My Mentor: Dotun Adebayo on Bob Shennan

'Bob has informal catch-ups with his presenters. other controllers don't do that'
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The Independent Online

My first contact with Bob was an email asking me to lunch. He wrote after I had been a guest on Radio Five Live programmes many times, mainly as a black book-publisher, and a presenter on BBC London.

At lunch, Bob offered me the chance to present Brief Lives, the Five Live obituaries programme. I suppose I represented something different, a younger, more feisty broadcaster. I told him that I'd really like to present Up All Night, which as a writer, working all hours, I was hooked on. Seven years later, I'm still there.

What Bob does – and other controllers don't – is have a regular informal catch-ups with presenters. He has been prompting me to do some daytime programming, to be a reserve for Simon Mayo, but I like doing Up All Night; it's not just a stepping stone. So I have asked Bob how I can improve my presenting. He told me to listen to presenters such as Julian Worricker, who really knows how to use his voice. I ended up reading books on voice training and circular breathing.

When I and some of the other presenters on Five Live had prejudicial texts and emails from listeners, Bob went on record in the black press saying he wouldn't stand for it and that he would protect his presenters whatever colour they were. That was awe-inspiring. But then, when he heard me mention that I was one of the leading black presenters in Britain, he shot straight back at me, saying: "I want you to be the best presenter in Britain, black or white. You shouldn't be limiting yourself." I've always thought of myself as a little black boy from Tottenham, so that caused me to do some soul-searching.

But the best advice he gave me was that to be successful as a radio presenter you have to be on air as often as possible. So I never take holidays and I'm never sick. I've presented the show for seven years without missing a night.

Dotun Adebayo presents Up All Night, 1am-5am on Radio Five Live. He also presents on BBC London radio and the online TV station www.colourtelly.tv.

Bob Shennan is controller of Radio Five Live

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