The radio legend and Sky Arts presenter has been a cornerstone of youth culture for a whole generation. She shares her live broadcasting tips and tells us what she’s looking for as a Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund judge…
What do you need to get ahead in the creative arts?
I think first and foremost you’ve got to have a proper talent. Real talent will always stand out. You’ve also got to have an ability to communicate and have real integrity. You also have to have a work ethic; whatever your area in the arts you’ve got to be prepared to work really hard.
As a member of the judging panel for the Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund, what are you looking for in the people who pitch to you?
Passion for their art and focus. People who know where they want to go, what they want to do and how they’re going to deliver the goods.
How did you get your “big break”?
I was just in the right place at the right time. I went to college and studied radio journalism; when I was there I did work experience with a woman called Sue Jameson, who was the arts correspondent for LBC. We went to see lots of plays, and she was doing all these interviews and it just opened up the world of arts to me. It got me excited about working within that field.
Then I got some work experience with BBC Radio 4 and just fell in love with the medium. I got a job off the back of that work experience with a unit that did stuff about young people for Radio 4 and Radio 1; a lot of social action campaigns and things like that.
Do you have any tips on how to break into journalism?
Work experience is invaluable: it is one of the most important things. If anyone is interested in journalism, it is the best way to get to work with people in the field. Get the experience and help out as much as you can. It’s important to do things discreetly and quietly – don’t piss people off. Don’t be that ballsy person who comes in all guns blazing, shouting about what you can do; that’ll just put people’s backs up. You just want the people who beaver away, who you subtly come to rely on and then miss once they’ve gone.
As a broadcaster and journalist, how do you deal with tricky interviewees?
I think it’s quite easy to crumble, but you’ve got to stand your ground when someone is being confrontational. Don’t let them bully you and be persistent. I’m no Jeremy Paxman by any means, but if someone is being defensive and giving me a hard time then I just remember to take confidence in what I’m doing.
There are people who talk and talk and talk and say nothing. But they are being asked the same questions all the time; it must be so boring. If you’re doing an interview, go for a different angle and try to talk to them on a personal level, especially in the warm-up beforehand. If you just go through their biogs and pick out things they’ve said in other interviews, then you’re just going to get the same answers back.
To apply for Sky Arts Ignition: Futures Fund and win £30k of arts funding, visit the brief.
Image: Jo Whiley during the Sky Arts Ignitiong: Futures Fund judging day at IdeasTap.