Islington Radio has recently launched on Mixcloud, as part of Box Media Group (Crouch End Studios, The Archway Tavern, and us lot at n-eight). We got chatting to Rowena Alice who is presenting ‘Incoming with Rowena Alice’, bringing us all the tunes we love! Here’s a bit more about Rowena Alice…
Hey! 2020 has turned out to be quite the year – how’s it going?
Challenging! There have been a few glimmers of positivity – I started working with a new agent, began my new show ‘Incoming with Rowena Alice’ on Islington Radio, and I hosted a socially distant gig at Clapham Grand, which was wonderful. However, a lot of other aspects of my career have come to a complete standstill. I haven’t had any paid DJ sets since the first lockdown in March, and it’s been heart-breaking seeing many of my colleagues, friends and venues I worked in really struggle. Luckily, I have a fabulous support network to help keep me going on the bad days, and I just have to remind myself that things could always be worse. It’ll be nice not to be anxious about the world every day though, so fingers crossed the vaccine comes soon!
Would be great to get some background on how you got into radio hosting. When did this become something you wanted to pursue, and how did you get to where you are?
I first got into radio via an entertainment and film route! At university, I took every opportunity of work experience alongside my Film and TV degree, which led to a visit to LA to interview Steven Spielberg. This garnered some attention from BBC Three Counties Radio, which helped set up some connections. After winning awards from ITV and the BFI for my final year short documentary and thesis, a BBC Three Counties Radio producer asked if I would like to start doing some 5-minute film reviews on air after I graduated. I became a regular entertainment reporter for BBC3CR, which then opened doors to other radio stations as a co-host. Being live on air and chatting about subjects you adore becomes addictive, so I then worked on a demo and got to know a local station manager, which resulted in my first solo radio show. Music has always been one of my main loves in life (I’m also a DJ), so talking about great tunes on radio seemed like a natural progression in my career.
Like many, hearing my own voice can be jarring! How long did it take you to get comfortable doing radio?
Working on films and documentaries at university meant that I had to get used to hearing my voice asking interview questions from behind the camera. It did feel quite awkward and I was always surprised that I didn’t sound like I had much of an accent anymore. I was raised in Birmingham, then lived in Hertfordshire and would hang out at the live music venue The Square in Essex during my teen years, so I think those accents just cancelled each other out! What’s been funny is seeing how much of a “presenting voice” has developed during my career, where it’s much more flamboyant and expressive than how I talk normally. It sometimes feels silly, but it’s amazing how, when listening back to shows, it sounds much more like you’re engaging with people, even though it’s just talking into nothingness on your own. I was once told by a producer that you need to sound like you’re hosting to a huge audience live on a stage, so whilst I sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable listening back to myself, I remember that it’s not meant for me – it’s for everyone listening to enjoy.
What’s the process of producing shows and how do you find things to showcase?
A lot of people assume that as a radio presenter, you just rock up to a microphone and talk, but it is much more than that. I start with creating a playlist of new tunes and update a log created on Google Docs that I use each week. I know roughly how many tunes I need to fill a certain show time (being a DJ helps with song time maths), and then in between the tunes, I make notes for links. Before the Coronapocalypse, shows would be live on air in a studio, whereas working from home, I’ve had to overhaul my setup. I’ve invested in equipment and programs, as well as loaning a microphone from a local company, so that I can ensure the sound of my shows remains at the highest possible standard. Producing shows means that you must have knowledge of equipment, programs, and sound levels, as well as the basics of presenting. When it comes to music to showcase, I’m an avid playlist curator. I keep up to date with music trends, find new and up-and-coming bands that I love, and then I make sure I follow those artists on their social media platforms. I also ensure that I set up alerts for the types of bands I play on my shows too, so I can keep everyone up to date with new releases.
What challenges have you had to overcome on your career path?
One of the major challenges of this career, is how much unpaid work you have to do. Working in radio, you often have to do various other jobs alongside your shows in order to make things work and stay afloat. Another challenge has been finding a balance between keeping a light note to my show whilst staying true to my social and political beliefs. I used to be very outspoken on radio when I first started, but now I let the music do a lot of the talking. Also, as with many creative industries, you often witness other people progress faster than you because they have family connections in the business, and this can be tough.
How did you get involved with Islington Radio and what can we look forward to on your show?
I spend most of time in North London, and the Archway Tavern holds a special place in my heart. It’s a fabulous pub and venue, and I remember being there for one of my partner’s first ever gigs with his band The Subways, and I was really happy to see it taken over and nurtured by Terry who is the new owner. We’ve been in contact over social media where he’s kept me informed of the exciting new ventures from there, including Islington Radio, so when station manager and musician Tom Bright asked me to do a show, I jumped at the chance! Listeners can look forward to my freshest finds in new music, especially indie, rock and punk, every week. Hopefully I can help you find your new favourite band.
Any advice for budding radio hosts?
My main piece of advice is to have a hell of a lot of passion and knowledge, and who knows where it could lead you! You can’t just walk into a radio studio and say you want to be a presenter. You have to be willing to work hard at honing your skill and be ready to do a lot of voluntary or unpaid work. You will also need to learn resilience after setbacks in your career… they will happen because this industry is so competitive, but if you persevere with what you love and be supportive of others, opportunities will arise. Finally, record yourself talking, listen back and learn what works best! Don’t be afraid to send recordings to your friends and family to see what their favourite aspects were. It’ll help you adapt and make an even better show next time
As well as Islington Radio, are there any other creative projects you’re working on that you would like to tell us about?
Along with Islington Radio, I also host a show on Boogaloo Radio called Riot Diet that started in 2017, where every band must have at least one woman in to be played. I’m working behind the scenes to gather some really cool guests to do live studio sessions for my shows once we’re able to do that again post-Covid. I am also working with my agent Lucca at Iconica to put on our Reclaim the Stage gigs at venues like the Clapham Grand and Colours Hoxton for when lockdown is lifted. This is so that we can help those in the events industry get working again behind the scenes and also put artists back onstage. I host and DJ at the events, so that’s great fun too!
What’s the last song you listened to?
Beverly Kills – Trophy Hunt! I discovered this band fairly recently and I’ve had it on repeat a lot since playing it for my debut Incoming show on Islington Radio. I’m obsessed with Alma Westerlund’s vocals and the lyric “You are making me blush when you’re dancing like a disco god” has rapidly become one of my favourites.
Brilliant chatting. Anything else you’d like to share?