Abbie McCarthy – from student radio to BBC Radio 1

BBC Radio One’s Abbie McCarthy discusses her journey from student radio to becoming one of the U.K’s most promising multi-media presenters.

As I speak to Abbie McCarthy, one of the BBC’s newest presenters rising through the ranks, she radiates positivity and has an infectious smile. It seems McCarthy’s on-air persona is not a fake one. With her chatty personality and confident manner – being a presenter was a job that McCarthy was always destined to do, despite it not being immediately obvious to her. “I didn’t realise it was a real job for a really long time, so I went to university to study theatre and performance because I originally wanted to be an actress or work in theatre.” Perhaps this is not particularly surprising considering the presenters assured stage presence-like personality as we discuss her career thus far.

It all started with student radio at Warwick uni for McCarthy. “I threw myself into student radio and I just loved it. It makes sense because I love music and I love talking – it was a beautiful marriage of the two things.” There, she learnt the basic skills she needed for her future career – however this future career was not spoon-fed to McCarthy. “I hounded people with emails saying: please can I come and see your show, please can I meet you, please can I come and get your advice.” McCarthy also volunteered for her local BBC station in Kent helping out wherever she could.

As I ask McCarthy her reaction to being called up to present her first Radio One show, a dream of hers ever since the Warwick ‘Raw 1251AM’ days, her eyes immediately brighten, her grin doubles and the presenter looks fondly back into the past. “Oh mate, can you imagine there was a lot of screaming and shouting, jumping up and down – it was just the maddest feeling, and it just felt like this is something I had always wanted to do. Radio one is the place to be, the fact that I was going to get to do a show there – it was so surreal.”

Since then McCarthy has gone on to present regularly on BBC Radio 1, BBC Introducing in Kent, reported from every festival you can imagine, founded a club night and has also moved into TV presenting at her beloved Chelsea FC. “I have been a fan ever since I was a little kid!” McCarthy declares with a smile.

As we speak – it’s the eve of Lockdown two in the U.K, and just like everyone else, McCarthy feels nervous for the industry that she works in during this difficult time. “I do still think the live industry is in a really bad place, it really upsets me, I have a lot of friends who work in that industry.” McCarthy’s bubbly, enthusiastic persona turns serious for a moment. “Some venues got funding but a lot didn’t – there are so many tour manager, security guards, light techs and stuff that haven’t got anything so I hope during this next lockdown that those people get the funding that they need.”

Yet, McCarthy does have some optimistic thoughts about the music industry going into this second lockdown. She recalls the first lockdown and how artists would live-stream their own performances from home. “The streams were a bit rough around the edges.” This time around McCarthy thinks the home-made gig experience will be moved up a level. “People are really craving a proper gig experience so the livestreams we might see during lockdown two are going to be really big quality and will be like a show I think.”

As we wrap up our discussion, McCarthy finds her smile again. The presenter’s optimistic attitude has rubbed off on me a little and I have a strong feeling this will be rubbed off on to many others also as McCarthy moves further into the country’s spotlight on our radios, TV’s and any other form of media she decides to venture into next.

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