Starting in February 2020, ‘Studio 1’ is a weekly program and podcast from Vision Australia Radio that looks at life from a low vision and blind point of view.
Originally it was produced and presented by Matthew Layton, then from mid-2021 he was joined on the mic and behind the scenes by co-host and co-producer Sam Rickard and both are based in Adelaide.
Each week the show focuses on a different topic with the aim being to get the voices, stories, passions and opinions of as many people living with blindness and low vision onto the radio as possible.
Being that they are coming up on their 100th episode of ‘Studio 1’, we thought it was a good time to re-introduce the team and let you know a bot more about the guys behind this fantastic VA Radio show.
First up, we asked them to tell us a little bit about themselves…
Sam Rickard: I grew up in Darwin; a city a never pictured leaving… until I left it. In my teenage years I volunteered for 8-Top FM and their youth radio show “Corrugated Airwaves” where I picked up the love of radio. I’ve worked in a number of roles since leaving school, Registry at the Department of Immigration to being a tour guide at the Australian Institute of Sport. Recently I worked on the IT helpdesk of one of the big four banks - I don’t necessarily like technology but I like to know how things work. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, I competed for Australia in four Paralympics (Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney) as a middle distance athlete. I still hold the Australian record in the T13 Men’s 800m. I like to challenge myself and for a time sport was a way of providing that challenge. I can even add “Actor” and “Model” to my CV. In 1996 I posed for a series of photos that advertised Australia Post’s Olympic Stamp collection, and in early 2000 I played a bit-part in the British TV production “Blind Ambition”. Nowadays I live in Adelaide with my wife Heidi. During the week I not only coproduce Studio 1 alongside Matthew Leyton but perform all the Production on Peter Greco’s shows “Leisure Link”; “Vision Extra” and “Focal Point”.
Matthew Layton: On Studio 1, we have a slightly different way of framing this question. It allows us and our guests to demonstrate that we’re fully rounded human beings who aren’t defined by our vision impairments. So…
Number 1: I am an obedient husband and doting father to ten year old twin girls.
Number 2: I am a Londoner-in-exile living in Adelaide - 10,000 miles from the nearest tube station.
Number 3: I am a radio presenter by trade and have always tried to use the medium I love to do a little good.
Number 4: I am a motorsport fan and can often be found watching cars driving round in circles on the telly in the middle of the night.
Number 5… Well, if we’ve made it to Number 5 and we’re still having a conversation, then - and only then - maybe we might get to talking about the fact that I can’t see very well.
If you’ve heard Studio 1 before, then you’ve probably heard either Sam or me opening an interview by giving a version of one of those numbered lists to a guest, then asking them to give us an idea of what their list might be. The idea is to put them at ease and reinforce the idea that we, our guests and any of our listeners who may be blind or partially sighted are not defined by our vision impairments.
Describe your role in Studio 1…
Sam: My role is to bounce ideas off my co-producer; provide alternate views on subjects and spice up the radio formula. Also to do any overflow work and build upon a few of my own projects. And dare I say, explain some of the nuances of this country to an Englishman Abroad.
Matthew: Studio 1 is meant to be ‘a weekly look at life from a low vision and blind point of view’. For 167 hours every week, Vision Australia Radio does a wonderful job of providing information to people living with low vision or blindness that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. When Studio 1 barges its way onto the airwaves, it’s our job to give people with a vision impairment a platform, to give them a chance to air their views, and to give anyone else listening an insight into what it’s like to navigate the world with little or no sight - the good and the bad. But, for me, the most important thing Studio 1 does - and it only does it for some of the people some of the time - is let our listener know that they’re not alone in the way they feel, that they’re not the only person feeling a certain frustration or facing a certain challenge.
What do you like about working in radio and why do you think a show like Studio 1 is important?
Sam: Radio is a perfect medium for someone who is blind or has low vision, it allows you to not just use your imagination to convey ideas, but appeal to everyone else’s imagination as well. It’s kind of like painting a picture without all those annoying visual things.
Matthew: Radio is like magic. People who work in radio make noise - mainly words and music - in a studio, which is fundamentally just a room in a building.
That noise is transformed into invisible waves that travel through the air - unheard and unseen - and reappears in the cars, kitchens and headphones of people tens or even hundreds of miles away. Who wouldn’t want to have magical powers like that? The idea that you can harness those powers to make people feel a little better about themselves, to let them know that they’re not the only person that feels a certain way about a certain thing, well that’s erm… Powerful. Magical even.
