Badges, badges, badges

Frank Setchfield from Loughborough has over 150 thousand badges. He collects all types except military and he specialises in button badges.
He has sporty badges, funny badges, ones with saucy slogans and political badges that have changed the world.

I interviewed him for my BBC series on Collectors. Here’s the report.

Lovely Clean Tigers

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wash the dirty kit of a professional rugby squad?

That’s the challenge faced every day by Brenda Hargrave. She’s the laundry supervisor at Leicester Tigers.

At the age of seventy she’s become a bit of a celebrity having starred in the break bumpers for Eviva either side of the live TV coverage of Premiership rugby.

I went along to meet her at the Tigers Oval Park training ground in Oadby. She was a charming lady, who takes great pride in her team running out in bright, clean kit.

Edinburgh Talk

I’m off to Edinburgh next week for the festival.

On Wednesday night I’ll be giving a talk on how to keep an audience’s attention using comedy. Forget jokes, I’m a big believer in telling true stories that have happened to you. It’s called ‘Putting the U in Humour’ . It’s a talk I’ve done many times to businesses and organisations, but this is one of the few times when members of the public are also welcome.

Regular readers of this blog will know this is the talk I gave in Johannesburg earlier in the year, where my trousers split open at the back as I plugged in my laptop at the edge of the stage, just before I was announced. I literally did get through the talk by the seat of my pants.

If you fancy coming along on Wednesday it’s at the Apex European Hotel, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh. Tickets are twenty pounds and that includes a networking supper.

More details are here

My stadium gig

I

So we’re up and running again. It was great to be at the Boleyn for the pre-season friendly against Deportivo La Coruna for the SBOBet Cup.  Even better to win it on penalties.Avram Grant has won silverware in his first home game.

It was a hot day. I could have done without wearing the tie to be honest.

Outside the ground beforehand, everyone was smiling. I think there’s a sense of optimism about the new season, the new manager, the new kit and a new beginning.  I nearly said ‘a new hope’ but that’s a Star Wars film..

I thought I better take a few pics to spice up the blog. I snapped a few of the ground, which I’ll be dropping in over the next few weeks. Andrew the ‘Over Land And Sea’ fanzine seller took the top picture of me outside the ground, so it only seemed right that I returned the favour and took one of him. Nice ‘Only Fools’ tee shirt mate.

Football chairmen often need security for their own protection when they arrive at grounds.

Our David Gold is a bit different, he’s worn the claret and blue and he’s popular with fans. He needs the security escort otherwise he’d never get through the crowd of autograph hunters. He did sign plenty though.

In the tunnel pre-match club photographer Steve Bacon was snapping the mascots.

Meanwhile the other mascots, the furry ones, seem to have spent the summer hiding in the shower. I share a changing room with Bubbles and Herbie. It always makes me laugh when I arrive to see their heads sitting patiently waiting for the human inhabitants to arrive.And always smiling.

I did my best to pronounce the Spanish names as I read out the team sheets. I didn’t want to ‘go native’ as there’s a danger of sounding like an Italian with a lisp. I wrote them out phonetically after consulatation with a member of the Deportivo coaching staff and then did my best, using the English abroad approach of loud and confident.

As it wasn’t a premier league game there was no TV coverage to worry about, so the ref wasn’t waiting for a floor manager to give him the nod to ‘walk’ the players. That makes it so much easier to coordinate the playing of ‘bubbles’ so it reaches a crescendo as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Avram Grant was given a great ovation for his first home game. The new players were all warmly applauded before the game and as they came on as subs. When the Sir Trevor Lower fans sang ‘Avram, Avram, give us a wave’, he did and was cheered. That’s was an important moment for me and a promising sign for the season. Gianfranco Zola would never respond to chants for waves. It was because he was ‘in the zone’, but it’s important to acknowledge your own supporters.

The match itself certainly wasn’t a cracker, but the penalty shoot out was. All of our penalties were scored with certainty and Robert Green made a great save. If you are looking for further comment on the match itself, you’ll need to look elsewhere on the web. That’s not the aim of my blog and it would clearly be a conflict of interest with my role as MC Hammer.

