No, I think it’s something called a yearning or thirst for something ‘new’, and perhaps better, as you move on and endeavour to spread your wings to see what’s out there. It goes without saying, you’ve left something financially secure which has kept you in full-time work and even popular, which to be honest, you must surely enjoy as you savour the pleasure of walking down the street being recognised. But for some, life’s not like that. You’ve had this niggling desire to try something else which may or may not bring you the success and earnings you’ve become accustomed to, but time doesn’t stand still and your age, your intellect, even your looks perhaps are telling you: ‘If you’re going to do it, now’s the time to do it’ …and off you go!
Enter former local television and radio presenter, and Stage One Director and producer, James Neish. Yes, some people – he’s noticed – wonder where he is, and when he’s back on the Rock from time to time, asking “Are you still with GBC?”. Well, no is the answer, and off they go, probably scratching their heads wondering, “Why not?”.
Sometimes it’s not so much about what you know but who you know.
Not unlike the small screen soap stars, James got the yearning to try it out there, which understandably many find hard to comprehend. “It’s not an easy decision to make. I’d been thinking about it for some time and eventually made up my mind to make the move and try my luck in the UK.” Not surprisingly, James tells me you need a lot of courage and to be determined, not afraid of hard work, mentally prepared for disappointments – that inevitably come along the way no doubt – and patience, as work and good luck don’t fall onto your lap when you want them to.
“I thought, if I make the move, I need to be better prepared, so I went for an MA in Broadcast Journalism at City, University of London – a top journalism university highly regarded by the industry. Whilst there I also had the opportunity to meet our lecturers, some of whom visit from the BBC, Sky and other broadcasters, and began to look to the future by networking with individuals within the industry, which is so important. Sometimes it’s not so much about what you know but who you know and it all helps. At the same time, I enjoyed my year of studying there tremendously.” The fact James already carried with him a great amount of radio and television experience – even coming from little Gibraltar – mustn’t be overlooked.
“It can be scary, and it was.”
Since the mid-to-late 90s, James has pretty much been right through the GBC structure from bottom to top: on radio covering all on-air day parts, ending up as its head; on TV, from programme assistant-come-gofer through to anchoring the news and presenting a number of TV programmes; court reporting (which he liked very much); and moving on to becoming Duty News Editor, dealing with all that that entails including local and other elections, UN trips with Chief Ministers and even – for a non-sport enthusiast – the Small Island Games and the Olympics in London.
“All of that experience helps,” James asserts, “And yes, even coming from a very small station like ours. It certainly helped me at university and whilst some students were very good, others had less broadcasting experience and that helped me build my confidence.”
The very important frame of mind and approach needed to make what many would describe as a daunting and daredevil move like the one James took, requires just that… confidence in what you’ve set out to do, and it can’t be repeated enough. Lady Luck is another influential part of the jigsaw, but you need to go to where the luck is, which means being professionally and mentally prepared to the hilt, not leaving a single, large or small stone unturned. “That is so true,” James recalls, “It can be scary, and it was.”
London is where he chose to try his luck, full of highly qualified broadcasters, many of whom are seeking work, just like James. “Luckily when I qualified, I didn’t have to take on any other work like bar or restaurant work or as a shop or store assistant. I think my networking and contacts made during my 12 months at university helped a lot, and I was able to start work almost immediately, not at a great income, but it was a start.”
I know James quite well and am aware much of his success in such a short space of time -albeit limited in the grand scheme of things at this early stage – has been down to him knowing what he wants, keeping in touch with those ‘network contacts’ and influential individuals who are always good to know, hard work and giving of his best – whilst not forgetting Lady Luck! To date, he’s been at Channel 5 Television as a News Producer, Online Content Editor at LBC, newsreader on Eagle Radio in Surrey, newsreader nationally on talkSPORT and talkRADIO, even stood in at a rehearsal for ITN’s Political Editor, Robert Peston and continued through the night co-ordinating interviews during election night 2017, and now at the Daily Telegraph online audio output department writing and reading ‘The Telegraph Morning Update’ for smart speakers.
It’s such a fascinating time to be a journalist in London!
So far, his broadcasting career flagship has to be TV News Reporter at BBC South East, where he’s been offered more steady employment but has resisted for now with a view to – typical James – looking out to step on the next rung of the industry ladder.
“Well again, it’s the importance of networking. The industry is really quite small and if you’re on the ball you learn about individuals moving around which happens quite often, and maybe someone you know has become for instance, a News Editor at BBC London, Sky News or some other big corporation and that contact can be very useful, so that’s one of the reasons why I prefer to continue for now, as a freelancer. Plus I’m also very much enjoying the variety of work. It’s such an interesting and fascinating time to be a journalist in London! My aim hopefully, is to put my news reading experience to good use. I’m on the lookout for any new opportunities, always keeping in touch with re-shuffles and abreast of the media landscape.”
In the meantime, James has been busy recording a second series about locals who’ve moved away for A Life Abroad, coming up on GBC Television next January. He also writes a weekly piece in the Gibraltar Chronicle published on Thursdays.
Home is where he’s certain he’ll return to at some stage, but in the meantime while living in London, he enjoys the theatre, meets new people and indulges in the odd tipple or two… or maybe three… He says he loves living in the British capital!
But at work especially, coming from Gibraltar, did he feel having an accent – although not strong – was a stumbling block at times? “I did think it was at first but one of my uni tutors, Sandy Warr, who is held in high regard in UK radio, said to me, ‘Not at all. It’s about you. Others would like to have what you have, to have something different.’” Well, proof of the pudding isn’t it… offers of work keep on coming, so it doesn’t seem at all to be an issue.
James Neish’s dad was a news cameraman at GBC who I happen to have worked with for some time. On an afternoon visit as a child to GBC with his dad he asked to sit at the silent Newswatch desk as he was already fascinated by the goings on in the world of television and broadcasting from a very early age. As he sat up and stared at the camera he asked, “Can they see me now?”.
Eventually, they did, and still do to the present day as he continues to be bitten by the broadcasting bug.