BBC and Spark team up for University General Election debate

The University of Sunderland was visited by BBC Newcastle’s Alfie and Anna at Breakfast Show for a timely ‘simulcast’ with the campus-based radio station Spark.

In the run up to next week’s election, the presenters hosted a live radio debate with North East candidates and spoke to first time voters about what issues matter most to them, discussing everything from housing to Brexit.

The five candidates being grilled were Liz Twist (Labour, Blaydon), Emily Payne (Conservative Party, Newcastle Central), Thom Chapman (Liberal Democrats, Blyth Valley), Rachel Featherstone (Green party, Sunderland Central), Kevin Yuill (Brexit Party, Sunderland South and Houghton).

Six first time voters put their questions to the candidates throughout the hour and there were three clear themes; Brexit, the environment and Parliament.

Alfie and Anna were assisted by Spark’s Ellie Marsh who sourced questions from young people from around the city and the surrounding area before introducing them on air.

She said: “It’s been a really great experience working in collaboration with the BBC, I’ve learnt so much and had so much fun doing it.

“It’s great to be part of a station and a university that gives students the opportunity to mix with industry professionals. As a result of the work we’ve been doing, I’ve been offered a week’s work experience at BBC Radio Newcastle which I’m very excited about.”

One half of the Breakfast Show duo, Anna Foster, was keen to express her enjoyment of the collaboration:

She said: “It’s a really nice change to come out of the studio and come to Sunderland. This is a great way to meet new people coming into the world of journalism and presenting.”

Spark, which simultaneously broadcasted the show, is a full time community radio station run by students from the University and volunteers from the local community.

The station has received a lot of positive attention since its inception 10 years ago, winning three awards at this year’s 2019 Student Radio Awards.

A huge supporter of local and community radio, Anna pointed out the importance of stations such as Spark as they give people the opportunity to pursue radio careers while “doors are closing” at larger national platforms.

She said: “It’s super important for the BBC to work with young people and I’m amazed at how brilliant and hardworking they are at Spark.

“National radio stations will never cover local stories in the same way and that’s where we can have an advantage, we can really delve into local stories and local conversations in a way that they can’t. It’s about hearing people’s stories that you absolutely would not hear on a national radio station.”

The project was put together with the help of Catherine Peart, a former member of Spark and graduate of the University, who currently works as a producer at BBC Newcastle.

BBC Look North filmed the broadcast for a piece that will run in the BBC’s Look North evening programme.

If you missed it, you can also listen back to the whole show on BBC Sound.

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