I've had a great career but will younger generations get the same opportunities?: Ian McMillan

Funny how one person’s working life can take twists and turns and then end up more or less where it started;

Its 37 years since Ian McMillan became a freelance writer. (JPIMedia).
Its 37 years since Ian McMillan became a freelance writer. (JPIMedia).

it’s 37 years since I went freelance but in some ways it seems like half an hour ago that I walked out of that tennis ball factory for the last time and embarked on what I laughingly call my ‘career’. And, as I keep reminding myself, the great thing is that I’m still here and yet around me so much is changing that I wonder if the younger version of me would have the same chances that I had then.

It was always one of my great ambitions to write funny and thoughtful columns for newspapers and here I am, still writing funny (I hope) and thoughtful (I hope) columns. The first ones I wrote were for the Barnsley Metropolitan, a long-gone alternative paper, and I still remember the thrill I got when I read my first piece in that paper and that thrill is still replicated every week when I open The Yorkshire Post Magazine.

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Young people still want to write, of course, but will they still want to write for newspapers? I do hope so; newspapers are vital for culture and for democracy, and I hope they survive and thrive after the present crisis subsides.

It was always another of my great ambitions to work on the radio and I’m proud to say that my Radio 3 show The Verb has been on air now for 18 years. I started off at Radio Sheffield being interviewed and then they asked me to review the papers and then they asked me and my mate Martyn to do a Saturday morning show and the rest, as they say, is history.

But last week the BBC announced cuts to local and regional radio and television and, combined with recent amalgamations of commercial radio stations, I wonder where the younger version of me would get a foot in the door now.

It was always yet another of my ambitions to run writing workshops, and 25 years ago I started doing so for a community arts organisation in Doncaster called Darts; I left there just at the end of the last century but I went back in 2019 and I’ve been involved in all sorts of creative workshops, in person until the Covid crisis but now online until we can meet again.

But again I wonder how easy it is for younger people to get on the first rung of the community arts ladder these days.

Maybe, of course, I’m just an old bloke looking back. There are lots of internet radio stations, and community radio is a good place to learn your audio trade. Vloggers can make fortunes and people can start their own podcasts and at least make a living; online performances have been a feature of the lockdown and once we start to be able to meet again I’m sure that pop-up and reconditioned spaces will brim with performance.

Onward to the new normal!

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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James Mitchinson

Editor