events and working for Bailrigg FM proved an invaluable grounding for her current role.

Microphone in hand covering major university sporting events such as Roses for Bailrigg FM campus radio, Amy Scarisbrick had no idea of the invaluable grounding she was gaining for covering what would be the most demanding assignment of her career to date - the terrorist bombing of the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena.

Now a senior sports producer and journalist on Radio 5 Live, Amy finds it difficult to talk about that night in in May 2017 when she received a call from Key 103 on her way back from a Take That concert in Liverpool, asking her to check out reports of an incident at the arena.

She was one of the first journalists at the aftermath of the bombing in which 23 people died and 1,017 were injured - still wearing her Take That concert bracelet, She faced a scene difficult to comprehend on sight as 40-50 emergency vehicles lit up the sky with red and blue lights, thunderous helicopters went back and forth airlifting patients (many of them children) to hospital. Forensic teams, bomb squads and paramedics swarmed among the dead, injured and distressed.

Amy worked through the night providing reports for Key 103 (and the Bauer radio network) every 15 minutes and also updates for Sky News, Channel 7 Australia and CNN eventually going home at 1pm. Most of her job for the next 18 months became working on arena-related stories.

“The attack has deeply affected me both personally and professionally - it changed my perspective on how I view news,” reflects Amy, who won several journalistic awards for her coverage of the arena and its aftermath. “The arena attack ultimately prompted me to pursue my original passion of sports journalism as I wanted a change after working on such an emotional and difficult story.”

The skills that carried her through that harrowing night and afterwards include good organisation, empathy with interviewees (some of whom were very distressed) and sheer practical experience, developed at Bailrigg FM. They are still the bedrock of her work now as a sports journalist at BBC Radio 5 producing some of the biggest live international sporting events including The Masters, Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and Premier League and Champions League football.

Brought up in Ormskirk, she had already decided she wanted to be a sports journalist before starting at Lancaster. A motor sport fan from the age of about three, she graduated from go karts to cars competing at Silverstone in her teens. A pit lane reporter, Louise Goodman, advised her to get a degree. For her it had to be history.

Having visited Lancaster she was convinced the variety of history options and the strength of Bailrigg FM would take her towards her chosen career. She joined Bailrigg FM in Fresher's week and within three weeks had her own sports show, involving coverage of university sports, but also live commentary at Lancaster City matches. “It was my perfect opportunity to make my mistakes and to cut my teeth and to learn and grow,” she says. She also gained an instant social life.

She loved the campus and, unusually, lived there for three years in the same flat with the same flat mates in Fylde College, because of the convenient access to college sports activities, Bailrigg and the city.

“History stood me in far better stead than a journalism degree,’ she says. “You can mount an argument, you can write properly and it was something I was interested in.”

She relished the breadth of the course, particularly a whole year’s module on the First World War with Alan Warburton, and studying the history of advertising. Her dissertation was on speed record setter, Malcolm Campbell, and the impact of the media on motorsport.

Lancaster put Amy in pole position to freelance. She was heard on Bailrigg FM by a local journalist and freelanced for The Bay radio and Lakeland Radio, alongside her studies. Even while studying for her finals, in which she gained a first, she was able to keep radio shifts going.

“The Roses was the pinnacle for me - the buzz of live sport,” she reminisces. “The sense of community. Being live on air and broadcasting simultaneously on two stations.”

After graduation, she went to the University of Central Lancashire to do her Master's in Broadcast Journalism, going on to work for a range of news outlets including Sky News, Rock FM, BBC North West Tonight and The Bay, on general and especially court reporting in parallel with sport. She’s now been on staff at Radio 5 Live since 2018.

“If it were not for Lancaster University I would not have this career,” muses Amy. “I would not have been heard. Now, stations like Bailrigg are all the more necessary as the industry is shrinking. They give you those skills and and to develop your confidence, and that chance to make your mistakes.”

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