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Career Aspirations - Life as a radio presenter - Chelsea Norris

Posted: 03/07/2020

Chelsea wanted to be a journalist from a young age but always assumed she would work for a newspaper, not radio. Following some work experience in TV and radio, she went on to study for a degree in journalism at University of Central Lancashire.

“During my degree I did more work experience and realised that radio was where my heart was. I loved the immediacy – if something happens you can break the news very quickly. I’m quite impatient!

“I applied for three or four different jobs and got two offers on the same day, so I was able to choose.”

Chelsea didn’t divulge who she turned down but went on to say….” I was offered a job in Sheffield for Hallam FM and then moved to Century FM at Salford Quays. I started as a newsreader and did that for a few years before I was asked to join Key 103 as a presenter with Mike Toolan on the breakfast show.”

Chelsea never wanted to be a presenter – it wasn’t in her mind she says: “I remember being really worried thinking that I have done this degree – is it a waste of time when I could have just gone and presented?

“On the breakfast show that I host now we have masses of light entertainment but also lots of serious stuff – holding to account interviews where it really helps to have the journalistic background.

“I have interviewed many people but remember in particular the premier of Mission Impossible 3 in London; we had waited for six hours. Tom Cruise shook my hand and said to ask as many questions as we wanted! He was really lovely.

Chelsea enjoys her current role: “It’s a brilliant atmosphere. Everyone is genuinely good at what they do, and we all get on really well. No two days are the same. We try to come up with creative ways to bring content to listeners.”

Of course, a career in broadcasting doesn’t come without its embarrassing moments:

“When I first joined the BBC, I had never driven the desk… as in pressing the buttons that keep you on air. I had been practising behind the scenes ready to take on the Drivetime show and so I decided that on the Saturday show with Phil Trow I would drive it.

“I did something wrong and on air you could actually hear me saying ‘Help!’ Someone help me!”

Chelsea is an old hand now at early mornings and says: “When I was at Century my alarm used to go off at 3.15am. It’s a lie-in now to get up at 4-ish to get to the studio! I like to be the one to break the news to people about what’s happening in the world and to ease listeners into their morning routine.”

Husband Ben is a personal trainer and shares a love of early morning starts! Chelsea is on maternity leave currently following the birth of son Barney and we caught up with her to find out what life is like now.

Clearly enjoying time at home, Chelsea said: “When Carole and I spoke, I was pregnant but hadn’t told anyone. Fast forward to now and I’m writing this holding an 8-week-old baby. I had Barney 2 months ago in lockdown.

“What a strange old time it’s been. Ups (home more, no visitors and had my husband at home) and downs (labouring for a long period alone, lack of seeing anyone and not being able to get out). Let’s hope the worst is behind us hey. 

“Lockdown also started my maternity a little early. I’m not back [at work] until next year but enjoying every day with Barney and my four-year-old Minnie before she starts school in September. These times are so precious and I’m looking forward to being around for them until work calls.”

Chelsea has some tips for those considering a career in broadcasting:

“You have to really want it and to stand head and shoulders above the rest. It isn’t always glamorous; some is incredibly hard work. Get as much paid and unpaid experience as you can. Be proactive, give ideas and show you are willing, able and keen. When you meet good people, never lose them as contacts.

“Qualifications are important to a point. I couldn’t have done what I have done without the legal training from my journalism degree.  You can’t just go on air and say what you want.”

BBC Radio Manchester runs annual schemes to enable people from all walks of life to audition, or to get the chance to report, produce, create digital content and co-present.

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