Who is a guest or a show topic that you’ve done recently that has stood out and why?
Sam: The interview with Sam Harding was a lot of fun because it took me back to my times as an athlete, and I feel that no one would have got the same blow-by-blow of a 1500m race. It was also a great pleasure to talk to Dick Smith, as he’s always been one of my heroes. But I think our best show so far has been the one where we asked “What can you see?” because we just opened it up to everyone and got such different and interesting answers.
Matthew: Genuinely, it’s the sheer variety of guests and topics that make Studio 1 so special. One of our recent episodes is an interview with Tony Giles who, in spite of being totally blind, has travelled to over 130 countries. Although Tony came on the show to talk about ‘blind people travelling’, like all our guests, he’s a three dimensional human being, so I really enjoyed talking to him about his collection of garden gnomes. Then there was an interview with blind astronomer Wanda Diaz Merced, who, as well as telling us about her work with the European Space Agency mapping the universe with sound, gives us an incredibly evocative description of the smells and sounds of Pisa - freshly ground coffee, roasting garlic and the high-pitched buzzing of motor scooters. We also spoke recently to Philip Murphy - Murphy to his friends and fans - a musician from The States who spent seven years living as a homeless person until he appeared on last year’s American Idol.
Who is your dream guest to have on the program and why?
Sam: At this moment my dream guest would be Bill Shorten. As one of the architects of the NDIS and potentially the next minister responsible, I feel he would have some interesting insights into how the government deals with people with a disability.
Matthew: Stevie Wonder. If you can’t work out why, then Studio 1 probably isn’t the show for you. He’s Stevie Wonder!
What is one thing you would like people to learn or take away with them when they listen to Studio 1?
Sam: There is no such thing as an “average” person with a vision impairment. We’ve spoken to some amazing people doing amazing things, but it’s been equally fun talking to VI’s doing normal things.
Matthew: For me it’s not about ‘take away’, it’s about ‘give back’. Studio 1 is at its best when our listener gets that ‘Oh! It’s not just me!’ feeling: the feeling that it’s not just them facing a particular hurdle or reacting in a particular way to a particular problem. I’ve personally benefited from Studio 1 in that way on all sorts of topics: from the trivial (the difficulty of persuading a nightclub bouncer that you’re not drunk, you have a condition called nystagmus - a constant involuntary shaking of the eyes) to the heartbreaking (the guilt and pain you feel when you watch your vision impaired child squint at a phone screen an inch away from their face). For this to happen, we need to have conversations with other people, which is why we invite our audience to tell their stories of living with a vision impairment.
As it says in my script every week: “So if you’ve ever listened to Studio 1 and we’ve given you that feeling, please do get in touch with the show. Your experience and your insight may help someone else dealing with the same issues.”
We know we’ve done our job well when a listener is inspired to get in touch with us and share their story for the benefit of others. Hopefully because they’ve felt some of that benefit for themselves.
What do you see for the future of Studio 1 and why is it important to you?
Sam: New ideas are not hard to come by. As the effects of COVID start to lift it would ne nice to get out an about more; that includes to other parts of Australia.
I want us to produce shows that challenge the views of the able-bodied world but also bring a wry smile to those of us with a Vision Impairment; and let them know that while “Being Normal” is not an option our disability does not make us strange either.
Matthew: Hmmm. The future?
A lucrative book deal and multi-million dollar contracts with Spotify for me and Sam?
Why? Because my children’s feet keep growing and kid’s shoes are expensive here in Australia!
Because of the guests we have on the show and the stories they tell, Studio 1 is a great listen.
Every week it will make you think. Most weeks it will make you laugh. Some week’s it will bring a tear to your eye.
After two years, now we sort of know what we’re doing, we’re working hard to reach a wider audience.
So if you like the show, we’d appreciate your help, whether it’s getting involved by giving us your opinion or telling your story, or simply sharing an episode that you like with your friends, your family or anyone else you think might be interested.
This program is proudly funded and supported by the Community Broadcasting Foundation. Catch up on all of the ‘Studio 1’ podcasts now wherever you listen to your favourite podcasts or online at https://omny.fm/shows/studio1