“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” – William Arthur Ward
Teaching, or rather inspiring, is a responsibility and a rare skill which often goes unappreciated in this electronic day and age. It is a frustration that the most talented people are often unable to articulate and pass on the techniques that make them successful. Therefore individuals who are not only sufficiently talented, but able to pass on their gifts are rare creatures indeed and we are exceptionally lucky to have someone like Martin Locke helping to coach our next generation of Tellytrack presenters.
For any racing, or indeed sports enthusiast, Martin Locke is a familiar face. He has an interesting and colourful history. He was born in the UK and his family migrated gradually south via Libya, Kenya and Zimbabwe before finally settling in South Africa. Martin’s chief interests at school were sport and drama. He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in the late 50’s and remembers his then headmaster being most encouraging of his pursuit of the performing arts because “as a scholar you’re a disaster!” Martin chuckles and then says that he’s been a fully paid commentator since the age of 19.
He worked as a freelance broadcaster for years and has many tales of high adventure. He hosted pop, magazine and news programmes for the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (including an early programme called “Rock with Locke”) as well as commentating on Currie Cup cricket and rugby. His experience is rich and varied, including DJ’ing for Radio Luxembourg, presenting programmes for the BBC, jointly anchoring the first satellite coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games (by landline!) for ITV and also being host commentator for ITV’s World of Soccer.
In 1972, he formed Martin Locke Enterprises, a promotions and marketing company and through that, he organised a huge concert at Ellis Park in conjunction with Radio 702. He furthered his interests in the music industry in partnership with his brother Tony, by setting up Spinalong, an independent music retail chain in Zimbabwe which eventually grew to 36 stores. They eventually merged with Gallo South Africa and Martin immigrated to South Africa in 1977. It didn’t take long for him to be headhunted by the local CNA group and he was appointed to manage their music department and put in charge of a chain of 250 stores.
In the late 80’s Martin became more familiar to South African fans with DJ slots on 5FM. He was also joint anchor for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games (which Martin describes as a great emotional moment), the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. And of course Top Sport viewers will know him as an anchor from everything from rugby, boxing, cricket, soccer, golf and of course, horse racing (who could forget some of those bright suits!). Martin has watched, and in many cases, presented the changing face of South African and international sport and has received many accolades for his years of service including most recently being conducted into the SAB Hall of Fame.
A nasty health scare lead to a brief hiatus in his career. Martin suffered an episode which saw him institutionalised for a lengthy spell and it was only due to the tireless efforts of his partner Jeanette that the medics were proved wrong in their diagnosis and he was finally discharged.
While an experience like that would be enough to shake the strongest and most robust of personalities, Martin has bounced back with even more vigour and energy. He was recently enlisted by Tellytrack to review and where necessary, breathe a bit of new life into the current offerings and he is relishing the challenge. His energy and enthusiasm are very apparent and he believes very firmly in our local product – on the turf as well as in the studio !
Phumelela exec Ken Rutherford says “Martin was a legend and one of the best of his time. Technology may have moved on, but the fundamentals don’t change. His input is valued and I believe we have already seen the benefits with the introduction of Mark and Vicky in the Western Cape, Gavin Venter in Port Elizabeth and race-caller Sheldon Peters helping out in KZN. Young commentator Alistair Cohen has been adding great value in Gauteng and in the short-term the fresher more dynamic appeal was already being felt. The new presenters are there to complement our current team and there is a nice team of contrasting personalities being established.”
Both new presenters down in the Cape – the bright and bubbly Vicky Minott who punters are more used to seeing in jockey silks and the quiet and seriously spoken Mark van Deventer – have been put through the “Martin Locke School of Presenting”. I have met up with them several times over the last few months and have been following their progress with interest. Martin believes that the key to good presenting is the ability to pass on information in a clear, interesting and accessible way, combined with a genuine love of the game and he has sought to ensure that this shines through in his new protégés.
I first met the trio at an early morning screen test at Kenilworth one chilly June morning. Martin meticulously put them through their presenting paces both individually and in pairs to get an overview for their strengths and weaknesses and showed me a few of the rushes.
Since then they have been meeting regularly for coaching and feedback sessions and from the comments being received, they are progressing well. Martin is working hard to ensure both Mark and Vicky understand our multi-faceted industry from the ground up and a number of our meetings took place at Avontuur where Mark and Vicky got to spend time with Pippa, meet Var and a whole new generation of racing superstars.
As any self-respecting celeb knows, you’ve officially made it when there is no longer a need for people to use your last name and it seems Vicky is well on her way ! Vicky Minott hails from the Zulu Kingdom and is already well known to KZN and Western Cape racing enthusiasts from her exploits in the saddle. Her big smile and cheeky personality have been firm fixtures on our tracks for a while now with one of her career highlights being a listed race victory on Diana’s Choice on Met Day. A fall early in her career necessitated a complicated operation and a lot of metal plates put in place to hold her leg together. In March Vicky was advised to have the metal plates removed as they would prove a liability if she took any further serious falls. Her recuperation afforded some time to reflect and plan for the future and when the presenting opportunity came her way, she grabbed it. Not that she’s giving up her riding license just yet ! The jockey lifestyle is something that gets in your blood and it’s not one that’s easy to let go of. She jokes that Garth Puller hung on to his jockey license right up until he had to exchange it for his trainer’s license !! With her sound and solid horsemanship skills and her intimate knowledge of the horses, riders and trainers, she adds valuable and refreshing insights in the studio. She is bright, bubbly and enthusiastic and I’m sure she won’t mind my adding that in a fairly male dominated environment, she provides some respite for the eyes too ! She is thoroughly enjoying her new role and full of praise for Martin’s coaching. She says she was a bit nervous for their first broadcast, but as each challenge came up, she realised that Martin had slowly been instilling all the necessary skills during their training and that she did in fact have all the skills at her fingertips.
Our other new face is Mark van Deventer. Mark hails from Cape Town and has been a life-long racing fan. He inherited his love of the game from his father. He says their home always had copies of racing publications like the SA Racehorse and he apparently learnt to read by studying the racing pages in the local papers! Although children weren’t allowed to go racing in his day, he fostered his enthusiasm at Cape Hunt meetings and special occasions like Met gallops. He remembers the 1978 Met gallops particularly clearly as Garth Puller was kind enough to pose for a photo with Bold Monarch. It is amazing what long-lasting effects these small acts of kindness can have. Mark is an interesting character. Serious and softly-spoken, he has been a life-long student of form and approaches the game from an intellectual angle. I rang him early one morning to refresh some of my notes and he was already hard at work preparing for his next race meeting. Mark has a degree in psychology from UCT and when he is not in front of the camera, he practices sports psychology and runs a small, but successful sports tourism business. He is happily married to a fellow academic and has a 7 year old son called Max. He is widely travelled, articulate and has a deep and committed love for racing. While his approach is entirely different to Vicky’s, Mark says he hopes his contribution is from an analytical angle. He prepares meticulously for each meeting by consulting his own charts and form records and trying to relay his insights to punters. His key aims are to expose vulnerable favourites and identify horses that will outperform their odds to help punters find live outsiders. While he admits ruefully that no-one can be right all the time, he says that the team do keep track of their selections to see how they are faring. He aims to present from a position of integrity and credibility and hopes that his contributions help viewers understand and judge individual horses relative to their odds and enable them to make better betting decisions.
Mark is also full of praise for Martin and his coaching techniques, describing him as very supportive and always constructive. He says Martin has taught them to be themselves and retain their individuality, while refining their broadcasting skills. It seems to be a winning formula.
As they say, those who can, teach.