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From dBs Plymouth to The Falklands: Owen Trick's South Atlantic Adventure

dBs Plymouth student Owen Trick has just finished his FdA Sound & Music Technology course and the next phase in his career is taking him to an unlikely destination: The Falkland Islands. We caught up with Owen to chat about his journey with dBs so far, his forthcoming role at BFBS, the isolation of The Falklands and...penguins.

It's not often that job opportunities take us, quite literally, to the other side of the world, but that's precisely the situation dBs Plymouth student Owen Trick has fortuitously found himself in with his forthcoming role as a trainee Broadcast Technician with BFBS in The Falklands.

Owen's journey has taken a few turns; studying history, community radio, dBs Plymouth's FdA Sound & Music Technology course and now working on a South Atlantic archipelago with a population of 3,000. Read on to find out how he went from applying to BFBS on a "whim" to landing the role and why he's relishing the challenge.

First of all, tell me about yourself. What you're studying at dBs and what is your background in sound and music?Owen Trick in a radio studio

Owen Trick: I started off at dBs on the access course. Before that, I'd gone to uni for history but it wasn't really for me for various reasons and then, after spending a bit of time out, I saw the access course and thought, “Okay, that sounds interesting. I'll do that!” I hadn't quite decided what I wanted to do in music yet, so I thought, “The FdA has the most variety of stuff. I'll do the FdA and then see where it takes me.” Just before I started the FdA, I managed to get a voluntary role with a local radio station. That grew into its own thing with a paid management position there and with that experience and coming up to the end of the FdA, I'm now joining BFBS. That's essentially my journey.

What has your experience at dBs been like so far? Any highlights?

OT: Yeah, it's been great. I really appreciate that all of the lectures and tutors that I've come across during my time at dBs, they’re not just teaching, they've all got industry experience. I think that really makes a big difference because you're not just being told information, you're being told information that you can transfer to a real-life environment, which is really good. 

I've definitely loved having the faculty that are around because they're just so knowledgeable on the content, but also how to apply the content. Last term we did a performance. It's not something that I usually do; it's not really my thing - at least not performing musically. I do audiobooks here and there. The performance I did was an immersive audiobook with ambi-sound and various things. Chris Pratt had set up the green screen and it turned out to be very good! That was a great experience being involved in that. That's probably the course highlight.

That’s really interesting. Voice acting for audiobooks is quite an unusual discipline to get into. Is there a particular reason why you have leaned towards doing voice acting?

OT: I can probably trace it back to a conversation I had with Matt Radley. When I was on the access course, he said, “With your voice, you should do an audiobook.” It was just an offhand comment, but I thought, “Yeah, why not?” I looked into how they're made and what sort of things you need to do to get them. It was a very slow process to start. Then with lockdown, it really took off for me because suddenly everybody was a creative writer. There were so many self-published books. It's a good way to get in. Reddit is really good as well. You get a lot of hobby writers who just want the authentic experience of “Wow, someone's actually narrated my book. That's so cool!” It's nice because you get a bit of cash, and they get their book narrated which is nice for them. It's a nice roundabout.

Welcome to the Falkland Islands by Jeremy RichardsImage by Jeremy Richards

Those skills lend themselves quite nicely to radio and your new position at BFBS. How did that opportunity come about?

OT: BFBS is the British Forces Broadcasting Service and as I said, I started off in radio a couple of years ago working with a community station. I'm from a forces family, so BFBS is a company I've always been around to some degree or another just because of the nature of the charity. I saw the listing on Twitter and I thought, “There's no way I'm qualified enough for this position. There is no way, but I haven't applied for anything yet.” So I thought “Worst-case scenario, I hear nothing back and at least I’ll know what they expect me to write in the applications.” So I did it and literally 90 minutes later, I had an email saying “Hi, do you want to come in for an interview? Is tomorrow any good?” It was a very fast turnaround. The interview was about one o'clock in the afternoon and I'd applied at three o'clock the previous day so, in around 24 hours, I'd had my first interview. Then I had another interview and then a third and it sort of progressed from there. Now I've done medical exams, and I've done various competency things. It's all official now, which is nice but it took about a month of various things at the start. It all stemmed just from me applying on a whim really. I didn't expect to even hear anything back. So getting the job was a little bit of a surprise.

