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A moment in the spotlight

Jonathan Hollow, Chair of Good Vibrations, writes about the experience of preparing for a BBC Radio 4 Appeal.

“Why don’t we apply for the Radio 4 Appeal?” our trustee Pete Knapton asked at one of our board meetings last year. “Why not indeed?”, I replied. Of course the obvious answer to “why not” was that I was sure thousands of charities must apply, for only 52 slots a year – with those odds, was it even worth trying?

Yes it was! It turns out that Pete’s suggestion was a very good one, because on 9 August Good Vibrations will be fortunate enough to enjoy three minutes of national radio. Three minutes is such a small slice of time to set out your charity and your mission (more on this later), but the appeal slot is at a good time and it’s a highly respected national institution, so if it works for other charities, I’m sure it can work well for us. How pleased we were to be selected!

And how pleased we are to have worked with Benjamin Zephaniah as our presenter. He has been open, friendly, fun and absolutely committed. More importantly, he speaks with the authentic voice of someone who has been in prison, and knows the power of the arts (in his case, poetry and music) to create a new life. He understands and values the work we do at Good Vibrations, using music to help change lives. We could not have asked for a more genuine (and skilled) spokesperson.

The briefing day at the BBC earlier this year was tremendously interesting and fun. First, we got to network with lots of other charities who were doing appeals this year. Second, we got to learn from the cumulative wisdom of the producers, who have been turning this brief radio interlude into a highly developed art form, over many years. They played us examples of appeals that raised a lot of money, and appeals that didn’t do so well, and explained what made the difference. They educated us in the art of writing for radio. And they went through the minutiae of how the money is paid, counted and collected. I never knew there was so much behind what sounds like three simple minutes of radio.

Nonetheless, it was rather daunting to realise that they expect you, not them, to write the script.

And then it was doubly daunting to write a script with a poet and author, who knows how to use words better than any of us.

But Benjamin was open, trusting and generous with his time – and his life experience. We are really pleased with the result. It’s not poetry, but believe me, when you are trying to slice 10 words out of a broadcast, you weigh every single word in a new way. It’s as near to writing poetry with Benjamin Zephaniah as I’ll ever get!

As Chair of Good Vibrations, I believe profoundly in the power of the arts, and the importance of treating people in prison with humanity and dignity. We give people who feel they have nothing opportunities to find new selves that they didn’t know existed. We give them hope. Benjamin’s broadcast describes perfectly how important this is. I am confident it will succeed, and will bring our unique offer to the attention of a receptive national audience.

From the day the broadcast goes out on Sunday 9 August, there is one week when the money raised goes to Good Vibrations. So if you are reading this, please do make a donation, however small, during that week. We’d like to boost our funds with this unique opportunity so we can bring hope to more men, women and young people in prison.

Well, actually, we’d really like to break their record for most money raised. After all, who knows what is possible?

You can read more about our charity appeal on BBC Radio 4 here

Listen online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/appeal

Donations are no longer accepted through BBC Radio 4, but can donate direct:

Thank you!

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Photography by Toby Madden/The Independent, Osman Deen/South London Press, Camilla Panufnik, Elspeth Van Der Hole, GDA Design, Gigi Chiying Lam, G. Bland, Alan Bryden, Mark Carlin, Rachel Cherry, Francois Boutemy, Andy Hollingworth, Rebaz Yassin, and Guy Smallman.

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