Colin Lowther is a radio producer, presenter and chief executive of the Christian charity HCJB Global UK. As well as partnering with media and healthcare projects around the world, the team in Bradford run Whistling Frog Productions, a radio production group making Christian material for mainstream commercial radio stations.
Colin has won more than 20 awards for his radio creations and presented one of the longest running shows on commercial radio with ‘The Full Breakfast’ which ran for 13 years on Pulse 2 in West Yorkshire.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a trumpet player in a big orchestra. I started playing trumpet at the age of seven in the days when schools gave you an instrument and lessons for free. If they hadn’t been free I might now be a very good kazoo player.
How did you get involved in the media?
I became a Christian at university and trained as a professional musician before moving into the radio industry in the late 80s. Our local FM station in West Yorkshire was looking for people to join their ‘Religious Broadcasting Unit’. This was the 80s when such things still existed in the world of commercial radio. Dawn and I were sponsored by some local churches to take a short radio course in Watford and were then given a cassette recorder and a mic and sent off to interview people. I remember lying in bed and hearing my first interview with a person talking about their faith being broadcast live on a Sunday morning show. I was hooked!
What biblical text or narrative has inspired you in your work?
I love the Message translation of Romans 10:13-15: "Everyone who calls, 'Help, God!' gets help. But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?”
Then I’d switch to the NIV for the next bit: “As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” I like the idea that people are ‘sent’ into media work by God. But only those with beautiful feet…
Why did you receive an award from the National Religious Broadcasters of America?
Whistling Frog Productions are being presented with thisaward for innovative use of electronic media in the proclamation of the Gospel. We push the doors of mainstream commercial radio stations and are often surprised at the welcome we receive. I guess the humour, the cutting-edge material and the use of secular music and themes sets us slightly apart. I would love to see lots of other Christians doing what we do. The opportunities are out there, but sadly, the Church often looks down on the mainstream media and sees them as a lost cause.
I didn’t get where I am today without….
What living person do you most admire, and why?
My dad. He makes me laugh.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
I remember at the age of 10 I wrote to a famous trumpet player telling him how I dreamed one day of playing in an orchestra like him. After a long wait I got a reply from his wife telling me to go away and stop bothering her husband.
Tell us one of your most hilarious faux pas.
Too many to mention in 13 years of live radio. Probably the most embarrassing ones concern saying things to yourself when you thought the mic was closed.
Best story ever told…..?
I really enjoy the Matthew Shardlake books by CJ Sansom. There’s nothing better than a good Tudor whodunit.
What is your dream for society?
Fairness, equality, justice, especially for those at the bottom of the pile. That’ll do nicely thank you.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Not to plan ahead too far. I’d hate to get in the way of God’s agenda for my life because I’ve already got things neatly sorted out. Oh – and to be creative wherever possible. And to be nice to people. Will that do?
When are you the happiest?
Talking to my kids on Skype. Or in the studio doing micro-surgery on a piece of creative radio.
How does the media bring wellbeing to the world?
By providing a sense of shared experience, and by creating laughter. Where the media doesn’t promote well-being, Christians have a chance to provide some balance by being the voice of Jesus on the media outlets he puts us. A sort of media salt.
What would you do with a million pounds?
First of all I’d finish off the refurbishment of our Christian Media Centre in Bradford. We’re only a third of the way there right now with the fundraising. Then I’d give some away to worthy causes and buy a motorbike. But don’t tell the wife!
What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
Tough one. I’ve spent most of the past 20 years trying to encourage Christian broadcasters not to give up on the secular media, so if any of them were inspired to do something as a result of something I’ve said then that’s an achievement I suppose. There are still plenty of opportunities out there to get spiritual input on mainstream outlets if people are willing to do some digging. And to me, a one-minute God slot on a mainstream radio station is worth 24 hours on a Christian one.