That's really it's really good news. And what does the role involve exactly? What do you expect to be doing when you're there?

OT: So the job title is Broadcast Technician and it’s in the Falkland Islands. There are only 3000 people in the Falklands and BFBS would usually just broadcast to military personnel and establishments. But the mainstay of the Falkland economy is the military. There are only about 1800 people on the island that aren't military, so they just broadcast to the entire population. The tech team will be me and one other person for the whole Falkland Islands doing everything. 

Owen Trick with BFBS lanyardThere's a cinema there and we'll be in charge of maintaining that. There's a radio station, which is local shortwave broadcasting for the Falklands and we'll be in charge of maintaining that and making sure everything's operational. There is one guy who does the radio show and his wife co-hosts with him, as far as I'm aware, and if either of them are sick, then you jump in and help out a little bit for that. It's not a 24/7 broadcast. It's Monday to Friday and I think the broadcast is from 9 am until 2 pm. And then on a Saturday, they do 10 am until 2 pm. It's not a massive thing, but for such a small, isolated community, radio is really important. There’s also TV, which BFBS do as well. So we'll facilitate the uplinks and the downlinks for that. As well as that, they've got a contract with the Met Office out there. We're maintaining their equipment; their arrays and things. So it's a bit of a mix of engineering and sound.

Wow, that's really cool. As it’s such a small, tight-knit community and it seems like quite a small operation, it feels like you're going to learn a lot and have the opportunity to really get stuck in.

OT: Yeah, well I had applied for a role which was in the UK and when I had that first interview, they said to me, “You know, I don't think you've got enough experience for this job.” Obviously, I was expecting that anyway, so I was like, “Okay, yeah, I get that. I am looking to expand my skillset from uni and previous employment and I understand that this isn't strictly a training position.” And he said, “Well, actually, it's funny you say that because we're trying to fill a post in the Falklands, which is a training position.” Just having that brief moment to go, “Actually, you know, I do want to be trained. I don't have the experience now, but I do want it.” I think it'll set me up really nicely for the future, whether I stay with BFBS or go somewhere else. I think the guy that was doing the job before me works for BT Sport now.

You don't see many job advertisements for places in the Falklands. Are you looking forward to moving there? It sounds like it'd be an interesting journey.

OT: Yeah, I am. It's an 18-hour flight minimum. It's 8500 miles. You have to fly on a military plane because there aren't commercial flights to go there at the moment. You go from Brize Norton to Senegal, refuel and then you go to the Falklands from there. If the weather's bad, then you have to fly back. It's very isolated. There are 350 Penguins per person, as I keep telling people - that's my fun fact. It will be an adventure I think because it's such a different environment. It's just unique. It's an experience that not many people get to have, so it'll be nice to have that life experience straight off the bat out of uni. 

Penguins on a beach by Ian Parker

It’s not a hostile environment, but it's not the most welcoming. There is nothing there. There's a single track road between the military base and Stanley, which is the capital. It’s not even a capital - it's a village, it’s a tiny village and the road isn't really a road and that is the only road in the Falklands. It's that isolated and remote. Some of the arrays and things we'll be working on are a two-hour helicopter flight. There's no other way to get to these places. You just have to fly by helicopter or you have to get a four by four and drive cross country. That's it - there's no other option. So yeah, it'll be an adventure and I'm looking forward to the challenge of it.

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Start your own journey with music technology and check out our FdA Sound & Music Technology course - available at our Plymouth, Bristol and Manchester campuses.

A photo collage including a eurorack synth, a female student wearing a Playstation virtual reality headset, two students using a Ableton Push 2 controller, a tutor and students using a mixing console and a student behind a Korg MS-20 synth