Mental Health in Radio
Wanting to work in Radio feels like waiting in line for a rollercoaster you’ll get 3 minutes on after queuing for 4.5 hours. It seems like once you get one break it snowballs from there, my friend Tim is a great example of this and seeing people I like do well is just the best feeling in the world, it feels like you can do it too, one day. But it’s never as simple as that, nothing is.
I saw every red flag but still let it let me go mad.
For those who don’t know me, I used to work for community radio station TCR FM before that closed down and got resurrected as Radio Tamworth. During my few months at Radio Tamworth, my mental health was deteriorating thanks to multiple rejections from professional radio stations as well as my desire to create an LGBT+ inclusive radio show without talking to any of the management about it first, partly because I was on that management team. I became really paranoid about the show going out, which when you think about it, is totally normal after spending 18 years of my life hiding this part of me away from the world.
I felt judged by everyone, scared to put the fader up, the only thing that kept me going was how well the show was going, every man and his dog has done a new music show, but this show was new, I’ve not heard one like it and I knew how much I would’ve loved it as a teen, so I presented that format of the show for four weeks before I left the station due to some very hurtful things being said about some other young presenters at the station. I don’t want to go into the full story because if I say too much the powers that be will get involved and before we know it five different versions of events come to light. These comments didn’t actually target me or even mention me, but the fact they were being said about others also suggests things may have been said about me in the past. I didn’t have to leave, but I care about my friends and despise anyone who thinks their status is high enough to justify judging others.
It was only a couple of months previous I’d taken up an internship (unpaid) at Touch FM. Oh the things I want to say, but honestly looking back at the emails and everything leading up to that and then the subsequently dropping out of existence after a week working there may only account for a burnt bridge in my head, all the same, I still think everyone there hates me, I didn’t feel comfortable going in for the three days I ended up doing, certain staff completely blanked me while others just didn’t seem to care. It felt like it was on its last legs or that it was a community station with funds (that’s a rare find btw).
I’ve had experiences with Bauer, where they’ve invited me in, done training, done work experience and now REJECTION. ALL. THE. TIME. I don’t think I’ve had a reliable contact with Bauer in well over a year now and I don’t know why! What am I doing wrong? I applied for a trainee job at one of their hubs that I’ve done work experience at a couple months ago, the guy I had to email is the person who set up the work experience for me last year and so I made up my CV nice and perfect as I was confident I could get an interview, I wasn’t too fussed if I didn’t get the job I just wanted to prove to myself that I’m not blacklisted by stations and I’m just being paranoid but here we are. I got an email back about this job, from a completely random person just saying I didn’t get any further! That there was the last straw.
I went into Radio exile. Started a podcast, started focusing on my work at YoungMinds and Stonewall, for once I wanted some kind of stable environment to work in and I got that. But it was never like radio. I know radio better than I know myself, from making power intros on songs to presenting links and having fun on air, there is just nothing better. I refused to go back, the anxiety, the rejection, the lack of care was just too much… until a conversation started.
I still had connections in radio, well, the ones I hadn’t blocked in my mass cull of all things radio from my social medias. Mostly young presenters who were making their way through the community sector too but one thing someone said really hit a heart string “you can’t let such a talent go to waste”. I’m not sure why it hit so hard because most compliments just go straight to the ‘they’re only saying that to be nice pile’ in my head but that was quite possibly the first time I think I’ve heard something positive about my presenting style and taken it on board. I started listening back to the TCR FM shows and while they’re not perfect they were a very high standard of personality radio, the kind only radio 1 can really rival. Not only my solo work but Oscar, Lucy & Grace, the adlib conversations only worked because I kept control, it’s really funny content and I’d never noticed before. The spark inside me lit up after realizing that and I was ready to fight, all the way to radio 1! (I actually got there a lot sooner than I planned and fucked it up but there’s a blog about that HERE)
I used to think it was something bad to be bad at commercial radio or to want to aim for a station as high as BBC Radio 1 but it’s not, it’s ME, THIS IS ME! It’s who I am and it’s how I work so if Capital don’t want to hire me because I want to work at Radio 1 SO BE IT. I’ve launched a network syndicated radio show for community radio stations across the country to take for free as of TODAY to show these professions just who they’re dealing with. Of course, I’m scared of what people will think of it, of me, but I’m past caring what they think, what anyone thinks, it’s time to be the real me.
This is just one of many stories of young presenters who want to do great things but can’t. The rejection, lack of empathy and darn right rudeness at the very top of this industry has caused me SO much stress and anxiety (see above!) I know I’ll have even more enemies once I post this blog but if you take anything from this it’s be kind. The kid who emails you asking for advice, find some time to at least answer them or notify them that you may not have time but thanks for the email. For me, getting ignored is a “no”, so after emailing stations when I was 15 and getting no replies, it put me off for life as ‘I’ve already sent one’.
Some advice someone told me once “to get a job in radio, you need to be good at networking” OHHHH that horrible thing where you talk to people you don’t know and hope they like you WOOO there goes my social anxiety. I’ve got mental health problems, I’m a queer gender non-conforming human who wants nothing more than to present on the radio, just because I’m shit at eye contact and talking face to face, doesn’t mean I can’t present a radio show because bitch when I’m on the radio it’s like we’ve flipped the switch and I’m off! It’s my way of expressing myself and I’m so mad that this industry can’t see through that. Saying all of that risks me sounding like an entitled little shit. I’m not owed a job, hard work and perseverance gets you a job in radio, I know that, but as I said in the BBC Radio 1 blog, I feel disadvantaged because of my social anxiety around new people and struggling to hold eye contact, I don’t feel like I have a voice and I feel ignored, believe me that’s not a nice feeling either when you’ve been experiencing it for over 4 years.
Any radio stations bosses who wanna start some dialogue, EMAIL ME!! – firstname.lastname@example.org