‘It comes from a place of passion’: BBC Leeds presenter Emily Pilbeam on Introducing and Radio 1
At 25, Emily Pilbeam holds the dream job of most music lovers across the country.
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Host of BBC Introducing West Yorkshire and a frequent guest on 6 Music and Radio 1, Emily works tirelessly to unearth the best emerging artists in the north and give them a platform.
Yet his love for radio began long before his career.
“My mom was a single mom and she worked late when I was younger, so I was home alone and always turned on the radio to have a companion home,” Emily explained.
“I think all my childhood memories are of being surrounded by radio; we always had the radio in the background, so that’s been a constant in my life. It’s pretty crazy to think I’m actually working on it now!
From the age of 15, Emily’s introduction to the world of radio was at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Norfolk in 2012.
“I’ve read autobiographies of DJs and I’ve heard Greg James talk on Radio 1 about how he started out doing hospital radio and then student radio. So I thought, I’ll give it a try.
“I wasn’t really confident because I was 15, but it was really, really fun. Before, we had to go around the rooms and ask people for requests, and the number of times I went to people and they were deaf or pretended to be deaf so they wouldn’t have to talk to me – it was quite embarrassing!
With three years of volunteering under her belt, Emily packed her bags and headed off to find a radio job in her favorite city: Leeds.
“I moved to Leeds when I was 18 and used to write for some music websites because I wanted to be involved in the music industry in some way,” said Emily .
“I started working behind bars because I wanted to work in a venue and then this job opportunity with BBC Introducing came up, which was a team assistant role.
“I got that, which is crazy to think about, because I didn’t really have a lot of experience back then.”
Jumping in headfirst, Emily took it upon herself to learn the ropes and rise through the ranks at one of the most sought-after resorts in the North of England.
After advice from the team there and a lot of hard work, she began to develop her own voice on the airwaves, carving out space for herself as someone to listen to for upcoming recommendations from West Yorkshire. .
It was this niche she created that earned her a coveted presenting slot on Radio 1 at Christmas 2020.
“I remember seeing [the email] and being really annoyed that I can’t go out and party,” Emily laughed.
“I think my roommate and I just shared a bottle of Prosecco in the bath or something! It was a pretty weird time in my life because my friend had just died so I was trying not to look my emails and being pretty separate from everything.
“And then I remember finally checking my emails and seeing that I was going to present on Radio 1 and I was like, what the hell!”
Now, two years after her first appearance on Radio 1, Emily has a series of gigs on BBC Radio 6 and BBC Radio 1 in her roster, as well as her own Saturday night intro show on BBC Radio Leeds.
“I think Introducing has gotten bigger and bigger since I started working with them,” Emily said.
“They’re in their 15th year now and you can just look at all the success stories that have come through Introducing. I think that’s why the presentation is so important, because the people at the top really respect the presentation and they really respect the presentation presenters. They listen to them and try to do the maximum with us.
“When I was at Glastonbury the other week, IDLES, for example, they did a secret set on the Introducing stage. They were awesome, they played their full debut album, and I don’t know if that would happen with other kinds of businesses.
“We’re not a PR company that gets paid to tell people about artists, so this comes from a place of passion and wants to help as much as possible.”
What better way to express your love for a band than to pack your bags and move to their hometown? That’s exactly what Emily did after carefully brokering a deal with her parents when she was 17.
“When I was younger I became obsessed with a band called Pulled Apart By Horses, I heard them on the Huw Stephens show on Radio 1,” Emily said.
“I don’t know what it was about them that made me so obsessed, but I just couldn’t get enough.”
After seeing tweets from the band raving about the music coming out of Leeds, Emily decided this had to be the place for her.
“I remember thinking Leeds seemed really cool and when I got to that age, when you’re trying to figure out where you want to be and if you want to go to college, I decided I’d like to live in Leeds.
“The way I swapped with my parents was that I would go to Leeds for a year, because the only other option for me was to move to Salford and do radio at university and I didn’t want , can I go to college if I haven’t found my dream job in 12 months.
Luckily for Emily, it only took six months of job hunting until she landed a role at BBC Introducing, which opened her doors to the world of radio.
Presentation of the BBC in West Yorkshire
Playing the best rising music from the West Yorkshire region, Emily’s BBC Introducing show airs every Saturday night between 8pm and 10pm.
Gathering music submitted to the BBC uploader alongside her producer and friend Archie Whincup, Emily releases new releases, organizes live sessions and spins DJ sets from local talent looking for their big break.
“I think the excitement comes after the show because that’s when I hear people talk about what they liked,” Emily said.
“It’s so nice too when people we’ve played with on the show, their parents tag me in things. It’s a privilege to play things for the very first time and be the first person to play the music from someone is a really important thing.