Double New York radio award win for Birmingham City University

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 23 JUNE

A graduate and a member of staff at Birmingham City University’s School of Media are celebrating after picking up two accolades at the New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards for their documentaries on military life and coffee farming.

Naomi Mackenzie who graduated from the University’s School of Media in 2016 won a Silver award in the ‘Best Student Documentary’ category for her final year student project, ‘The Long Road to Recovery’, whilst Associate Professor of Radio Production Sam Coley picked up a Gold award in the ‘Environment and Ecology’ category for his ‘Dark Coffee’ documentary.

Birmingham School of Media

Birmingham City University

In her radio documentary, Naomi investigates the psychological toll caused by the Iraq and Afghan operations on returning British Army personnel.

Naomi speaks to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and visits Phoenix House, a recovery centre in North Yorkshire run by the charity Help for Heroes that rehabilitates veterans suffering from physical and psychological injuries.

The award win comes ahead of Armed Forces Day this weekend, which for Naomi is an occasion that’s very close to home.

“My dad served for 22 years so I was already aware of military life and fortunately for him it was a positive experience”, said Naomi, who hails from Darlington in County Durham.

“Producing the documentary opened my eyes to the other realities of the armed forces and it became very clear that there is a stigma surrounding mental health within the military. It seems many soldiers are too ‘embarrassed’ and ‘ashamed’ to admit they need help, so instead of confiding in someone, they try and live with it in silence.

Academic Sam Coley headed to the Ethiopian highlands to produce his documentary, which explored the environmental impact that coffee farming has on village communities.

‘Dark Coffee’ was produced as a research project between Birmingham City University and Switch Radio 107.5, with audio being captured during several visits to Addis Ababa and isolated villages in the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia.

“It was a real honour to have the documentary recognised with the Gold award”, said Sam.

“As someone who can’t start the day without a cup of coffee, it was a reality check to visit these impoverished coffee farming communities and see how little they receive for their effort.”

The annual New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards celebrate the exceptional and innovative radio programmes being created across the globe, with a judging panel made up of over 130 award-winning professionals from the creative industries.

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