This is me presenting my BEN Television politics programme (‘The Big Ben Show’) which broadcasts on Sky channel 182 every Thursday from 1-2pm. I was previously the Breakfast presenter on Colourful Radio two days a week. I may be a communications executive but I still love journalism and the medium of TV and radio!
So where did it all start? Unusually my journey began with birds… of the feathered variety! I began birdwatching on Scrubs Wood as a 14-year-old and less than a year later I learnt that the then British Rail planned to demolish the habitat to make way for Channel Tunnel depots. I started a campaign to save the land, and ended up giving evidence to a parliamentary committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill. We won, and most of the Scrubs was saved! Today part of the land is known as ‘Lester’s Embankment’.
The campaign gathered a lot of national media coverage at the time, and in 1997 listeners of Radio 4’s Today programme voted me first place in the Best of British Youth awards, where I met the late Princess Diana!
In 1994, aged 24, I became a Labour councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham, representing the ward where I grew up (and including Scrubs Wood), and a governor of my old secondary school, Burlington Danes CofE (now Academy).
After completing a journalism qualification (NCTJ) I worked as a journalist, starting out in the Asian media before moving to The Voice (an African and Caribbean weekly) as News Editor, and then rising to become Editor of their rival, the New Nation newspaper. At this paper I managed over 20 editorial staff and weekly freelancers, and an editorial budget of over £250,000.
In between I had a secondment at the BBC – including R4’s Today and A Week in Westminster) and had a stint as a freelance Assistant Producer at BBC London radio on their old Community Affairs desk and Drivetime.
I gradually moved to PR and communications, with occasionally forays back into journalism. My PR journey began in 2003 when I ran the media and web operation for The 1990 Trust, a now-defunct but once prominent race equality think tank. I later became New Media Manager for the respected campaign group Operation Black Vote, and then Communications Manager for an interfaith charity, the Coexistence Trust, which worked to bring Jewish and Muslim university students together to avoid religious conflict.
I also improved my policy and research credentials as a policy consultant for the BAME infrastructure network Voice4Change England – including writing a publication for the Baring Foundation on the future funding of the BAME voluntary sector – and a high profile report for Operation Black Vote (‘Power of the Black Vote’) which was launched on front page of The Guardian with three inside pages.
More recently I was Acting Head of Policy, Communications and Research at the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), which promotes enterprise and start-ups in further and higher education. I managed six staff across three teams, and two freelancers.