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Profile - Mark Powlett

Waking up Coventry and Warwickshire!

“Mark Powlett graduated in 1997 with a BA in Arts Policy. He now presents the early morning radio show on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire and FOCUSnews caught up with him to discover how his career was progressing.

Mark is a local man who grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon. From a very early age he knew he wanted to be a performer. 'I remember as kids, my brother and I used to present our own radio roadshow from our front lawn - we had the radio on and used to wander around with microphones. We also had our own puppet theatre. I was quiet as a child but always wanted to entertain and loved being in front of an audience!'

Mark was educated at King Edward VI School in Stratford and left at the age of 16 to do A-levels at Stratford College. 'After completing my A-levels I "fell" into a job at NFU in Stratford and later moved to IBM as a systems analyst,' he reminisced. 'Then at the age of 27 I was made redundant - it was such a shock, but in hindsight it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.

'I thought long and hard about what I would do next, and still bitten by the performing bug I decided to go back to Stratford College and do an HND in Performing Arts.' He added: 'I had my own house, complete with mortgage, and so had to ensure that I could afford to study and still pay my bills!'

After completing his HND at Stratford College, Mark was accepted at Coventry to upgrade to a BA. 'Studying at Coventry was a natural progression from my course at Stratford,' he explained. 'I had no desire to move further afield and Coventry offered exactly the course I wanted. I soon settled into the course and I loved the practical aspects. It was great to be in an environment with different types of artists - dancers, singers and actors - a real melting pot of talent.’

'Whilst at Coventry I did a lot of stand-up comedy - another of my passions,' Mark said. 'I entered a competition organised by LWT and Virgin Radio, they were looking for a new stand-up comedian - and I won! I got lots of gigs off the back of the competition, including supporting Rory McGrath at Coventry. Although I love comedy, it involves a lot of late nights and travelling, so I decided to opt for a career in acting instead.'

"…A year ago I would never have imagined that I would be here…"

Mark had been acting throughout his courses at Stratford and Coventry - for 12 years in fact - and one of the parts he played was PC Pickle in the children's 1V show 'BRUM', a rather unusual acting job as it was filmed in mime. 'It was all about movement,' laughed Mark, 'I didn't get to speak a single word!'

In 2005 he read about another competition, this time run by BBC Talent. They were looking for a new early morning presenter for local radio - specifically someone who hadn't worked in radio before. Over 400 people entered the competition and everyone had to submit a two-minute demonstration tape. The 400 entrants were whittled down to 25, and then 12. Mark continued: 'The remaining 12 of us did workshops and test programmes - and then 12 became five! Five became three and I couldn't believe that I was still in there. The three of us worked with Annie Othen and then it was a waiting game.'

'I'll never forget the day I got the call to offer me the job,' Mark smiled. 'I was in my car, driving back from an acting job, and took the call on my hands-free. Unfortunately the signal was so bad that just as Duncan Jones, Assistant Editor of Coventry and Warwickshire Radio had said how impressed they were with me and wanted to offer me the job, I got cut off! I drove frantically to find somewhere with a strong signal and called back - I didn't want him to think that I was hanging up because I wasn't interested!'

Mark seized the opportunity. 'A year ago I would never have imagined that I would be here presenting my own programme and now that I am finally on air, I'm absolutely delighted. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am particularly happy that as a local guy I can bring my own knowledge and love of the area into the show. The BBC New Talent Scheme has given me a chance that I intend to make excellent use of, and joining the BBC with all the experience, help and training that I have already been given means that I get a huge headstart.'

Now firmly ensconced in the breakfast slot, what is a typical day like for Mark? 'I get up at 3.30am, Monday to Friday', he grinned. 'My programme goes on air between 5am and 7am. I try to give listeners a bright and breezy start to the day with a selection of chat and music, as well as the latest news, sport and travel. When my programme ends I am often out and about reporting live into the breakfast show until 10 o'clock.'

Such early starts each day must impact on Mark's social life. .. 'Obviously my social life is very restricted,' he commented, 'but I knew what it would be like when I took up the job, so I have no complaints!' However, Mark made an exception recently when along with colleagues Anita Miah and Liz Kershaw, he came to the Black and White Alumni Gala Ball and danced until the early hours!

Being out and about in Coventry and Warwickshire and meeting so many people, what has been the highlight of the job so far? Without hesitation Mark replied: 'Definitely when I did the BBC's Big Bard Challenge. We challenged the listeners to help us create a giant portrait of Shakespeare to help mark the Bard's birthday and to launch the RSC's complete works festival, and we did a live show from outside the theatre. Patrick Stewart and Dame Judi Dench were unveiling the painting - I managed to interview them both and they were such lovely people, I felt very privileged to meet them,' he said proudly.

Mark is so clearly enjoying every minute of his job, so what would he like to do in the future? 'I really want to carry on doing more of the same,' he stated. 'I love interviewing people, interacting with the listeners, and getting out and about. Although it would be nice to move into a more sociable slot,' he added jokingly. 'The only thing I really miss is the comedy club but that's out of the question now - it involves late nights!'

When not working or sleeping he enjoys spending time in his garden. 'I potter around and it might not look as though I am doing much, but I wind down and relax. I'm quite hyperactive and do everything at speed normally,' he added.

It is obvious to anyone who meets Mark that he is really happy with his current role. For a man who describes his favourite music as 'cheesy pop' he really has quite an eclectic taste in music. He has a great sense of humour and radiates enthusiasm to get the day off to an excellent start for his listeners. He may have won a competition to get this job, but make no mistake, it was not a question of being lucky. Mark Powlett works extremely hard to fulfil his true potential."

- FOCUSnews Issue 25, Autumn 2006