Stephanie Hirst – Feature Article

Stephanie Hirst has just finished a Question and Answer session with an audience of Radio Academy North East members that have travelled from far and wide.

You would think that given the events of the last 2 years, that the former commercial radio presenter and Sony Award winner would be tired of these presentations, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Dressed in a tightly fitted black top, jeans and boots, she looked relaxed and effortlessly radiant, a far cry from the first time we met.

That day was Friday 13th June 2014, and the event was another Radio Academy event, giving students a masterclass on the fine art of being a breakfast presenter.  Hirsty looked that day, to be honest, knackered, like the early morning starts were really taking a toll and a far cry from some of the promotional photos that the radio station used to dish out.

The session started prompt at 7pm, hosted by Tim Lichfield, and the audience, a mixture of industry professionals, students and the occasional radio anorak.  They all sat, transfixed and hanging onto every word.  Her part in the event was scheduled to last until 9.20pm, however she has the gift of captivating her subjects as she did every morning during her time presenting Hirsty’s Daily Dose on Capital Yorkshire.

After the session was over, we met in the bar of the venue, the lavish Ramsdale Hall Hotel in Durham, and retired to a corner of the room.

“Was that alright then? You’ve sat through all that before, you must be getting bored of hearing the same old stuff.” says Stephanie, with her Barnsley undertone and a smile as wide as the M1.

I replied that, to use a sporting metaphor, a talk of two halves.  The first half being the first 38 years of his life, and the second half being the next two of hers.

For those of you that are unaware, Stephanie Hirst was until very recently assigned the gender of male with the name Simon, with her transition being one of the more high profile ones in the media, Caitlyn Jenner apart.

A subject not far from Stephanie’s heart is that of “Radio Bedroom”, and you can see the twinkle in her eye when she speaks of her days growing up in Barnsley, badgering the local radio stations, desperate to get on air.

“I used to ring Radio Hallam all the time, I had to get the phone from my parents bedroom across the landing, and make sure the wire was under the bedroom door.  It used to annoy me that I couldn’t get through to the presenter who was on the radio so I gave up with them, and started to ring Radio Aire in Leeds.

“I tell you, if you give me a touchtone phone now, I can dial the number for Radio Aire with my eyes shut…0532 835500.”

At that point, she prods at the table as if the phone was there.

“I had to learn how to do it really quickly so that I got in there first!

“They all knew my voice and that I was good for being on air. I wasn’t shy and always had so much to talk about, so it made their job that much easier.”

From ringing Radio Aire aged 12, Hirsty was in the studios of Radio Aire, which is still situated within a strip of land between Burley Road and Kirstall Road in Leeds, next door to the ITV Studios building.

“I used to be in there as much as I could be.  I would go in and help on a show, and the presenter would let me drive the desk out of the news, with the jingles played manually and then into the song.

“There were times when I used to be in the station at midnight on a weekend, just so that I could learn little things that would help me to hone my craft and build my radio toolbox.

“But without all those late nights and badgering the presenters, I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you, and I wouldn’t have had this life.  I’ve worked with so many great people so far, and the best is yet to come.”

With that in mind, the journey could have taken a different path back in October 2014, when Hirsty spoke on radio about her decision to transition.  Radio was the only medium that could give her a platform to tell her story.  Radio is intimate, radio is storytelling without the pictures, and radio was for so long Stephanie’s home.  It continues to be home, but now there are different strings to her bow.  Television has been introduced to the recipe, as well as managing current and upcoming talent within the radio industry.

“There’s so much more to add you know, one day I might just have to write it all down.” she added before taking a sip from her glass.

That’s a book that will be well worth a read, and I know that there won’t just be one volume.



This article is aimed at publications such as weekend newspaper magazines or glossy weeklies such as Hello, or OK.

I came across the story during a Radio Academy event in Durham which I attended.




West Hull FM – Media Pack – Front Page

For the front page of the media pack, I want to keep it looking professional, and I am deliberately keeping it simple.  One thing that I took from Year 1 – Semester 1 was to not be afraid of using “white space”.

By allowing the white to come through the page, means that the user is not overawed with information from the start, and this is a choice that I feel add to the professionalism of the product.

For the front page I searched for images available within Creative Commons that can demonstrate radio, without choosing a comic style radio, which I have seen on other media packs.


Using Pixabay, I was able to search using the keyword radio, and around 800 images were found, and I selected one that symbolises radio waves.  I deliberately chose that image, rather than one of a photo of a radio, as that may be an issue with photos from different locations across the world.

Radio Waves

Radio Waves

The image selected is available for use without attribution and as a PNG, which gives me greater flexibility within Photoshop.

Self initiated project – Identifying video locations

One strand of my self initiated project is creating videos focusing on the broadcast area of West Hull FM, to show that the radio station isn’t just about being in the studio, and we have a working knowledge of the area that we serve.


West Hull FM Coverage Map

By using the OFCOM map above, I am able to look at potential areas for creating a video to showcase the area that West Hull FM serves.

The areas I have identified are all on the north bank of the River Humber, and are located within the purple and green areas highlighted.