From the announcer’s point of view, the match was notable because there wasn’t any time added on in either half.  After announcing five Deportivo subs and three for us, I thought there might be a few added minutes in the second half, but no. I asked the fourth official if he was sure. He smiled. I cheekily asked him if it was his first ever game in charge. He smiled again and said he couldn’t remember any subs. I smiled, in case he booked me.

My favourite sub for Deportivo, was Riki, who I announced as Bianca’s favourite.If you can’t chuck in an Eastenders gag in a pre-season friendly, when can you?

As each Spanish sub pulled on their shirts, I noticed they were all wearing heart rate monitors. It seemed strange, but it’s OK in a friendly, as long as you have the ref’s permission.

On the way home I notice someone had put an England flag on the World Cup Heroes statue.

My journey home was slow. My regular short cut through the Isle of Dogs was scuppered by road closures for  a triathlon the next day. I listened to 5 Live and cheered on Derby County as they beat Leeds at Elland Road. Nigel Clough had stopped the Derby bus short of the ground before the game and his players had walked the last few hundred yards through the Leeds supporters. It was an echo of Don Revie’s actions when he took his Leeds team to the old Baseball Ground to play a Derby team managed by Nigel’s dad Brian. It was a scene I’d watched on TV a few weeks before in the  film ‘The Damned United’. It seemed to work. Having braved the fans outside, the fans in the ground held no fear for the Derby players.

606, the football phone in followed the match. What a joy, no  Alan Green or Spoony,  it was presented by Mark Chapman, who is always entertaining. I hope he’s got the gig for the season. Better still Derby captain Robbie Savage finished the match and then joined Chappers to co-present the show.I’ve never known that before.

Robbie is carving out quite a career as a media pundit. Of course he loves the sound of his own voice, but he is a good listen. He could do very well. There’s not many footballers who come across as well. I’ve regularly interviewed him at Leicester and Derby when I’ve been working for BBC East Midlands Today. He’s as charming in real life as he is irritating on the pitch.

So Robbie and Chappers accompanied me all the way home. On arrival I found the house full of children’s clothes hanging out to dry. My wife had met a Nigerian family in Twickenham Tesco. They were on holiday and staying in the hotel at the rugby ground. They asked my wife for directions to a launderette. Instead she had brought them home and done the washing for them. Slightly strange if you ask me, but that’s why I married her. She’s a lovely woman. And she does the washing.


Speaking oop north

It’s good to be back in the land of the long vowel sounds. I’ve just spent the week on the road oop north where baths and paths are much shorter than I’m used to.

On Tuesday I was in Nottingham reporting on the British Open Wheelchair tennis for BBC TV.It’s just the same as abled bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice, and there’s not as much arguing.

I stayed the night with Natalie and Wayne, my regular East Midlands hosts, who are lovely people even if they do make me watch Coronation Street.

Never mind marmalade cats on rooftops, on Wednesday I was off to the real north.  I spent a lot of the morning at Woolley Back services on the M1., That might not be it’s exact name and the term services can only be loosely applied in this case. . It’s free broadband was intermittent and I spent a long time putting the finishing touches to my powerpoint slides for my talk that night. I was speaking at the Holiday Inn at Garforth, just north of dirty Leeds. Oh the glamour.

The speaking world is split down the middle on the issue of powerpoint slides in keynote talks. The purists don’t like them. I do like them.I like them very much indeed.
I have terrible trouble remembering my talks. I know the general outline but I often find myself going down comedy cul de sacs and can’t find my way back to the main road. If the audience think you don’t know where you are heading and suspect you don’t either, it can be a problem. I use powerpoint as a sort of sat nav. When I deviate off the route for comedy purposes, a click on the clicker, my next slide appears and I’m back on track.

Most of my slides are photographs that I have taken myself. I think they add to my stories. The traditional speakers might be turning in their graves at that, especially those that aren’t fully dead yet. But, in a world where attention span is…..sorry what was I saying, oh yes, attention span is shortening all the time, I think slides are great. In our interactive world, a man talking on stage on his own, needs to be very good to hold the attention. I am good, often I’m very good, but the photos add value and make me better. In my view.
And of course they keep me from repetition, deviation, hesitation and repetition.

