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Journalism students get the latest buzz on bees

London skyline with the London eye

Urban nature documentary broadcast on radio

Do you know bees have developed their own pharmacies? They forage among the dead wood and extract mushroom mycelium which is scientists believe carries antiviral properties, suggesting the bees arm themselves against disease. 

University of East London journalism students Michelle Harris and Lucas Ribeiro Dos Santos know this. They put a question about bee health – and many other aspects of apiculture – to well-known urban naturalist Bill Anderson, author of The Idle Beekeeper, and to Barnaby Shaw, founder of social enterprise Bee Urban, as part of an hour-long documentary broadcast on Portobello Radio.

Michelle fronted the documentary, with Lucas providing the audio production know-how.

Michelle and Lucas were commissioned by the radio station to explore bee-keeping in urban spaces – although, as Michelle found out, Bill prefers the term hive-keeping to bee-keeping. People don’t keep bees, he told Michelle. They’ve been keeping themselves quite satisfactorily for 15 million years and have learnt all the techniques to survive, including harvesting that health-giving mycelium.

Lucas said, “Bees are very misunderstood. Everyone has the impression that bees will sting you if you approach them. While in reality they will approach you just to smell you as they don’t know your scent.”

Michelle and Lucas were so pleased with the results they turned their documentary into a podcast, Bees In The City.

Michelle said of the experience, “I really enjoyed taking part. I’ve always wanted to be a radio presenter of some kind, so this allowed me to really throw myself into that role. I also enjoyed learning about something that was out of my comfort zone. When Portobello Radio agreed to air the documentary, we were over the moon.

“The experience really helped me to see what goes into making podcasts and audio reels for radio commissions. It was good to immerse myself in the process from beginning to end so that I can better visualise where I want to work in the future.” 

Lucas said, “Meeting the team and the interviewees was a lot of fun. Everyone had so much to say and we all just connected. As tough as it was to edit the work, in the end everyone was very pleased with my audio editing. I’ve done other projects before, but this was the first time I’ve ever done a radio programme – and definitely the first time doing a project on bees.”

Lucas is also busy creating content for his YouTube TV and movie review channel 1Couple1Review. In the longer term he says, “I would love to have my own professional news outlet, to do more pieces to do with entertainment and helping rising stars.” 

Michelle says she’d really like to work in either radio or TV production and she’s currently waiting to see whether she’s landed a place on the ITV graduate training scheme. She’s currently hosting a new room on audio chat network Clubhouse dedicated to care leavers.

The university’s journalism courses are designed by leading professionals so that students experience real-world projects to prepare them for their careers. To find out more, see our course website.

You can listen to Bees In The City here.

Pictured, from left, Bill Anderson, Lucas Ribeiro Dos Santos and Michelle Harris