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19th February 2016

Five Minutes With: Jenny Wilkes, BBC Birmingham

Since 2004, the Mailbox has been home to BBC Birmingham, which hosts many popular shows such as The Archers and Midlands Today, as well as BBC WM and Asian Network.

Earlier this week, we caught up with Jenny Wilkes, Partnerships Manager at BBC Birmingham to find out more about her role at the BBC, the BBC Blue Room, and her favourite thing about the new Mailbox.

1. Hi Jenny! First things first, tell us a bit about yourself…

I’ve worked at the BBC for 30 years this year! I moved here from commercial radio, having started when I was 10, and with a background in presenting I’m probably most known in the Midlands for presenting on BBC WM. I’m a Black Country girl and the Midlands is my favourite place to be, so I’m lucky to have mainly worked here!

I now present “The Soul & Motown Show” on BBC WM 95.6 on Sunday afternoons from 1-3pm. I love playing songs I grew up to, getting people dancing round the kitchen while they’re cooking the Sunday roast. I have listeners all round the world who listen in via the BBC iPlayer.

2. Sounds like you’re nice and busy! When you’re not presenting, what other roles do you have at the BBC?

A few years ago I decided to try my hand at events management and have found I really enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to work on the London Olympics in 2012, organising the BBC’s torch relay coverage in the West Midlands, and broadcasting from the Olympic Park.

Now I’m working as Partnerships Manager for BBC Birmingham. It’s my role to form partnerships with other organisations in the city, and I’m often the first point of contact for anyone wanting to know who’s who at the BBC. One of those partnerships is a monthly Coding Club for Under 18s which we host here at the Mailbox. As part of the coding club we often hold events, one of which is a Hack Weekend which will take place here on 19th and 20th March.

3. Why is learning about coding so important?

We live in a world in which increasing numbers of devices use computers – for example traffic lights, cash machines and some ‘smart’ domestic appliances, as well as of course smart phones, tablets and laptops.

I believe it’s important for children to know that there are people behind machines and devices, writing instructions for computers to help us get what we want out of them. Understanding this means they’ll be able to see the possibilities for using devices to solve problems, giving them the skills to become the creators of problem-solving technology in the future.

Computers play a massive part in broadcasting now so coding is also really important for the BBC. Our engineering teams have found that lots of young people applying for jobs don’t have the necessary skills – so my advice to young people is to start coding. It’s not just for aspiring software engineers, everyone can benefit from knowing how to solve problems.

4. Can you tell us about the BBC Blue Room?

We’re privileged to have the first BBC base in the UK with a public facing Blue Room. The cutting-edge Blue Room brings to life the amazing content and innovations in technology available from the BBC, as well as the latest trends in technology impacting on BBC audiences. Until now the Blue Room has been exclusively for BBC staff, but here at the Mailbox our digital experts are on hand to guide you around, answer your questions and help you get hands on with the different ways that you can access the BBC digitally. We’re constantly changing what we have on show, and you can currently come and view 360 degree video through a virtual reality headset. It’s amazing!

5. What can visitors expect on one of your BBC Tours?

The BBC Tour is your chance to gain exclusive access to the rarely seen world behind the scenes of some of your favourite shows. Take a peek in the studios of Midlands Today, BBC WM, the BBC Asian Network, and if you’re lucky, the famous and intriguing Archers studio. You will find out how our Broadcast Support Centre keeps local radio and regional TV on air and you can even have a go at making your own radio play, complete with sound effects. Our brilliant tour guides might even tell you where Nick Owen gets his jokes!

6. Tell us one thing about BBC Birmingham that people probably don’t know already.

We’re bigger than you think. 700 people work here at the Mailbox. This includes staff working on The Archers, Radio 4 drama Home Front, Midlands Today, BBC WM, BBC Asian Network, news and sport online, Radio 2, engineering, HR and The BBC Academy. Then there’s our Drama Village down the road in Selly Oak which is home to “Doctors”, “Father Brown” and “The Coroner”. What’s more, the BBC’s new Digital Guerrillas who explore the next generation of BBC content and audiences are based in Digbeth.

7. Can you sum up BBC Birmingham in five words?

A great place to work.

8. What’s your favourite thing about the new Mailbox?

The roof! It makes a big difference being able to mooch around the shops without getting wet, and the new Urban Room has created a tranquil environment.

9. Where do you like to go in the Mailbox to unwind after a long day at work?

We’re really lucky to have so many great bars and restaurants in one place – as well as a cinema – it’s difficult to pick a favourite. I just like the fact that there’s a place to suit every mood, with cuisine from around the world, and the occasional glass of bubbly!