Obviously I don’t use slides when I’m doing my after dinner talks. When I roll up at a golf club and they are tucking into chicken in a basket, it would seem a bit rum if I suddenly powered up a projector and rolled out a screen. Thinking about it they probably wouldn’t mind as long as I had my shirt tucked in.

With my powerpoint slides in order, I set off for Snaith to spend my afternoon with Phil, my old mate from journalism college. He’s something important at the BBC in Leeds. It’s twenty four years since we left college, but it was just like the old days straightaway. Except we talked about diabetes, baldness and second properties instead of acne, exam stress and demo tapes.

If ever a man should take up after dinner speaking it’s Phil. He’s a natural storyteller. So I dragged him along  to see me in action at the Holiday Inn that night. He wasn’t that keen, as he had to be up at four thirty, as he’s currently revamping Radio York’s breakfast show, but the promise of a free ticket was too much for a Yorkshireman to resist.

People had come from as far afield as Sunderland and Cumbria for the talk.  I did my best to be entertaining. Especially as a few people revealed they’d seen the talk before, but enjoyed it so much, they thought they’d come again. I put in a few topical bits, so it didn’t seem too much like the previous talk, and again my old friend Dr Powerpoint ensured I found my way back to the main road, without too much trouble.

The next morning waking up in Snaith, Phil was long gone, to make sure the good people of York were woken by a quality breakfast show before heading off for work at the chocolate factories.

I had breakfast with Phil’s wife Vicky.  I studied with Phil and worked with Vicky in my first ever job as a reporter at Viking Radio in Hull. I’d introduced them on a holiday in Ibiza in 1987. They’ve been together ever since.Vicky now works as a correspondent at Look North. They have three lovely girls. Daisy who’s about to go to big school. Flora who’s home from university and was worried about going for a filling a the dentist. And Isobel who was on holiday somewhere in Europe, so I stayed in her attic room up the steepest ladder you ever climbed.

The other member of the family is a Scottish terrier, possibly called Bonny. I don’t have much interest in dogs, so I can’t remember. Bonny or whatever, was very yappy, as she was being kept in the kitchen. She was in season. Little did she know that today she was off to be serviced by a boy Scottish terrier, who was to be paid the princely sum of three hundred pounds. He probably didn’t keep the money himself though. Apparently Scottish terrier puppies sell for five hundred pounds, so it was a good investment. A good seed to plant, so to speak.

This sort of thing happens all the time, so they tell me. The internet is full of personal ads for puppy love. Girl dog seeks boy dog, must have GSOH.

I left Snaith on Thursday morning for an early start in Bradford. It was the first proper meeting of my speakers mastermind group. Chatham House rules dictate that I can’t tell you what went on. It was very good though. A mastermind group is an informal group of people who are typically at the same stage of their careers in a common profession. The idea is to help each other by sharing knowledge and experiences. It’s a bit like the masons without the funny handshake.

As the former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond used to say, ‘but what I can tell you is this…’

The members present were John, Geoff, Jem, Rod and Andy. The sixth member Ayd couldn’t make it as he was actually speaking for money that day, which was a shame and a surprise.

On Thursday night I headed back to Nottingham for the night with Wayne and Natalie. They are moving house soon, so I won’t be able to stay with them for a while, which is very selfish of them.

Friday was a lovely day to be outside. I was stuck inside though planning next week’s outside broadcast from Loughborough. Tuesday  marks two years till the start of the London Olympics, so we’re doing a special from Loughborough, home to the GB and Japan teams. The main talk at the BBC is about the changes to the pension scheme. Everyone is very unhappy about it. As a freelance it doesn’t affect me, but there’s talk of strikes.

Back in London today, it’s good to be home. The planes are a bit noisy. Little Miss Afrikaaner isn’t happy because the Springboks lost again. And our Potterton boiler is on the blink. What does it mean when the green light keeps blinking and the boiler fires up all the time?

But it’s good to be back home.

