WriterBy Steve Higgins
I Have An Interesting Life?
July 08, 2017 8:56 AM ‐ Long Reads
Someone said to me at the pub a couple of days ago, "you have a really interesting life." Which made me think, do I?
His comment was based on the fact that I wasn't drinking because I had to get up early the next morning as I was being interviewed live on a BBC radio breakfast show and later that day I was going on an underground ghost hunt.
So, yeah... I guess as a snapshot that day was a pretty interesting but then I started to wonder if this was the norm in my life. I decided to pick out some of my greatest and most unusual moments to date and here they are in no particular order...
Helped Welcome The Olympic Flame To London
I was lucky enough to be living in London during the 2012 Olympic Games and while most people booked time off work and left the city to avoid the mad rush, I stayed in London to soak up the Olympic atmosphere.
It all started for me on the day the Olympic torch was carried into town, I attended a welcome celebration in Hyde Park where acts including Dizzy Rascal performed and mayor Boris Jonhson gave a quite rousing speech to welcome the games to the city.
Been Turned Into A BBC Radio 4 Documentary
I've been exploring secret bunkers and long forgotten underground spaces for year and have become a bit of an expert on the subject. I've spoke about my fascination with underground exploration on various radio stations including BBC Radio Bristol, BBC Radio Wiltshire and GWR. I've been interviewed in The Times and The Guardian, and I also feature in the book on the subject, 'Underground England: Travels Beneath Our Cities and Country' by Stephen Smith.
One of the most interesting interviews I took part in however was one for a BBC Radio 4 programme called 'Subterranean Stories' presented by Dylan Winters which aired at 4pm one Tuesday afternoon in November 2004. Dylan came to meet myself and a friend, who I shall simply call "Root" above a secret bunker in Wiltshire. We told him all about our hobby, which became part of the half hour long documentary.
Danced On Stage At Glastonbury
It's the greatest music festival in the world and I've been twice, but I was lucky enough to get to do something that most festival goers don't. On the opening night in 2008, some how I ended up dancing with a reggae band on the Leftfield Stage.
I was working at the festival radio station and had backstage access so got to wander behind the Pyramid Stage and other stages but on this night I went back stage with a friend to interview a band at the Leftfield Stage and stuck around to watch them perform from the side of the stage and before long we'd all spilled out on to the stage and were dancing away in front of a huge crowd.
I Got My Dream Job... Almost
For as long as I remember, I've always loved radio as this photo of my first ever radio station proves. Like many radio anoraks I used to pretend to be on the radio while playing songs on a tape deck when I was a kid. Then as a teen I recorded radio shows in my bedroom, complete with jingles in my own homemade radio station.
In my 20s I started my own internet radio station which I ran (unsuccessfully) for a couple of years while simultaneously producing demo tapes and bombarding local radio stations with them.
I got my first job in radio working at BBC Radio Bristol with the late Trevor Fry, a local legend, as well as Richard Lewis and the very humorous Steve Yabsley. From their I went on to become a "technical operator" for GWR Bristol which was owned by GCap Media, who later became part of Global Radio. At the time GCap ran a digital station called The Hits and I got my own show... and I was rubbish, it proved that presenting wasn't for me.
However during my time at GCap I fell into a Digital Content Producer role, combining my knowledge of the internet and love of radio and I soon found myself being moved to another of the company's stations, one of the biggest in the UK, Capital FM in London.
This was my dream role... well, nearly. It's no secret that I've never been a fan of the inane drivel that makes up the background noise that commercial radio station produce. It was always my dream to work for BBC Radio 1, which is in my opinion is one of the greatest radio stations in the world, but that wasn't too be. I interviewed for a few roles at Radio 1 but didn't make it through their rigorous interview process.
But Capital wasn't all bad, despite it's lack of any real content or personality, it did give me the chance to hone my skills and experiment with radio visualisation, video editing, podcasting and editorial content creation. It was also an incredibly fun place to work and the best job I've ever had.
Climbed The Millennium Dome
The Millennium Dome, or as it's now know since its reinvention the O2 Arena. Although its relatively new compared to the rest of the city, the dome is one of London's most recognisable landmarks and I'm proud to be able to say I've climbed it and stood on top of it.
This wasn't an example of my urban exploration skills, it was a guided climb, members of the public can pay to walk on top of the icon, but still it was quite empowering to be stood on top of the O2 looking over Canary Wharf, the Thames and the West End of London.
I had a similar moment a few years previously, me and some friends managed to gain access (by dodging a security guard) to a disused office block in Bristol which has now been demolished. It was one of the tallest buildings in the city and we made it up to the roof. It was amazing being stood somewhere I knew I shouldn't be looking over the city I grew up in.
Went To An Amazing Hippy Wedding
In 2016, one of my best friends Carla married another friend of mine, Chris and their wedding was like no other wedding I've ever been to and was actually one of the best weekends of my life. Carla and Chris didn't just put on a wedding, they put on a festival and called in Badgerfest.
Hundreds of friends and family members of the couple descended on the two day festival which was hosted in a large field in The Gower, South Wales.
There were various tents, great food, bands, plenty of drink and the most unique marriage ceremony I've ever been to which was led by Father Tim, a mystic.
It was so nice being in a field for three days with friends, I left my phone in the car for most of the weekend because everyone was in that field and for that weekend nothing outside that field mattered.
Hobnobbed With The Stars
For about ten years I did have quite a showbiz job, working in a radio station based in London's Leicester Square. Free gig tickets, celebrity encounters and nights out in the West End came with the job.
During my time I got to attend the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards and the Ivor Novello Awards where I saw many famous stars from the world of music, but at that point in my life, bumping into celebs wasn't unusual. We had star after star come into the radio station, I've met everyone from One Direction to Lady Gaga. I got close to meeting Britney Spears too but she turned out to be the most miserable celeb guest we had in my time at the station, she was very keen not to meet anyone.
As for the friendliest stats, in general it's the X Factor contestant which are the nicest, they take the time to remember your names... probably because they're still quite down to Earth. The likes of Olly Murs, JLS and even Jedward are some of the friendliest people from the world of music.... oh, and Rita Ora of course, she was a regular in my era.
I also got to attend a few red carpet premieres at the cinema's in Leicester Square, the most notable was Pixar's version of 'A Christmas Carol'. I got to walk along the red carpet thought a fake snow storm in a forrest of Christmas trees which had been erected in the square. Jim Carrey, who starred in the movie, even introduced the film and then watched it with us... or possibly slipped out the backdoor once the lights went out.
Was Part Of A Zombie Nation
The only thing that has ever really made me feel euphoric in my life is dance music, I was never a Brit pop fan and I don't enjoy gigs/live music that much but a good DJ and flashing lights does it for me.
The music I especially like is that from the last 90s and the first half of the 2000s and I'm really pleased that I got to experience that peak in house, trance and commercial dance at the time of my life when I was going out clubbing and drinking, which back then was weekly.
One of my greatest memories of the genre was when I went to Ibiza in 2000. The White Isle was at its peak at that time, playing host to DJs like Pete Tong, David Morales, Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Paul van Dyk, Basement Jaxx and Judge Jules, the man behind the legendary Judgement Sunday.
I remember being in one of the Ibizan super clubs with a huge nitrogen cannon blowing thick, cold smoke throughout the club while Kernkraft 400's 'Zombie Nation' played and I was one of the crowd singing along "na na na na-na." That song never sounded the same after without the cheers of hundreds of clubbers.
There's some great dance music around still and another of my EDM night out highlights came a few years later when I went to a fairly small gig at the Camden Roundhouse in London, a great little venue. On the bill was Chase & Status and to make it even better, they were supported by Nero, who were quite new and emerging at the time but I was already a big fan. It was one of the messiest gigs I've ever been to, I came home covered in sweat and beer.
Visited The Holy Grail Of Secret Bunkers
As you probably know I love exploring wartime and Cold War secret underground bunkers and most of those which I have been fascinated in for the last few years are located around Corsham in Wiltshire.
I read, wrote and researched a lot about these places and explored as many as I could but there was one bunker which I wanted to get into more than any other. When I first started exploring underground places, Burlington Bunker's existence was still denied by the Ministry of Defence but it was declassified in 2004 which meant that finally I could get my hands on some information. It became the holy grail of bunkers.
Then in 2008 I couldn't believe it when I was invited by the MOD for a tour of the site. We spent four and half hours being guided around the labyrinth of tunnels which made up bunker. The facility was spread across 22 distinct areas which contained store rooms, accommodation, canteens, government offices, BBC studios, a telephone exchange, and the Prime Minister and war cabinet's map room.
In the huge underground canteen at the heart of the bunker, the caretakers had set out the tables with plates, cutlery, salt and pepper pots and even a fake fruit bowl, creating a snapshot of how the bunker might have looked had it ever been called in to action during the Cold War era.
We visited the huge, wooden telephone exchange where banks of operators would have kept the country's communications running in the event of a nuclear attack. We also visited several newer, automated exchange rooms which would have done the same job as the operators in the later years that the bunker was on stand by.
Shared My Knowledge With The World
Over the years I've been asked to talk on a couple of panels and give a speech. No surprise one of the talks was on secret underground bunkers. I was asked (in fact paid, which was very nice) to give a talk for around 300 people for the University of the Third Age in Warminster. The hall was packed and I talked the group through the history of the quarries in Corsham and the surrounding area and how they came to be use in both wars and were upgraded and put on standby for the Cold War.
Another passion of mine is of course radio and I found my niche as a digital content creator for one of the biggest radio stations in the UK and as a result I was asked to give a speech at the Student Radio Conference in Hatfield for hundreds of students who were aspiring producers, DJs and engineers. It went down very well and myself and the rest of the panel who represented the best of commercial and BBC radio enjoyed a few drinks to celebrate in the student union after.
While living in London my YouTube Partner Manager asked me to speak on a panel at the UK's biggest event for YouTubers. The topic of the panel was quirky, niche channels and my channel was exactly that. I was joined by a luxury fashion blogger, a map expert, and a biker from a vaping channel. We were in the smallest of the three rooms at the event but we had a full house and between us fielded plenty of questions after.
Walked A Marathon
In 2015 I walked a marathon for charity, a whole 26.2 miles around London and I did it over night. I was in aid of Cancer Research UK, the event was the Shine Night Walk. It took about 10 hours to complete the walk with my friend Sian and I managed to raise over £500 for the charity.
The walks itself was actually OK, I'm no stranger to long distance walking and have even walked a couple of marathons for fun besides this one.
I've also slowly been on a mission to walk the whole of the river Thames. So far I've walked over 75 miles from North Greenwich to Henley-On-Thames, obviously I've achieved this in chunks of about 6-9 miles a time.
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