I have been privileged to work for the BBC for 33 years. It has been a privilege because the BBC is arguably the most creative organisation in Britain. It touches the lives of almost everyone in the UK. It is at once one of our most loved institutions as well as our most criticised. On a personal level it has given me great joy particularly through my colleagues, most significant of all being my wife, Sally, who I met at Radio Merseyside. In 10 days’ time I will leave the BBC. It is time for something new.
It is an emotional thing. How, I wondered, could I mark the transition? Many friends have told me of their desire to slip away without a fuss and I have always told them that ‘leavings are important and should be marked’. So now I had to act on my own advice.
I decided to bring together around 33 BBC friends from across the years for a dinner. Jeff (from here) agreed to cater. It will be a lovely evening, but I keep feeling a tad guilty about it. Is it too big a deal? Is it a bit vain? Does anyone really want to be there or are they just being polite?
I don’t know the answers but I do take some encouragement from the Church in this. Our year is punctuated by celebrations which cause us to go to particular trouble to bring people together or to share a feast. In their splendid new book Lifelines, Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt, my friend Revd Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney put the argument thus:
‘Celebrations – whether they’re religious or not – are holy moments. Holidays. They’re like bookmarks telling us where we’ve got up to. They’re an essential way of recognising that something significant has been achieved, of saying thank you to friends, family, teammates, the divine…whoever. In a festive pause, we look one another in the eye, we repeat old stories, we raise a glass, we celebrate the past, and the present, and look to the future.’
So – roll on my last BBC day – 31 October.