Mr Moon has left the Stadium

I’ve started a new blog about my life as the West Ham United announcer. You can find it here

All previous writing about football and West Ham has been moved across to the new site, leaving this site for speaking and broadcasting.

Jem – London – 5th July 2010

Putting the ‘U’ in Humour

Jem with cowboy hat and arrow smiling

One of my most popular talks is on how to use humour effectively when you are speaking in public.

As a professional speaker I use humour a lot.  It helps keep the audience engaged. If they are being entertained, they are less likely to switch off and stop listening.  It’s so much easier to put your message across if your audience are still listening!

I’m rarely the slickest speaker at an event, but I’m often the one who gets rebooked. I put a lot of that down to humour. People remember the message if they enjoyed the journey.

If you’ve seen this talk, you’ll find the accompanying notes I promised below.  If you haven’t seen the talk, read the notes anyway. They will certainly help you if you want to put some humour in your speeches.  The twenty points work just as well for toastmasters, best men, teachers, team leaders, comperes  or even  priests who want to make their sermons more entertaining.

If you read the twenty points and are intrigued as to why the Welshman isn’t needed at the pub (point 15) then you better book me to speak at your event.  Details are at the bottom.

Best wishes

Jem

(Jeremy Nicholas- London, Nov 1st 2009)

clown sad face

PUTTING THE ‘U’ IN HUMOUR

How being funny can enhance your public speaking

By Jeremy Nicholas, Professional Speakers Association

1. Why be funny?  – People will remember your message.

2. Never tell jokes!  It puts pressure on the audience to laugh.

3. Use funny lines and observations from real life.

4. Never steal material, but it’s OK for inspiration.

5. Always carry a notebook. Write down things that make you laugh.

6. If you don’t believe in a line, don’t use it. People will notice.

7. If a line doesn’t work dump it. You must kill your babies.

8. It’s better to be an amusing speaker than a comic.

9. Avoid anything racist, sexist or homophobic. It’s not acceptable.

10. Check anything that is likely to offend in a local culture.

11. Find your own style.

12. Keep a high status on stage. Don’t become a clown.

13. Comedy is truth and pain.

14. If a line is cruel, make yourself the butt of the joke.

15. The Rule of Three means there’s no need for a Welshman in the pub.

16. Get it right. A nearly accurate punch line won’t work.

17. Use your best material in your opening minute.

18. And your next best material to close with.

19. Be topical.

20. Lastly mix humour with information. If they don’t laugh, you’re still speaking!

This is a handout from a talk called Putting the ‘U’ in Humour by Jeremy Nicholas.

To book Jem to deliver this talk at your business event, or to find out details of his other talks, please visit www.jeremynicholas.co.uk.  Email jem@jeremynicholas.co.uk. Phone +44 (0) 7802 251530

Write your own introduction

As well as speaking for a living, I often act as the MC or compere at an event.

It’s not rocket science. I  tell people where the fire exits and toilets are located and glare at them until they switch their mobile phones to silent.

Then I pop up in between speakers, make a few light hearted comments, based on what they’ve said.  I always challenge myself to think up new comments for each event, based on what the previous speaker has said.

That way,  people think, ‘what he says isn’t brilliant, but at least he’s made it up today, and it’s specially for us, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and they clap and maybe even pretend to laugh.’

At least I think that’s what they’re doing.  It’s so hard to focus when they start throwing things.

There was an episode of Friends, where Ross made a list of five celebrities who Rachel would allow him to sleep with. It was  like a Get out of Jail Free card allowing him to crack off with someone famous, without risking his relationship.  Off the top of my head I remember that Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder were on the list, along with Elizabeth Hurley and an ice skater. Possibly Michelle Pfeiffer as well, but that might have been on Chandler’s list. Anyway that’s not important. What is important is that he’d laminated the list.

By covering the list of his five chosen women, he’d set them in stone. He could carry that list around in his pocket without it getting creased. It meant he could have that list ready at all times, just in case Winona or Liz were down the laundrette. He could produce it triumphantly and claim his reward. Maybe after hearing his chat up lines about dinosaurs and robotic dancing, they would decide to forgo the chance of a bit on the side with a fossil hunter, in favour of a return to Beverley Hills, but at least he had the card with him.

