Alice Webb, the woman who spearheaded the BBC’s historic MediaCity move, gave a timely reminder to the pupils and parents of Manchester High School for Girls that the ‘ability to be happy’ is the only true measure of success.
Alice, Director of BBC North and BBC Children’s, delivered the annual Founders’ Lecture at Manchester’s oldest all girls’ school on a visit on 21st February.
Speaking about her remit to ensure that “the north” is better reflected across all of the BBC’s content, Alice revealed that the mass migration of some of the corporation’s biggest departments (Sport, Children’s, Radio 5 Live, and of course, BBC Breakfast) was a real ‘creative shot in the arm’ for the Beeb.
As she highlighted the fact that the creative industry in the UK is currently growing faster than any other sector, Alice addressed the issue of ‘riding two horses’; keeping the BBC’s traditional linear services of radio and television moving at pace, while all the time ‘enabling the digital revolution’.
With the BBC set to celebrate its 95th year in October, Alice also recognised that just like any institution of such an age, the BBC can fall victim to ‘organisational sediment’ and that, particularly in her role as Director of Children’s, she has to balance the struggle to ‘be hip as well as wholesome’.
With a previous career as a management consultant, notably advising Number 10 Downing Street, and a Masters in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Alice acknowledged that she is a somewhat ‘unusual’ recruit for the BBC.
However, despite having risen to the top of three incredibly demanding industries, Alice cited that for her, the most important measure of success is ‘whether or not I am excited by what I am doing’.
She commented: “It’s safe to say that my A-levels didn’t go to plan! I basically failed them all and had to hit the telephone to try and find a university place. By the end of the day I had five offers and spent two days covering the length and breadth of the county by train.
“Crucially though, I didn’t go anywhere near the universities themselves. I spent time in the cities; I watched the people, picked up on the ‘vibe’ and contemplated whether I could spend the next four years of my life living there. What I probably hadn’t realised at this tender age was that for me, the ability to be happy was just as important as the kudos attached to attending any educational institution.
When I started working at the BBC I made a contract with myself to stay for as long as I got to do the two things that I love; solving problems and getting people to work together, a contract that I have not broken to this day – Alice Webb, Director of BBC North and BBC Children’s
“This is something that has stayed with me throughout my career. When I started working at the BBC I made a contract with myself to stay for as long as I got to do the two things that I love; solving problems and getting people to work together, a contract that I have not broken to this day.”
Claire Hewitt, Head Mistress of Manchester High School for Girls, said: “Manchester High is known both locally and nationally for our excellent examination results, and for our girls progressing to top universities and developing remarkable careers.
“However, all those things are simply the by-products of what we really value in this school; happy, healthy, fulfilled girls.
“As we gear up for exam season, Alice’s inspirational words were a well-timed reminder to us all about what really matters.”