Published on 26 July 2022
Graduate lands prestigious national radio prize for her short documentary charting the heartbreaking realities of life in a farming community.
Down On The Farm, created by Megan Hayward, has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, after it was chosen for one of this year's New Storytellers as a part of the Charles Parker Prize. Megan, 24, who graduated from the University of Sunderland’s MA Radio Audio and Podcasting, last December with a Distinction, picked up the Faculty Prize for Highest Achievement, and originally produced the 15-minute documentary for her Master’s degree. The piece won the Speech and Journalism of the Year prize at the Community Radio Awards and Megan became a Finalist for the New York Festival Radio Awards in 2021.
Explaining the concept of the programme, Megan, from Wrexham, North Wales, says: “The idea began years ago when I was doing A-Level English Literature and looking at the poem Border Country by Owen Sheers. My tutor told us that farming had the highest suicide rate out of any other profession and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’ve grown up in a farming family, in a rural community so to be able to share the heartbreaking realities of suicide and mental health in today’s farmers really means a lot.
“I’m so proud of the reaction the piece has had - from it being one of this year's Charles Parker Prize winners, to winning a Community Radio Awards, it’s really been an honor!
“BBC Radio 4 is the ultimate career dream for anyone who produces speech radio and I’m so glad I did the Masters and got the chance to expand on my production skills at Spark FM.”
Stuck in a rut and deciding what next would be best for her career while in the middle of the pandemic, Megan chose to travel 200 miles north, from her home to study at Sunderland.
She explained: “I chose Sunderland, after making lots of friends in student radio and hearing all about the MA and the facilities at Spark, I’m so grateful I took the risk as it has definitely paid off!
“I really wanted to build on the things I’d learnt studying radio on my Bachelor’s degree at Salford, and the MA at Sunderland really expanded my knowledge and experience, making me so much more ready for industry.” She added: “Being a part of the management team for Spark was definitely the biggest highlight of my time in Sunderland, as the station’s Head of Speech I got really involved!
“I ran the day of programming for International Women’s Day 2021- including taking part in a syndicated show with women in community radio all over the UK!” Since graduating, Megan is now a Podcast Producer/ Editor at editaudio, a podcast production house, where she works on a range of shows from tech to news to entertainment as well as working on an original short form podcast series On The Road.
She says: “I’m such a podcast nerd so it’s a dream come true to spend all day listening and editing them!” So what is Megan’s advice to students who’ll be beginning their own University journey?
“My advice for anyone starting University is to join a society, or a sports club, or your student radio station! Just get involved with something you could be interested in.
“It gives you a reason to get out of your flat and make some friends and have some fun outside of whatever you’re studying.
“You don’t have to be a media student to get involved in student radio- just give it a go!”
To listen to Down On The Farm on BBC Radio 4, go to: