Saying goodbye to CliffCentral.WRITTEN BY THE EDITOR ON JULY 11, 2019. POSTED IN SPORTS
After 5 years and 1 month, I’m saying farewell to CliffCentral where I have been happily working on the Gareth Cliff Morning Show.
Now I’m not a fan of farewells, I don’t think anyone is really when you are moving on from something that has been a major part of your life.
But I wanted to write this to reflect on what has happened over this interesting time in my life, and acknowledge all that it has done for me and my career in content creation.
The story of how I got into this studio and on the team was not really a straight forward one. The best ones seldom are.
Way back in 2001 I first came to Johannesburg to pursue a career in radio and television presenting. I know that sounds stupid now, well, it probably sounded stupid back then too, but it was what I wanted. All of 20 years of age I was staying at a friend’s house and attending classes in this field.
They were mostly a waste of time. Just cliched crap where people taught you how to speak in a certain way, and always be stupidly happy and predictable. Oh and read an autocue.
Needless to say I never landed my dream job, or even came close. I wouldn’t have hired me back then either. What could I possibly have offered other than less wrinkles and a better hairline to what I have now.
I did though meet a series of people in that industry then managed to meet Gareth Cliff eventually somewhere down that line. He was doing the afternoon drive on 5FM at that stage. And we got along from the start.
His style of broadcasting made a lot more sense to me, he was unique and opinionated and funny in an everyday sense. But I also knew at that very moment that I would never make it in mainstream radio as I would be seen as a poor man’s version of him at best.
Gareth and I did become friends though, and though the next 8 years never saw me step foot in a radio studio as I pursued other things, I always loved the medium and felt I could do something in it.
In 2013 Gareth wanted a change, and over lunch one day he told me he was thinking about going it alone and taking his show onto the next frontier. The internet.
Now Gareth is a smart guy, so this wasn’t just some shot in the dark idea.
He spoke about being unrestricted, and completely free to do what he wants content wise. It would be a radio show, but without all the shitty radio elements that were so tired and outdated.
At this stage my sports blog was doing really well and I had established myself online as an alternative sports guy. So such a platform would be perfect for me to do sports things on. So I suggested this to Gareth, and he agreed that it was something to consider.
Of course he didn’t really consider it. He duly quit 5FM and got to work on this next big thing on the internet, and dodging my calls. Very unlike him, but he clearly had a lot on the go back then.
None of which was sport though. Anyways, On the first of May 2014 he started CliffCentral. And it was… crap.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but it was all over the place and in the beginning it was also a live TV along with being a live radio show and podcast. In wanting to be unrestricted and unconventional in every way, it was mostly just a circus.
I joined a month into this, after Gareth’s partner Rina suggested that perhaps I should be given a go on sports. Gareth was anti-sport as he thought it was something that conventional radio would do, but he reluctantly agreed, and among the mess of the early days I was doing a sport bulletin of sorts in the first hour, and contributing in general stuff along with that.
We had a lot of fun while essentially finding out what the show was. We didn’t always know, but we were doing something very real, and it was really entertaining. The engaged audience confirmed this, and the show grew and matured really well.
From a sporting perspective my daily bulletins were getting slicker, and became a podcast in itself. One that many enjoyed as it was a refreshing take on things, especially with South African sport being what it is.
My approach was super simple. Wake up at 4am, browse the top stories, read up on what is happening. Have breakfast, get ready then get to the studio. I literally then presented the sport off a variety of headlines. Conventional radio is of course just the cut and paste happenings, but my role was to present a conversational story behind the headlines. To which the rest of the team engaged got involved with along the way.
It was never about the money, or actually really about attention or a spotlight. I enjoyed doing it as I felt I was creating something unique in the sporting space. This was something I always wanted to do, and now that I had the opportunity I ran with it. From sports purists right through to people who flatly didn’t care about sport, my job was to make them smile and a little more connected with what was going on.
That was the role of CliffCentral as a platform in essence. Real people talking about real things, and creating a sort of forum that educated and entertained.
One of the nicest bits of feedback I ever got was that my sports features taught non sports people enough about sport to get by in sporting conversations.
One girl even said my daily insights/ramblings gave her the opportunity to find some common ground with her dad, allowing them to bond more.
The podcast and CliffCentral platform is magical in that way. Radio is formatted to death, and full of superficial crap that just becomes a blur of noise. But we had the time and freedom to really connect with people. Being a part of that has been really special.
I always wanted CliffCentral to be a part of my life in some way. But in 2018 I became a partner in a sports creative agency called Retroactive. All that I have done in the past 10 years content wise, all that I had tried and failed with and learned from had put me in a position where this was possible. And of course all my early mornings on the Gareth Cliff Show matured me in a variety of ways so that I could start providing value in a bigger and more advanced sense so to speak.
This did though put a greater demand on my time. And with added travel, and all consuming projects, the 4am wake ups were just becoming tougher and tougher. Something had to give, and sadly that was the show.
CliffCentral has been my 2nd longest relationship. And like all other long relationships that come to end, I feel a mixture of emotions about it. The morning show has become my favourite podcast to listen to. Not because I enjoy the sound of my own voice, but because it has become something so genuinely good. I’m so proud to have played a role in growing it to what it is today, and have given people a reason to listen each day.
Working with Gareth has also been an incredible thing. He is very special human being that has taught me a great deal about life and the importance of being smart. We have naturally had our ups and downs both on air and off, but I would have had it no other way. The man is a national treasure and has done so much for broadcasting in this country, and entertainment in general. He has never taken himself too seriously, always shown integrity in all that he has done, and most importantly been able to admit when he is wrong, or change an opinion on something when presented with superior information.
I’m going to miss our weekly interactions, and of course the same applies to all the other members of the team. CliffCentral’s staff has been small over the years, but the reason it has been a success is because of the people that work there. Greg and Dori keep things together behind the scenes and are always great conversation after the shows. Leigh-Anne was there in the beginning, went missing for a while, then returned, and has only got funnier as time has gone on. Gord is someone that offers a kind of humour that you just won’t find anywhere else, which coupled with his enthusiasm for talking have made him a great addition to the show. And then there is Siya. Siya can’t sing, he also can’t really dance, but he as a member of the show he has added some welcome zest and positivity which certainly isn’t my strongest quality. Most importantly though, Siya runs the show and makes sure everything is prepared for us to turn the mics on and have a good time.
Capable beyond his years, he will naturally only go onto bigger and better things in future.
Before I get too soppy or emotional, I just want to thank everyone that has been involved in this fantastic part of my life. I will always be the guy I am, and you can still enjoy my sporting content on my various platforms.
But for now, from CliffCentral, it’s good bye, or farewell. I never know which one is more appropriate to say.
Thanks for the memories.
Here's basically the above in video format for those that can't read good.
Tags: cliffcentral, ben karpinski, cliffcentral sport, podcast, the gareth cliff show