It’s funny, you remember weird things from when you were young. I was obsessed with listening to the radio and I remember when Kenny Everett played Bohemian Rhapsody on Capital Radio 194 in the mid-1970s, I must’ve been about seven or eight years old. It was the longest record I’d ever heard on radio – I thought it was three records he was playing in one. I wasn’t a rock fan, but I remember it changing how I felt about hearing music on the radio.
As a child, I didn’t think I’d have the chance to be a radio broadcaster as I had no role models to aspire to. I remember going to bed with the radio on. I felt better, like I had company. I’m a black DJ – obviously. I am one of a very few at a national level. Throughout my career, I’ve just worked hard to get the job done and get as far as I possibly could
in this business.
The media has a responsibility to be at the forefront of that change
The world has to change, and at last, it’s changing for the better. The media has a responsibility to be at the forefront of that change. Radio is part of people’s lives, in their homes, cars, laptops and smartphones every day so it’s important that presenters represent life in the UK today.
Let’s not pretend. Women have not been fairly represented. I’m glad that the biggest station in the country is putting that right, but in this case, Zoe [Ball] and Sara [Cox] are getting their new shows not because they’re women but because they are brilliant broadcasters. I’ve known them for two decades and I couldn’t be happier for them. It’s a level playing field now. Everybody’s there on merit and that’s how it should be. Nothing else matters.
I grew up hearing the myth that women don’t like listening to women on radio. It didn’t make much sense to me. I just wanted to hear a good broadcaster who kept me entertained. Gender is irrelevant to me. I’m a football season ticket-holder and I see families there each week. When I watch it on TV, you’d think women didn’t go to football games as the coverage has been male-dominated for so long. But now it’s changing and of course there should be female pundits. Girls and boys each need role models to inspire them to be whatever they want to be.
In my experience, radio is as relevant today as it’s always been. Radio audiences LOVE their favourite shows and presenters – it’s their station. Radio 2 listeners will put it on at the start of the day and turn it off at night (or not if they’re like me as a kid!) and there are a lot of people like that with lots of radio stations around the UK.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
It’s harder to keep younger audiences occupied as there is so much choice from streaming, YouTube, and now we can listen to any radio station around the world on phones in our pocket. It’s mind-boggling. But my heart still belongs to radio. The difference between radio and streaming is the curation, the entertainment, the companionship.
Radio is like an unconditional best friend and when you trust certain shows to deliver the music you like it’s an instant pick-me-up
For me, radio is more powerful than telly. You can take it anywhere and you can do other things while it’s on. Radio is like an unconditional best friend and when you trust certain shows to deliver the music you like it’s an instant pick-me-up. While you’re listening alone, you’re part of a family of listeners who are tuning in as well. With my show, I know I play tunes that remind people of their clubbing days, or I’ll play a Stevie Wonder track and I’ll be inundated with texts about family memories the record has brought back. Sometimes you get texts from people and you can tell they’re down and relying on you to pick them up because you’re a constant in their life. I know it sounds a bit over the top but it’s true.
This world is a tougher place to live and survive in, in terms of competing, working, making enough money to pay your rent and all the other things that go with it, so radio should be a safe haven for our audiences. Even I have trouble sleeping as my brain won’t shut off. I still can’t stop thinking about everything going on in life.
In 2019, I’m going to be doing a new show on Radio 2 from 10pm to midnight. I hope a lot of people will listen in to fall asleep, like I did when I was young. I want people to say “I fall asleep to your show”. That’s the biggest compliment I could get.
Trevor Nelson’s Rhythm Nation will be on BBC Radio 2, Monday-Thursday, 10pm-midnight, from January 14