5 minutes with Gemma Cairney…

5 minutes with Gemma Cairney…

So a couple of weekends ago I headed to Radio One’s Big Weekend for Grazia to see and chat to some of the fantastic artists and DJs performing and working over the weekend. I caught up with the fabulous Gemma Cairney whilst I was there, who was full of exciting news as she joins BBC Radio One’s The Surgery this June! It was really funny to interview Gemma as when I interned at Company, I was in fact transcribing the interviews SHE was conducting with some of the hottest music stars! Here’s what she had to say about being a BBC Radio One DJ, mental health and feminism!


So, are you alright? How are you enjoying the weekend so far?



Yeah, I’m good. I haven’t actually been here for that long. With the whole beast that is Big Weekend, everyone is assigned to like, different things. I’m doing the wrap up show tonight, so from 11pm to 1am, so it’s amazing. I actually get to mooch about and watch stuff – I never normally get the opportunity to do that.

But that means you can’t get your drink on in the day!

Yeah, it does mean that I can’t go crazy… but it’s alright!


And how’s radio treating you?

Yeah it has been good, it has been a crazy year. I’m doing the early morning slot and this is my 7th year at the BBC, but I’ll probably say this is one of the hardest times… because I have to get up at 3am.

Ouch! And what were you doing before then?

I was doing the weekend slot so I was getting up at 5am on a Saturday. But, I’m moving, I’m going to the Surgery [the advice show on Wednesday evenings]. So that’s good. Like, with this career, there’s so many twists and turns, and the Surgery is a really lovely place to be for my next challenge because it’s a Wednesday evening and it’s a really special show. It’s a space where people call in about really important things, and it’s a really magic hour where people can feel free to talk about what’s going on in their lives.


Especially as it’s a lot of younger people too… How do you feel when younger people call in, do you feel like you have this responsibility as a role model?

Um, I mean, I can’t help but feel like I have a responsibility – I’ve always felt like that ever since I’ve started this job, and I don’t think it’s defined as one thing, I always encourage people to just be themselves. And to ask big questions, and to accept that youth culture is not all about the fun and the party. All of that is real, but youth culture is about the hard times and working them out as well.

God, when I was a teenager I was so hormonal!

Yeah man, me too. I am still am! But, at least you get used to it.

Exactly! You’re part of another exciting project at the moment too.. you’re the Executive Producer for ‘My Beautiful, Black Dog.’ Could you tell me more about that?

I’m like a firefly in the way that I ended up working on projects, especially these days. It just normally happens naturally. Brigitte Aphrodite who has written the show is talking about her experiences of depression, and she has been my friend since I was like 18. We met at drama school and she has always been my mate and she’s so much fun, there’s really no one like her. 
And she wrote this musical about really falling into this pit, and I remember it happening. And it was really bizarre for us, because she was one of the most ‘in love with life’ people I’d ever met, she’s a really natural bohemian spirit, and naturally colourful and poetic. And then, all of a sudden she couldn’t get out of bed for three weeks. And it was really hard for us because it was a really unlikely character. It was really unexpected, and she put that into her art and she wrote this musical. And it’s absolutely incredible. And it’s really moving, and it’s about taking hold of your melancholy and turning it into something beautiful.

I loved one of Brigitte’s quotes when she spoke about it: “Melancholia should be discussed at a dinner party, without killing the mood.” And it’s so true. How important do you think it is to be open to talking about mental health?

I totally agree with that statement, and that’s why I’m excited to take on the Surgery. It’s just important to talk about this stuff, whether it’s mental health, or whether it’s equality, or politics, or a bad relationship. You should be able to talk about this stuff.

You mentioned briefly about feminism. You used to be a fashion stylist, and you’re really into your style. How do you think feminism and fashion are intertwined, do you think fashion is empowering?

I think clothes are wicked! I love clothes. I mean, I don’t know how obsessed I am with fashion, but I’m really into the theatre of fashion. I mean, I come from a drama school and it was so flamboyant. And I think it’s really fun, and I don’t think we should forget the fanciness and the fantastical side of clothes and costume and expressing yourself. And I don’t think there are any rules about being a feminist. I just think it’s about being comfortable with who you are.

Did you always think you were one when you were younger?

I don’t think I realised properly until later, but yeah I’ve always … I didn’t know about the word. But I’ve always believed that stuff.

You’re coming out with some really inspiring stuff! If you could be PM for a day, what’s the one thing you’d do?

Ooooh hard one… I’d give us a three day weekend… because we all work our arses off, and I really think we do work really hard. And I think if we had one more day we’d be able to have more time for ourselves, and more time for the people we love. And on that extra day, no one will be able to go online… and actually go and create some real memories. Can you image that, it’d be so far out!


Catch Gemma Cairney in her new role at BBC Radio One’s The Surgery Wednesday’s 9-10pm, when the schedule changes this month. 

Read more about ‘My Beautiful Black Dog’ over at its Kickstarter campaign.



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