Made Here: Who’s the Mammy? BBC Radio Scotland

WHO’S the Mammy? is a Culture Café special being broadcast today at 13.15pm on BBC Radio Scotland.

Says the BBC: “Rural and urban, young and old, working and stay-at-home, single and adoptive…Who’s the Mammy? celebrates all shades of motherhood across Scotland, and raises a glass to mums everywhere in this, the week of Mother’s Day.”

It’s being repeated on Sunday, at 15.02, except on MW.

Here, producer, Mairi Damer, answers the questions:

Who commissioned the series?

The idea for Who’s the Mammy? was born on a bus and warmly welcomed into the world by Jeff Zycinski, the head of BBC Radio Scotland.

I was really keen to make a feature programme which would be a genuine team effort and involve non-media professionals to collect audio material.

At first, I wanted to make a programme called Route 66, with recordings done throughout an entire day (and night) on the number 66 bus, which runs from Mountblow to East Kilbride.

Sadly, that didn’t come off but it was on another bus journey that I had the idea of making a programme celebrating modern motherhood.

Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘sound and feel’

First and foremost, I wanted to represent mums from across the spectrum, not just middle-class Glasgow West End ‘yummy mummies’. I wanted to try and capture a sense of what modern motherhood is really like, if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

As well as rejoicing in the very real highs and rewards of motherhood, I hoped that some of the mums would feel able to talk about just how hard mothering can be, and what the downsides are.

I wanted listeners to get a few laughs, have the odd great ‘big lump in the throat’, recognise themselves, and raise a ‘virtual glass’ to the motherhood sisterhood!

But I also wanted rookie reporters to fully buy into the idea of being part of a rare collective programme-making experience, and use their new skills to contribute to a great project. It was so important that they felt confident, not just about recording the actual material, but in their ability to make a genuine connection with the mums.

Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?

Without the mammies, we wouldn’t have a programme, and to help me find them was BBC Radio Scotland novice researcher (and mother of four) Andrea McKinnon – the ideal fit for this project.

Between us, we found 11 mothers from as far apart as Ness on the Isle of Lewis to Dumfries. We found them through personal contacts, friends and family, from our colleagues in other BBC offices, from health boards and maternity units, and a very sizeable contacts book I’ve built up over many, many years as a BBC radio producer.

At the same time, we put the word out that we were looking for rookie reporters to record audio. We did this through contact with community radio stations, through personal contacts on media and radio courses at colleges and universities, with recommendations from BBC colleagues in far-flung parts of Scotland, and from BBC Scotland’s Apprenticeship scheme.

We ended up with 14 rookies, all of whom were treated to a day’s training and lunch in the BBC canteen before being sent out to meet their mammies!

What kit and software?

All of the trainees were equipped with Nagra recording kit. I didn’t want to bamboozle them with techno-speak or a tricky bit of kit. They were shown the basics of how to record, and some top tips on building trust and interview techniques, full stop. It worked, because every single one of them came back with useable material which was edited using VCS Highander.

What have been the main production challenges?

Pulling off such a big project in such a short timescale was pretty hairy! We did it in just over three weeks. Whew!

Finding the mums and the trainees was a big feat, and it was important that everyone taking part felt energised, enthused and committed to making a good piece of radio.

And editing down so many hours of audio was a big, big, big job… I’m glad that part’s over.

What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?

It’s been brilliant to work on a great big collective project.

It’s been hard juggling the considerable logistics (not to mention trying to get some sort of work/life/family balance of my own), but it has been a pure joy to see the rookies so excited about taking part in the programme.

Perhaps I could have done more to encourage them not to shy away from asking difficult questions, but hey! It’s not Newsnight…

And, more than ever, I take ‘my hat off’ to mothers everywhere – mums rock!