Radio Host Was Never On My List

Dr Alison Gardineralthough it’s not
exactly been planned, it’s more of a question of taking opportunities when they
present themselves

by Dr Alison Gardiner


One of the main themes of my life that I would like to develop further is my writing. On the school run, partly to keep the kids quiet and partly to amuse myself, I began telling stories to the children. One day someone said that the stories were good enough to be committed to paper.

Because of having four children and working, it has taken a very long time to pull the stories together and polish them. On this leg of my life journey, I joined an online writing group called Litopia. There followed a fabulous few years, bouncing in and out of Litopia, commenting on threads and having enormous fun with an extraordinarily talented and witty group of people.

I had an enormous sense of accomplishment afterwards, having faced the fear of speaking in public.

This was linked to several radio programmes, including Litopia After Dark. At one point Peter Cox, the agent who runs Litopia, said he was looking for a guest on the program and asked if anyone would be interested in joining them. Take my courage in both hands, I agreed and ended up as a guest on a program in March 2011. It was one of these moments where you say ‘yes I’ll do it’ and as soon as you have, you start asking yourself ‘what on earth have I done?’ In the days beforehand, I worried non-stop. I had been asked to write/present a couple of short pieces and practiced these till I could almost say them in my sleep. The program went swimmingly and was terrific fun. I had an enormous sense of accomplishment afterwards, having faced the fear of speaking in public. I could almost pretend I was chatting to my computer, neatly ignoring the live audience and 5-10,000 people who would listen to the podcast later.

At this time, Litopia After Dark ran a live chat room linked to the radio program. When their normal chat room hostess left, I offered my services -another OMG moment. These were huge fun but terrifying in their own way because my material was now totally unprepared as I had to react to whatever was happening. It was a complex job as I had to listen to the live programme, following the thread of the conversation between the guests and the presenters, read all the comments coming in from the chat room, copy and paste comments across to a document so I could present them at appropriate times, meanwhile type replies to the chat room. A fine example of multi-tasking; worse than spinning plates, more like juggling monkeys. We had some fantastic guests: spies, politicians, polar explorers, literary greats, so it was all very exciting if busy.

As the program evolved, it became evident that going out live had its difficulties and it would therefore be better to pre-record a program so therefore we would no longer have a live chat room. I moved into co-presenter role which now absorbs most of my Sunday evenings.

It’d been an interesting trip, notable by the fact that each time I took a step towards something slightly more scary, not only did I have an enormous sense of triumph but found that each step was achievable and the fear surmountable. Looking back, I’m amazed that I was ever terrified to ask questions in public. Why? Was I frightened of somebody actually hearing my voice? Perhaps I felt I had no valid opinion, but the reality is we all do.

Progressing on from this, I’ve now taken on a teaching role, working with groups of up to 12. I thoroughly enjoy this and love the feedback and interaction from the others. It’s great to be given interesting information to deliver and the chance to inform.

it’s more of a question of taking opportunities when they presented themselves

What is my next move? I don’t know. Currently I’m loving my work on Litopia After Dark which is even now evolving. I’m hoping to get my own guests on which would give me a bigger role still in terms of presenting. I’ve also now done an amount of work for the local radio in the past in terms of short snippets on news stories which have a medical bent. I’m tempted to do more of this, this but at the end of it time pressures are always present.

I didn’t feel that this journey has been random, although it’s not exactly been planned, it’s more of a question of taking opportunities when they presented themselves even though quite often they’ve arrived at times which are not fabulously convenient, nor the tasks arriving comfortable. Can you eat an elephant? Yes, in hamburgers. (Or for vegetarians, a palm tree/ veggie burgers) But you can’t eat the elephant in one go. Projects which seem to be enormous and out of reach can be achieved as long as you keep taking steps towards them, even small ones. Persistence counts. Perhaps someone should invent the life steps equivalent of a pedometer: a sheercussednessometer.


How best to introduce myself? Probably by poaching my Radio Litopia bio:

Full time juggler; kids, work, writer, broadcaster. Love every one of my 52 seconds of me-time each day. Sometimes I balance work/life; more often it balances me. Carry enough and the winds won’t blow you over. No, that’s not advice, just reality. Writing material is diverse: YA fantasy, YA fiction, film script, women’s fiction. They talk about finding your writing voice; I seem to have found a whole choir. As they all sing as loudly, if discordantly, together it is difficult to know which calls me more strongly. A friend once said, “I missed my vocation; I should have been a child.” I fully empathise.

Join me for the occasional blast of life foolishness on