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SUCCESS: Marverine Cole

THE VOICE catches up with journalist, presenter and author of blog Beer Beauty, Marverine Cole, to find out the secret to her success...

Tell us about your job and what makes it unique?
I actually wear a couple of hats but first and foremost, I’m a broadcast journalist. I honed my skills at the BBC and ITV, across regional and national TV and radio. Then I became a News Anchor at Sky News where I fronted a nightly, five-hour live show, Sky World News & Business Report.

My hobby as a beer writer is spiralling out of control, though. I’m one of the few women in Britain, who writes prolifically about her passion for beer. People do look at me and go, ‘but you’re black, you’re a woman and you like beer, why?’

It’s a shame people don’t really know enough about beer yet to see beyond the bad image of lager louts and ladettes.

Most think about beers just being big mass-produced brands that sponsors football tournaments or the warm, flat brown liquid their Uncles and Grandads drink!

History points to the fact that thousands of years ago women invented a drink with alcoholic properties that became beer way in the Middle East. So me having African ancestry doesn’t make me odd for liking beer. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It makes perfect sense.

What gave you the inspiration to write about beer?
I love beer, pure and simple. It's my first drink of choice. I haven't given up on champagne, wine or spirits either though and I don't expect anyone else to.

I got switched onto beer a couple of years ago when I had to research a new documentary feature I was going to pitch to BBC Inside Out East Midlands. It got commissioned and as I produced and presented this piece over two months one summer, I fell in love with beer.

I had such an amazing experience and I discovered so many fabulous things about beer that I decided to write them all down in a blog, now called Beer Beauty.

I wanted to make that blog really personal and expressive, so I asked, Chris Hamilton, my amazing illustrator friend to draw a cartoon of me in an evening dress, draped in pearls and holding a half pint of beer to encapsulate what for me I think is about: glamour and excitement.

BEER BEAUTY: Marverine Cole immortalised in illustration

Those are the sentiments that I enthuse that on my blog. I write about; the wealth of flavours you can find in beer, what I do to try set people off on their own beer adventures with my chic, elegant parties for ladies and the fun I personally have with beer meeting people involved in the industry and visiting breweries.

What was it like getting into the media and what hurdles did you have to overcome?
At 16 I wrote a bunch of letters to all the TV and radio companies in Birmingham. I was lucky because I spent that summer running around doing work experience at the BBC, ITV and my favourite commercial radio station.

Every Saturday I’d work with the DJ Nicky Steele on his Wedding Requests show and he’d say on air ‘and Marvellous Marverine is ready to take your calls’. I was elated!

I also loved watching kids TV on the BBC and one of my faves was Philip Schofield. He said he started off doing hospital radio, so I reckoned I should too.

Plus I admired Trevor McDonald and Moira Stuart very much and revelled in seeing black people reading the news. So with all three of them on my mind I pursued hospital radio first after Uni.

I was a very different person to who I am now and I didn't study journalism at Uni: was too daunting for me.

A few years later I went back to Uni to study broadcast journalism. Since then I became the permanent presenter of that show at BBC WM, but only after proving myself as a good News Reporter.

I got the nickname ‘Court Case Queen’ because I was always sent out on the gruesome cases, interviewing police detectives and the head of MIT for something or other, going to inquests and so on.

I covered every story imaginable: from diet club for fat dogs, and the arrests of terror suspects to interviewing celebrities. It was brilliant.

What excites you about the business and the job that you are doing?
On the journalism side, I get excited about dealing with big international stories.

I'm a news geek, so I enjoy seeing the latest developments on important stories like Syria, Egypt's new government, how the recession is affecting the British public.

In television there's the challenge of 'writing to pictures'. In online only news writing you can pretty much write a story anyway you like and add photos by way of illustration. However, when you're examining with raw video footage to make a 90 sec - 2min video news package, there are a whole raft of decisions you have to make.

On the beer front, I get surprised every day by the wonderful reaction from people about my blog. I get so many invites from breweries to come and visit them and the saddest thing is I have to turn down a lot of them because my 'day job' doesn't afford me the time.

You attended the ‘Great British Beer Festival’ recently tell us about your experience there.
The Great British Beer Festival is organised by The Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA). It's the annual beer festival in London that lasts a week and offers you the chance to sample hundreds of British beers (ciders, perries and a few English wines) as well as some very special Foreign Beers.

It's kind of like Christmas for the British beer industry.

The first afternoon of the festival is the Trade Day and as a member of The British Guild of Beer Writers, it's a case of you need to 'be there or be square'.

It's a terrific opportunity to meet and chew the fat with brewers, say hi to other writers and try some exclusive beers.

Biggest treats were chatting to John Keeling, the head brewer of Fuller's brewery. The second treat was meeting Bill Dobson, Head Brewer of Brains SA brewery in Wales. The third treat was seeing lots of wonderful women in the festival enjoying themselves drinking beer! Always a pleasure!

What is your proudest work achievement to date?
Firstly, making the move successful to an international news channel anchor at Sky News.

It's not an easy move to make and people doubted me. Not sure why because I've rarely doubted myself. Many people dream and talk of doing it but never do for whatever reason. I'm a proactive person.

Last December I became the first ever woman to win a Gold Award at the prestigious British Guild of Beer Writers ceremony in London.

I won it for ‘Best Writing/Broadcast in Regional Media’ for that BBC documentary feature I produced, the one which set me off on my very first beer adventures and made me start writing!

I was chuffed to bits that, what is a very male-dominated arena, have welcomed me with open arms and values the work I do.

How do you spend your down time?
Watching Coronation Street because my hubby and I are addicts. I have been since a little kid when we used to watch it with Mum.

I try and get to gym too, I mainly run but I'm no Jess Ennis though!

I also like to go to the movies, catch up on documentaries I've missed and read a bit if I can stick to a book.

What advice would you give to those who want to do what you do?
Like any good journalist, be nosey, research your chosen field. If you want to be in news or TV then you'd better be reading newspapers and watching a range of TV shows (and not just reality TV).

The internet didn't exist when I was a teen and at Uni, I had to ask for information by letter and wait for replies. Now everything and everyone you need to know are at the touch of button.

The majority of TV channels and radio stations are pretty transparent and have a wealth of information and advice on their website to arm you with what you need to know. Go and find it.

If you can, this isn't always easy, find yourself a mentor in the industry you've set your sights on. Someone who will agree to give you the benefit of their advice.

I do that now and again for any aspiring young black female journalists who approach me and whom I think I can help with guidance.

It's worked out quite well in most cases with some of the girls I've helped ending up taking big strides ahead in their media careers. Makes me proud!

Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years’ time?
I'd ideally like to have already fronted a couple of TV series about the beauty of beer for British TV. I most probably have written books to go with those series too.

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