The award-winning media business that began in a Stoke Hammond garden shed

Award-winning founder of TBI Media Phil Critchlow
Award-winning founder of TBI Media Phil Critchlow

TBI Media – the initials stand for The Big Idea – is one of the most successful independent production companies in its sector in the country.

It’s collected more than 100 international awards, including eight Sonys and numerous nominations as well as 40 New York Festivals awards.

It’s recently won gold at the ARIAS – which replaced the Sonys – as well as gold from the Association of International Broadcasters for the epic ‘Battle of Britain at 75,’ broadcast live from Biggin Hill to Radio 2, BBC digital television and 300 cinemas nationwide.

In addition TBI was the proud recipient of two Jerusalem awards for the daily Pause for Thought slot on Radio 2’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show.

And it all started 10 years ago in a garden shed in Stoke Hammond – albeit a ‘very well-appointed, upmarket garden shed,’ as founder Phil Critchlow readily admits.

He confesses there have been some stomach-churning moments in his metamorphosis from one-man-band to industry legend: “But mostly it’s all been good.”

The father-of-two is one of those driven men who accepts he doesn’t always get the work/life balance correct. But alongside the over-riding work ethic, there’s an equally strong sense of humour.

And he pays tribute to his wife Claire – an Argos project manager in Milton Keynes - for where he is today. “I wouldn’t be here without her,” he says simply. “She’s been a real help with the business from day one and is generally a huge support.”

Phil, a Mancunian by birth, began his career as a BBC trainee before moving to Unique Broadcasting where he quickly rose to programme director. He now chairs the audio producers’ trade body RIG, an appointment which involves liaising with senior figures in broadcasting and Government.

But he’s most comfortable with major broadcast music-based events and has worked with some of the top names in the business, supertstars like Coldplay, Elton John, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney. But – ever the diplomat – he neatly parries questions about celebrity peccadillos with: “They’re all lovely.”

He’s also the brains behind some of the biggest outside broadcasts in the past decade, such as D-Day at 70, which came live from Arromanches in France, HMS Belfast and the Royal Albert Hall.

Projects this year have included the Queen’s 90th birthday, the relaunch of Virgin Radio – complete with a live broadcast featuring six bands on a moving training, part of which was filmed in Stoke Hammond – and the 50th anniversary of England’s World Cup win live from Wembley Arena.

He’s also immensely proud of TBI’s regular radio output on all five BBC networks and commercial radio, and the award-winning Radio 4 series The Boy Who Gave his Heart Away. He says: “Fundamentally what we do is tell stories, but it has to be done with integrity, passion and enthusiasm – that’s what we’re in business to provide.”

And with their work increasingly in demand in the LB/MK area, perhaps that old garden shed won’t be revamped as a pool room just yet. . .