I will be investigating the areas, looking at the services, businesses and interesting stories to tell via a video montage, that will link back to the radio station.

Back on air!!

My radio silence is almost over.

Once my DBS check is back, and I’ve got into the studio to learn about the particular way in which the computer system and the desks all link up, then I will be back on air at West Hull Community Radio.

It seems a long time since the middle of June, since I performed my last show, so I’m really looking forward to getting behind the microphone, and doing that chatting and playing music thing.

The plan is to do shows on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to start with, and then see if there are other opportunities to create different types of shows throughout the week.

The key thing is to keep the balance between study, work and radio, but maximise the time available in the week to ensure that all boxes are ticked.

Student Radio Association – Networking Event

Part of my focus throughout the next 2 years, is to make sure that I take any opportunity to network within the various streams of Journalism.

After taking part in the Bauer Academy event at Hull College, I started to follow Chloe Yates who was one of the hosts of the event.  She is also the organiser of the Student Radio Association for the North West and North Wales, and I happened to see on her Twitter feed that she was organising a training event at the University of Salford.

Speakers from across the industry were brought together, in order to inspire the next generation of radio professionals, who are currently part of student radio stations across the area, and Chloe graciously agreed that I could attend.

Radio presenters, producers, network directors, and broadcast journalists all gave their time and shared their passion for the industry which they love.  One thing I have found on the whole about the radio industry, is that people who are in it, are always willing to give their time and advice to those who are trying to make the first step into the industry.

I felt hugely inspired by the talks given by the speakers, and also by the other delegates who attended the training day.  For me, it was a very long day commuting from Hull, but the advice and support given, is absolutely priceless.


Step Inside and Present – Bauer Academy at Radio Aire


Step Inside and Present was my first course undertaken as part of the Bauer Academy, and took place on Tuesday evenings at Radio Aire in Leeds.

Hosted by Ant Arthur, Regional Producer for Bauer Media and Weekend Presenter on Viking FM, the course was aimed at giving people of all abilities and experiences, the skills and knowledge to be able to talk, tell stories, and play music on a commercial radio station.

The group was small in number, but that allowed for the students to interact with each other, and also with the course leader.

Being able to ask questions within the classroom setting, and also within the studio, made for an enjoyable learning experience, and allowed the confidence of the group to grow as the sessions increased the skills and understanding of what is required to present on the radio.

The course journey was as follows:

Session one dealt with the basics of what commercial radio has been, is now and will be into the future.  By looking at what is happening in the industry, it gave an insight into where these sessions could be beneficial, and where we can be aiming for as relative new entrants to the marketplace.

Session two was a particular highlight for me, as Stephanie Hirst, one of my radio heroes, spoke candidly about her journey in radio, from the very studio complex that it started.

Session three gave me the opportunity to get into the studio, and start to use the playout system, Dalet.  Playout systems within radio all do the same job, but in a variety of different ways.  Bauer use a combination of Dalet 5.1, which is being superseded by Dalet Plus, which is being rolled out across the group.  I felt entirely comfortable in using the desk and playout system, and being back behind the microphone.

Session four built on the third session, and introduced back announcing a song, telling a story or anecdote, building to a punchline and then introducing a song.

Session five looked at everything covered in session four, but introduced asking for audience participation, and then taking a call from a “listener” and putting the caller on air.

Session six was a recap of everything that I had covered throughout the sessions, and gave the opportunity to look at anything that needed to be re-visited in terms of course content.

Each session gradually built on the content of the previous weeks, so that by the time I got to the final week, I was able to “go live” but within a controlled environment.

Now that the course has finished, I am now able to return to Radio Aire, to receive feedback from Ant Arthur, and to record a 60 minute show, with links, songs, and put into place all of the skills that I gained throughout the stages of the course.  Ant has also given his blessing to contact him after the course, so that I can constantly improve my craft, to build on what I have learned through the weeks, and to hopefully get to a stage where I am able to take a show on cover, and ultimately, be employable by Bauer in one of their radio stations.

I can highly recommend the courses offered by the Bauer Academy, as they start to prepare you for the real world of commercial radio.  It has cost me around £200 in travelling costs to get to Leeds each of the weeks, but that is a small price to pay in terms of training and one to one support from the Bauer Group.

Introduction to Commercial Radio – Bauer Academy at Key 103

As part of my training with the Bauer Academy, I attended a 2 day course at Key 103 in Manchester, which gave a brief insight into the world of commercial radio.

Key 103 is one of the major radio stations within the Bauer City Place group, and is located in Castle Quay, which is located within the Deansgate area of Manchester City Centre.  From the Key 103 studio building, a lot of the network programming is created for the rest of the group.  Most of the radio franchises have 3 individual radio stations, for example, Viking in Hull have Viking FM, Viking 2, and Viking 3.

Viking FM is broadcasts a mixture of local and networked shows, with Breakfast, Mid-Morning, and Drive from the studios in Hull, whereas the rest of the output is from other studios.  Viking 2 and 3 are all produced away from Hull, and have links and adverts targeted at the local audience but are created away from the area.

