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Mr Bill Turnbull at Prize Giving

Mr Bill Turnbull at Prize Giving
Mr Turnbull giving out prizes.
Wednesday 23rd September 2009 by C. Freeman
BBC newsman Bill Turnbull told students at the 2009 Prize Giving how they must make the best of every situation, no matter how unexpected, to get the most of out their lives. Mr Turnbull, who was a radio and freelance journalist before joining the BBC more than 20 years ago, encouraged the students to look upon adversity as a challenge rather than a setback.

He had to change his early plans by going to university in Scotland rather than the one he had first earmarked, and so got into journalism by chance, writing and editing the student paper. He also had to be adaptable when starting his career:

'Even in those days it was competitive getting into journalism and I applied for a job on a Scottish newspaper. I didn't get it. So I went and did a diploma in journalism studies at Cardiff. While I was there I discovered the joys of broadcasting and radio in particular at the time. I went and got a job at Radio Clyde in Glasgow and that was the start of my career in broadcast journalism. If I'd got that job in journalism on the Scottish newspaper I wouldn't be here and I'd be writing articles on devolution or Scottish independence or something like that … What you need to learn is sometimes things don't go according to plan and it's what you do in those circumstances that helps you get ahead. In television things quite often don't go according to plan and you have to think on your feet.'

He gave several examples from his own career, including the challenges which face him during live interviews. Once, when Richard Branson was navigating the world in a hot air balloon the news producer lined up a phone interview with someone who had done something similar.

'Two minutes later on comes the red light and I have to do the story: “So Richard Branson's travelling around the world in a hot air balloon and about the cross the Himalayas; it's a really dangerous thing to do. Will he make it? Let's talk to somebody who should know, he's done it before. Sir Ranulph Fiennes joins us on the phone now … Good afternoon. Tell us, what's it like to cross a mountain range in a hot air balloon?” 'Dunno dear boy, never been in a hot air balloon; can't stand the things myself. I prefer dry land!' … “I'm sorry but there's no way you can wriggle out of a situation like that!”

He also had to do some quick thinking, as well as some quick steps on the Strictly Come Dancing series which he took part in with dance partner Karen Hardy four years ago. He recalled: ' It was really good fun except that every time I did a dance every week I managed to mess it up halfway through. I'd get into the routine, practised like mad, knew it backwards and would be dancing away thinking half way through, "wow, this is good fun!" and then something would go terribly wrong and we would have to make it up as we went along.

'The Viennese waltz …was a complete disaster because I forgot all the steps and we had to sway around. It was like being on a ship that's going down beneath the waves. I thought this isn't working, I'm going to go out of the competition, they're going to give me no marks so I'm just going to give her a kiss; which I did. For some reason the judges gave me one of the best marks I had in the competition!'

He gave some final advice to the students: 'In your lives however hard you try and however great the results you get, things won't go entirely according to plan. And what you need to do is say “OK, I'm in this situation, I'm going to make the most of it and just move with the flow.” You're going to have to work hard. School seems to go on forever, it never seems to finish, but it does go quite quickly when you look back on it. You really need to make the most of your time. The harder you work and the more you get involved the quicker it will pass. Make the most of what you are, adapt to the circumstances that surround you. Talent will out. You will succeed, and I wish you all the very best of luck.'

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