In the latest edition of Music Week we proudly present this year’s expanded Music Week Women In Music Awards Roll Of Honour. Here we talk radio, progress and more with the head of BBC Radio 2, Helen Thomas
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“It was an absolute honour. I felt humbled when I looked down the list of previous recipients. I attended the awards lunch last year and it was such a spirited, uplifting positive event. It’s great that Music Week choose to celebrate and champion women who they feel are making a difference in the music and broadcasting sectors. Hopefully it acts as encouragement to those starting out in their respective industries to keep pushing on through – it’s totally worth it!”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry? What challenges did you have to overcome?
“I’ve been lucky as I found my calling in life early on and always worked alongside brilliant people who took their jobs seriously but recognised how fortunate they were and knew how to have fun as well. Radio had always been there in my life growing up, but it was when I was at university that I got really fascinated with it. I loved Radio 1, but a friend suggested I should listen to The Today Programme and it was like an explosion going off in my mind. I just knew I wanted to work in this industry. In terms of challenges, I’ve worked with very strong characters throughout my career at every level.”
Did you have a mentor or role model who helped you at that stage?
“There are so many people who helped me at that stage, but I suppose I should credit two brilliant female producers who took me under their wing when I was a fresh faced work experience at Pebble Mill in Birmingham. Shirley Mann was a journalist who taught me all about attention to detail and Sian Roberts saw the joy in everything and taught me to do the same. Outside of work, I have to cite my mum who passed away last year. She was so stoic, calm, and always provided an alternative perspective when I was getting entangled in something. And most of all, she always had faith and believed I could work my way through it.”
Work really hard. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t
What do you consider to be your biggest achievement so far?
“Overseeing Radio 2 at the [London 2012] Olympics was an incredible experience. For those two weeks Stratford felt like the centre of the universe and the Radio 2 production team were at the heart of it broadcasting live every day. In personal terms, launching the Chris Evans Breakfast Show as exec producer has to rate as a career highlight. Creating and launching any new radio show is very special but to create and launch a breakfast show to succeed Sir Terry Wogan was an honour and a privilege. I was also thrilled overseeing the revamp of the Radio 2 schedule in January 2019 where Zoe Ball and Sara Cox took up their rightful places in Radio 2 daytime.”
What advice would you offer young female executives about enjoying a career in music?
“Work really hard. You’ll be surprised how many people don’t, and it won’t take long for you to get noticed! And squeeze the most fun you possibly can out of the whole experience. It’s a joy to work in the entertainment industry, our reason for being is to make people happy. Never forget that, even when things get stressful.”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“‘If you can find a job you love, you’ll never work another day in your life again.’ That came courtesy of Sir Terry Wogan. How right he was.”
On so many levels, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented change in the music business and the world itself – what’s been the biggest lesson you’ll take away from it?
“How quickly we can change things around if we need to. And how committed and passionate all the teams and presenters at Radio 2 were to keep the radio station on air in hugely challenging circumstances. I genuinely believe we’ve never sounded stronger as we’ve had to strip a lot of programme content away and focus on the essence of what Radio 2 is for – to bring everyone together to feel great. And we do that by providing laughter, escape, companionship and connection for all, across all platforms.”