Three Days in Bolton | Part 1: SideTracked Returns

You know when you’re feeling really low and you think that things are going to suck forever? Yeah… That. But then you get a phone call or an email and suddenly things open up… Well that’s what happened… And off I went to Bolton for the return of my old radio show… SideTracked!

It’s the biggest strike in thirty years and hell is on the verge of being ripped to oblivion by a massive whirlwind. Not that that’s a bad thing. But it’s time to leave… well… for the next three days at least. I’ll be heading out east… and north… and then back west again in order to reach the fine town of Bolton where I’ll be working, briefly, in a presenting position on a community radio station called Johnson Fold FM.

Unfortunately the strike means delays and difficulties. The busses in this town don’t work at the best of times and trying to catch one in a strike is utterly hopeless. I got one though and soon I’m at the train station where there were more delays. It’s not like the transport unions are on strike or anything…

Eventually, after two very slow train rides I reached Bolton. I was not expecting much from the place to be honest. It’s a small, former industrial town north of Manchester, just about holding onto it’s own skin by it’s meagre council budget. The sky was a bit dark and gloomy and it was cold as I arrived. Meanwhile the station platform is long, featureless and empty which doesn’t do any favours for the place. My expectations weren’t high as I stepped out into the sunlight and walked into the town centre. I still had a couple of hours to kill before heading to where I’d be doing my thang so I spent a bit of time wandering around the place.

The town centre is certainly unexpected.  A short walk away from the cold, dark and empty station you’re thrust into this vibrant, slightly offbeat, slightly quirky and quite frankly rather refreshing town centre with all the shops you could ever desire. It’s rammed with people on strike of course, or should I say people who are just using the strike as an opportunity to go shopping. It’s not  a spectacular place by any means and it’s nowhere near as good as somewhere like Cardiff but it’s good enough and I spent a few hours just wandering around the shops. One of the really cool things is that they’ve converted an old Market Hall into a massive luxury shopping mall and, even though it’s still November, Christmas is in full swing and everything looked very festive. And I also very nearly bought a copy of the Necronomicon from Waterstones… But I decided that I’d already had enough dreams involving Chtulhu swimming around outside Buckingham Palace over the last year… don’t ask…

And then I got lost… I was trying to find my way to the bus station and just somehow lost my way. Normally I get lost in department stores and not the cities themselves… This time it was the other way around. Such is life I suppose. But anyways, to cut a long story short I caught the right bus and off I went away from Bolton Twon Centre and to a housing estate on the outskirts…

Now I know what you’re thinking… Something along the lines of ‘Oh God… James went off the tourist trail and had some wacky near death/ slightly more than criminal experience.’ (Previous offences include being shot, sliding down mountainsides, almost drowning in a bog, discovering drug hangouts…) None of that happened this time because I knew exactly where to get off the bus- Just beyond the only roundabout in the district. (Wow… Bet you didn’t know that… Might come up in a pub quiz one day… Bolton only has one roundabout!) There aren’t that many guns in Bolton either- It’s not like Nottingham.

Following a short walk into the housing estate I finally reached the studios, which are housed in a community centre. The people running things and others who were involved are some of the nicest and friendliest people you could meet anywhere and they had kitchen and some unknown teabags that made very nice tea (I mean the tea that came from the teabags, not that the teabags suddenly came to life and began making cups of tea.) Unfortunately, when it come to the actual broadcasting facilities… Woah! A lot less professional than what I’m used to. The playout software (that’s basically just a techy radio term for a sophisticated programme that does a similar job to iTunes but with extra features and the ability to play out music and other stuff over the airwaves… someone will probably correct me and say that it’s not but there you go.) The playout software isn’t the best in the world. What I’m used to is a piece of software called Autoplus, which has a simple, no nonsense straight forward set up- like most playout softwares. This isn’t any of those things. The interface is so cluttered you can barely see what is what and the automation and playlist functions don’t work very well either, which leads to a few problems. But I get on with the job in hand. They had wanted me to do SideTracked (In fact they were incredibly keen for me to do SideTracked) and so I did- The old, the new and the bit’s in between, just like it was before. And man, it feels good to be back on the air again…

To Be Continued



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: