So against the odds, I’ve found myself making a political documentary. Albeit one that features Kermit the Frog, Wee Jimmy Krankie (for about two seconds) and some awesome new Scottish music.

‘My First Vote’ is my second documentary for Radio 1. Not a 2ZY production, but a sub-contract from fellow Manchester indie, Savvy Productions. Presenter Shona Summers pitched it to Savvy back in 2012 and it was picked up by Radio 1 Stories, the network’s documentary strand.

We did a few miles making this doc. Here's Shona on the very edge of Scotland looking towards England, in my trusty MX

We did a few miles making this. Here’s Shona on the very edge of Scotland looking towards England, by my trusty MX-5.

On 18 September, people in Scotland vote for or against independence from the UK. And 16 and 17 year olds are being given the vote for the first time. A big deal for Radio 1’s audience in Scotland.

If we were worried there would be low audience engagement with the subject, we shouldn’t have. On 13 February, George Osborne lobbed a few cats into the pigeon loft with the suggestion that an independent Scotland would lose the pound. That led to a massive response on Newsbeat’s Facebook. By coincidence, that was also the day we were doing our first location recordings at Shona’s old school in Edinburgh, and was already firing up the sixth formers we spoke to.

Shona photo montage

Shona with the some of the brilliant teenagers of Generation 2014.

We bid for a number of celebrity Scots to take part in the doc. One by one, they turned us down. As time passes, it seems the debate is becoming a touchy subject. So our focus became the brilliant 16/17 year olds of Generation 2014, a wonderfully only-on-the-BBC idea of bringing together 50 first-time voters to follow their journey to vote. We met them at BBC Scotland in Glasgow during a special ‘six months to go’ day. I was blown away by their engagement in the process, their knowledge of the subject and their passion for the project.

We called up Better Together and Yes Scotland, and both provided youth spokespeople to answer tricky questions. It meant our doc sounds refreshingly Radio 1 – and virtually politician-free!

Also in the mix, Jim Taylor, Newsbeat’s political reporter, who’s on hand to explain the tricky bits, and the charming and funny Iain Stirling, who allowed us to record his gig at Manchester’s Kosmonaut where he was trying out some Scottish Referendum gags. Shona had shot some video at an earlier ‘mock referendum’ in Glasgow so that went in too.

Shona and comedian Iain Stirling. Is the Scottish Referendum funny?

Shona and comedian Iain Stirling. Is the Scottish Referendum funny?

Having attended an Editorial Policy Briefing at Salford, and read the two sets of BBC Guidelines on covering the referendum, I sat down to start the edit, trying to (a) make an engaging programme that will appeal to a Radio 1 audience (b) balancing both sides of the debate and (c) finding audio that really describes the contributors, to show a side of their lives that puts their opinions and likely voting choice into context, to make you care what they think, whether they’re a Yes, a No, or a Not Yet Decided.

Shona and I had a long night at 2ZY the day before we went to sound design, choosing the music to accompany the doc. It’s very Radio 1 to lay speech in docs over music, and we wanted to use (almost) all Scottish artists. (Muse, John Williams, Huey Lewis and Rob Dougan creep in for specific editorial reasons too!) But you’ll also hear Biffy Clyro, CHVRCHES, Emeli Sandé, Mogwai, Frightened Rabbit, Calvin Harris, The Fratellis, Nina Nesbitt and more. So many lyrics seemed to match the speech clips, themes and tone of the show.

Shona and Jim in the Newsbeat newsroom at New Broadcasting House.

Newsbeat’s Jim Taylor with Shona in the Radio 1 newsroom at New Broadcasting House.

This complex show was very much Shona’s vision, commissioned through another company – and I hope we’ve done it justice. Thanks to Justine for trusting me with it, and to my always-brilliant colleagues – exec producer Jo Meek and sound designer Eloise Whitmore.

Gratuitous Presenter & Producer location selfie.

Gratuitous Presenter & Producer location selfie.

Radio 1 Stories: My First Vote transmits on BBC Radio 1 at 2100 on Monday 7 April.

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