Tonight, I’m going to say goodbye at a party to an old friend and colleague who’s leaving the BBC soon. Menna Richards is the woman who commissioned BBC Capture Wales / Cipolwg ar Gymru back in 2001. I hope some of those who made a digital story with Capture Wales might feel that digital storytelling has been as big a gift to the people of Wales as the hugely-enjoyable Doctor Who and Torchwood TV programmes. Menna brought those two hits to Wales too.
I remember Menna coming back to work with BBC Cymru Wales more than ten years ago when Greg Dyke was director general. There was a real buzz in the air. The social nature of new media and the internet was blossoming. There was no YouTube, Facebook or Twitter but the cost of camcorders was plummeting and access to storytelling tools and platforms was opening up.
Even so, it took tremendous courage for Menna to say that she wanted a way of helping the people traditionally considered to be ‘audience’ to become ‘producers’. She had inspiration from Daniel Meadows and Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University and her colleagues Mandy Rose, Maggie Russell and Karen Lewis put together the team needed to realise the vision. As well as being a valuable contribution to media literacy, I felt that showing these first-person stories on TV gave tremendous warmth to BBC Wales, as a viewer. I don’t know what Menna’s going to do next after leaving the BBC but I do know that by championing digital storytelling she played an important historical part in helping to make Wales a more empowering and connected nation.