And so we come to the point of my story.  You’ll be glad to hear that there is one, and you haven’t read this far for nothing.

When I speak at an event, I hand the host a laminated cue sheet. On it I have typed my introduction. This is how I would like to be introduced. It does not vary. It is always the same. I know if off by heart. I can make sure that the MC  gives me just the right build up.

My laminated introduction takes away the wildcard element.  Occasionally I’ll be introduced as Jeremy Nichols or Nicholson, but at least the bulk of what I want them to say will be correct. You can’t cater for hosts who are stupid, sloppy or have forgotten their reading glasses.  But at least you’ve given yourself a fighting chance of getting off to a flying start. I think of my laminated introduction as a golf tee.  I may end up playing in the rough at various points during the next hour, but at least I know my opening shot will be off a raised tee, giving me every chance of hitting it straight down the middle.

But how many of my speaking colleagues have a printed introduction which they hand to the compere at an event? In my experience it’s less than half, which I think is a disgrace.  OK you don’t have to have it laminated, that’s just me . I get nervous before speaking and often spill things!

As the host of events, I’ve lost track of the number of speakers who say they are happy to be introduced however I see fit.  Worse still they hand me their biography and want me to pick something out of that! I give them a chance to get off to a flying start and they don’t take advantage.

Here are a few comments from speakers  who I’ve asked how they want to be introduced to the stage:

*Just say I’m a Marmite speaker, you either love him or hate him.  (really? I hate you already)

*Just say he’s written a couple of books and he speaks all over the world.   (no kidding, you’ve written some books, whoopee do)

*Just say he’s a professional speaker who is well known in business circles. (you’re well known? Maybe I don’t need to say anything?)

One speaker at a recent event,  who had no printed introduction, handed me a few handwritten lines, scribbled onto the back of a flyer. There were a couple of very good points, which made me think his talk would be brilliant. Unfortunately, he mentioned those very same points in the first minute of his talk.  The audience must have thought, yes we know that mate, the compere just said that.

I hope he didn’t see me roll my eyeballs into the back of my head. But I think he did.

Avoid the hazards and the rough with your opening shot. Write your introduction out on a sheet of A4. And if you really want to make my day, stick it in the laminator.

There’s a lovely laminator here.

Jem  – pulling out what’s left of his hair- 26th February 2010    London, England

Hillsborough

In April 1989 I went to Hillsborough for a football match, an FA Cup semi final between Nottingham Forest and  Liverpool. I was commentating on the game for BBC Radio Nottingham.  96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in a dreadful crush on the terracing behind the goal.  20 years on here’s my  account of the day for The Times newspaper.

Witness: We went to report on a football match  and ended up reporting on a tragedy

Jeremy Nicholas worked as match commentator for BBC Radio Nottingham at Hillsborough. Now 46, he is an after-dinner speaker and author

It didn’t seem any different to any other day. I drove from Nottingham to Sheffield, it took just over an hour. To do a radio show, you get there really early, to do your preparatory work. That day, we were presenting the show from the ground, with me commentating and Mark Shardlow doing the presenting.

Just before kick-off, I noticed that it seemed very busy at the Leppings Lane End. Already, I could see people in the upper tier hauling up those below them. It wasn’t right, something was badly wrong. It all unfolded very quickly.

I remember a policeman running, then walking, on to the pitch. He sort of stuttered, as if he was worried about what he was doing. I just thought: “What a brave man.” He got to the ref [Ray Lewis] and told him to stop the game. Some fans booed; they had no idea what was happening.

We had hooliganism in those days. People were climbing up the fences, as if they were causing trouble, but they were pushed back. I still thought it was just a bit of a squash. At 3.25, we were saying that people could be seriously injured. I saw a little boy carried out. Then we were saying some people may have died.

Mark carried on talking, I went off to get the information, to find out what was going on. We crossed on air to other matches: what was happening at the other semi-final [Everton v Norwich City]? How were Notts County getting on?