The course at Key 103 was hosted by Alex James, who is an experienced presenter and has until recently been covering the breakfast show at Radio Aire as well as covering holidays throughout the rest of the Bauer group.

The content of the course, looked at the start of commercial radio in the late 1960’s and 70’s right through to today’s business model and the way in which it serves the local, national, and online audience.

With commercial radio, there are targeted demographics for a radio station, and each of the groups within the course had to look at, and develop a radio station for one of the Bauer demographic groups.  For Bauer, City 1 (Viking FM, Hallam FM, Key103) has an audience of ages 25-44, City 2 (Viking 2, Hallam 2, Key 2) has an audience of 45-64, and City 3 (Viking 3, Hallam 3, Key 3) has an audience of 16-24.

Within the group, we were tasked with creating a new radio station that was aimed at the City 1 demographic of 25-44, and we had to look at all different aspects that go into the creation of a station.  Presenters, Sales and Marketing, Advertising, and Branding all had to be addressed very early on in the session, before moving into the studio to record jingles, beds and sweepers in order to properly brand the on-air sound.

Over the two days, the station developed was known as “Up!”, which was a blend of music, chat and comedy, which the group felt was an untapped market within the UK radio sector.

The sessions were a useful insight into what Bauer would have to look at in terms of developing radio stations within new markets, and also increasing their current market offer.

I will be using this knowledge throughout my time in the Bauer Academy, and also within my degree.  I’ve met people within the industry who are very helpful in terms of sharing skills, and their experiences within the radio industry, and I will be utilising the contacts as I move into the 2nd and 3rd years of my degree and beyond.

Proud to be part of the Bauer Academy

The Bauer Academy is run by Bauer Media, who own various national brands as well as local radio stations across the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Local radio stations in the group include Radio Aire in Leeds, Viking FM in Hull, and Key 103 in Manchester, and the national brands including Kiss and Absolute Radio.

The idea behind the Bauer Academy is to bring forward new talent, in a way that the company can give something back to the industry that they are a major player within, and by giving the students “hands on” experience from within a commercial setting, they can bring forward new blood into their radio stations or into the wider media sector.

I first noticed the Bauer Academy courses earlier in the year, but with the other stuff going on, I didn’t feel able to commit to the sessions offered. Thankfully for me, the courses continue to run throughout 2015.

Initially, I committed to 3 courses at various stations across the North of England. “Step Inside and Present” at Radio Aire in Leeds, “Introduction to Commercial Radio” at Key 103 in Manchester, and “Advanced Presenting” taking place at Viking FM in Hull towards the end of the year. However since my initial foray into the Bauer Academy, I have also completed a further course which looks at News Journalism called “News in Today’s World”.

There are so many good points to the courses, that I sound like a sales agent for the Academy. Not only do you get training from experienced professionals within the industry, but you get to use the systems used in a commercial radio setting. You’re also with other talented people who are looking to break into the industry from a variety of backgrounds and ages, and you learn from them as well, because we have all had different introductions to the industry, be that hospital or community radio, or during their time at college and/or university.

Step Inside and Present is a 6 week course, designed to give an overview of the first steps of presenting a show in a commercial radio station. Led by Ant Arthur, who is both a Regional Producer for Bauer Media, and also a presenter on Viking FM, the style of training is both serious, but light hearted in the same manner, which allows for great interaction between the students and the course leader, both in the sessions and away from the classroom as well.

Introduction to Commercial Radio is a course over 2 days, which gives students an opportunity to record their own jingles, and develop ideas for a new radio station. The course content gives an overview to the different strands that go into developing a commercial radio station from Sales and Marketing, Show Content, Advertising, and Demographics. The course was led by Alex James, the breakfast presenter currently at Radio Aire, and cover presenter for other shows across the Bauer Radio Network.

Today’s News is a course that gives you hands on experience of what is news, and what you need to cover in order to give punchy bulletins to an audience within a 2 minute window.  By going out into Manchester City Centre, looking around for stories, taking vox pops and then creating a 15 minute news package, recorded in the studio, and edited together, it gave a brief insight into what happens in news rooms across the Bauer Network on a daily basis.

I feel very honoured to be part of the Academy, and the contacts made, and meeting and networking with other people in my position, and also with industry professionals has been invaluable.  The skills I have gained, together with my current experience within the industry and the first year of my degree, has given me a lot of additional knowledge and understanding of the way in which radio works in the United Kingdom.

Missing radio…you would never guess!

As part of my homework for the Bauer Academy, I have to listen to all different types of radio, be that hospital, community, commercial and BBC.  The challenge is to listen to the links between the songs, rather than just the music itself.

By listening to the links and seeing the way in which a presenter seamlessly fills the gaps between the music…or in some cases not so seamlessly, it means that I can see what I am doing right and wrong in my own career.

I know that I’m a long way from being a polished presenter, but I like to think I’m not too bad at it, but the main thing is that I’m really miss being on air.  Since moving to Hull, I’ve been two months off air, and I still get the shakes at the times when I would have been on air.

Still, I’m hoping to be on another station very soon, so if any current presenters have any advice, or want a willing volunteer to make the tea, I’m available 🙂