Having been broadcasting for over 30 years now I have to admit I have interviewed most of the people I want to interview. There are still some exceptions however, people like Nelson Mandela and Stevie Wonder to name a couple. However in 2007 I had the great pleasure of interviewing one of the true legends of our time The Rev Jesse Jackson.

One of the biggest problems with getting great interviews is the planning, and this was no exception. During the 3 months of summer 2007 I was not working at the BBC, however I received an e-mail to my private address asking me if I wanted to interview Jesse Jackson as he was due to arrive in the UK in August.

I did not answer this e-mail as I considered this to be work related and I did not want to do anything BBC related while I was officially not working there.

Some months later and I am now back at the BBC and Sunday Breakfast producer Rebecca Kelly tells me that there is a chance of an interview with The Rev Jesse Jackson. She then began the long process of trying to arrange it.

This was an interview that I had wanted to do for years. Jesse Jackson is a legend. He was there with Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s. He later ran for President of the United States. His Push Coalition still works for and with communities in the US. I had to have that interview.

As the weeks passed by it was beginning to look less and less likely that I would get the interview. People like Jesse Jackson are in great demand on a trip like this with national newspapers, national radio and television all taking precedent. But, in my mind, I was convinced that it would happen.

As we got closer and closer to his visit, the e-mails were flying to and fro. In the end it was decided that he would come into the BBC studios at 09:00 am on the Sunday morning. This was interesting as the Sunday breakfast programme actually finishes at 09:00 but that was the agreed time and I’d have to be happy with that. It did mean that we could have a longer interview and that I would be able to do a Mike Shaft production on it.

And so it is that we are all waiting at the studios on the Sunday Morning cameras at the ready. Our senior producer was on duty that morning and even he was getting nervous. Eventually at about 09:25 we get the message from reception thet Jesse Jackson was in the building. He had a huge entourage with him. After what seemed like ages they arrived at the BBC Radio Manchester studios. We began the interview and he was truly awesome.

The big story in the UK at that time was the shooting of 10 year old Rees Jones in Liverpool. Jesse Jackson spoke about this and about the murder of Jesse James in Manchester some time earlier. He made a number of suggestions as to how we could lessen the gang violence which was now very prevelant in parts of the UK. He suggested that one way forward was to lessen the access to guns on the streets.

Mike Shaft interviews Rev Jesse Jackson
listen here at bbc.co.uk

I asked him about Martin Luther King and he spoke about what a great man he was and how the church could still be used today as a focus to clearing up many of the problems on the streets of the UK. Our interview lasted some 20 minutes and he answered everything that was asked. He was very critical about the UK and USA policy in Iraq and suggested that the way forward was to involve the other countries in the area like Iran and Syria in discussions on the future.

Eventually time was up and Rev Jackson and his entourage left the building. This had been a truly amazing experience for me. To meet someone who had achieved what Jesse Jackson had was quite unbelievable. To meet someone who knew Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks was sensational.

I am delighted that the BBC has made the interview available on-line on their web site please try and listen to it. I hope you like it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the individuals who have taken the time to come onto my shows over the years and who have given me some truly wonderful memories.

Mike S

Be the first to write a comment.

Your feedback