I kept repeating that no Forest fans were involved because I was conscious that I was only broadcasting to the Nottingham area and I wanted to reassure people with friends at the game. It was like saying: “People have lost their lives but it’s not your people.” I felt very heartless but, in the following weeks, I had so many thank me for letting them know that.

I went on to the pitch to interview Kenny Dalglish [the Liverpool manager]. I asked him a question, which he answered. He then paused for ages. So I said: “Do you think the match should be replayed?” He replied: “I haven’t finished yet.” I felt so small. I spoke with Graham Kelly [the FA chief executive]. I can’t remember what he said.

The police took a party of journalists to the Leppings Lane End. We saw the crush barriers, so thick but all mangled. What force could have done that? Then into the tunnel, where people had died. It was silent. No one said anything. Not until we came out did people start talking again.

When it was happening, the Forest fans had been restless. They didn’t know. I saw a guy carried out and put down in front of them. He was given the kiss of life. He sat up, he was OK. The fans applauded.

I went to a press conference at the police headquarters in Sheffield. They were saying 50 had died, maybe 60. I’d thought it was about ten. Returning to the newsroom at Radio Nottingham in the evening, a colleague said to me: “Well done, that was brilliant. It sounded really good.”

I remember thinking how it had been anything but brilliant. It had been the worst day of my life. I dropped off my equipment, handed over the tapes, then went home. I felt emotionally drained.

We won a New York radio academy award for live coverage of a breaking story but we didn’t go to collect it. It’s not the sort of thing you want to win an award for. What were we going to do? Hold it above our heads and celebrate?

I’d not listened to the commentary again until last week. We went to report on a football match and ended up reporting on a tragedy.

Jeremy Nicholas was talking to Russell Kempson

Union Jack

I’m greatly enjoying Chris Evans on breakfast on Radio 2. He’s quickly established the programme as a feelgood way to start the day that appeals to the whole family. Much as I loved Terry Wogan, he’d handed his show over to his contributors, and it had begun to show.

One feature I particularly enjoy is the Wrong Bongs. To the sounds of the Bongs of Big Ben, Sally Traffic runs through the mistakes they made on the previous programme, as spotted by the listeners. It’s a brilliant way to encourage interactivity. There’s nothing the British public like more than correcting mistakes.

On this morning’s show there was a correction. The Union Flag had incorrectly been referred to as the Union Jack by the sports Johnny. As anyone who’s worked at the BBC for any time knows, it’s a real bugbear with navy types. It’s only a Union Jack when it’s flying off the back of a boat, otherwise it should correctly be referred to as the Union Flag.

However, I think that is a load of nonsense. If enough people call it a Union Jack, then that is what it is. If you asked people to draw a Union Jack, they would draw a Union Flag. Everyone knows what you mean when you say Union Jack, and if you don’t I’ve carefully posted one at the top of this page.

English is an evolving language. Words change and we need to change with them. It’s not latin, it’s not a dead language, it’s a vibrant ever changing language. Mother Tongue is an excellent book by Bill Bryson which shows how British English and American English evolved in different directions. But it’s all English innit?

And that’s why I have no truck when people try and tell me stadia is the plural of stadium. I speak English not latin, so for me the plural is stadiums. Either form is acceptable, but try telling that to the Old Skool buffers who complain. They probably don’t spell skool like that either!

I once interviewed English football hero Jack Charlton who’d been manager of the Irish national team for a while. When he arrived in Dublin he was greeted with banners saying, ‘Go Home Union Jack.’ He should have told them he had never been tied to a flagpole on a boat in his life. But perhaps he had. I have no details about his private life. Although he did tell me he fell asleep in front of the Pope during a Vatican visit, which didn’t go down very well in Catholic Ireland.

Now how did I get onto football? This was meant to be a blog about radio and my old mate Chris Evans. Did I mention he used to be my regular squash partner? But that’s a story for another day.

Bong! It’s not Sally Traffic it’s Lynn Bowles. Bong! That’s probably not how you spell Lynne. Bong! etc, you get the idea.

Jem – Monday Feb 15th 2010 – Nottingham