"It's coming from a place of passion": BBC Leeds presenter Emily Pilbeam talks Introducing and Radio 1
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At 25 years old, Emily Pilbeam is working the dream job of most music lovers across the country.
Yet her love for radio started long before her career.
“My mum was a single parent and she used to work late when I was younger, so I'd be at home alone and I'd always put the radio on as a way to have a mate in the house,” explained Emily.
“I think all of my memories of being a kid are of being surrounded by radio; we'd always have radio in the background, so it's been a constant in my life. It is quite mad to think that I actually work in it now!”
Starting out at the tender age of 15, Emily’s introduction to the world of radio came at Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital in Norfolk back in 2012.
“I read some DJs’ autobiographies and I heard Greg James talking on Radio 1 about how he'd started by doing hospital radio, and then student radio. So I thought, I'll give it a go.
"I didn't really have much confidence because I was 15 but it was really, really fun. We used to have to go around the wards and ask people for requests, and the amount of times I’d go up to people and they were either deaf or pretended to be deaf so they didn't have to talk to me - it was quite embarrassing!”
With three years of volunteering under her belt, Emily packed up her bags and went searching for a job in radio in her favourite city: Leeds.
“I moved to Leeds when I was 18 and I 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 mad to think about, because I didn't really have that much experience at the time.”
Jumping in headfirst, Emily took it upon herself to learn the ropes and climb the ladder at one of the most sought-after stations in the north of England.
After guidance from the team there and plenty of hard work, she began to develop her own voice on the airwaves, carving out a space for herself as one to listen to for up and coming West Yorkshire recommendations.
It’s this niche she created that led to her being offered a coveted presenting slot on Radio 1 in Christmas 2020.
"I remember seeing [the email] and being really annoyed that I couldn’t go out and celebrate,” laughed Emily.
"I think me and my housemate just shared a bottle of Prosecco in the bath or something! It was quite a weird time in my life because my friend had just passed away so I was trying not to look at my emails and trying to be quite separate from everything.
"And then I remember finally checking my emails and seeing that I was going to be presenting on Radio 1 and I was like, what the hell!”
Now, two years on from her first appearance on Radio 1, Emily has an array of hosting gigs on BBC Radio 6 and BBC Radio 1 in her roster, as well as her own Saturday night Introducing show on BBC Radio Leeds.
“I think Introducing has just gotten bigger and bigger since I started working with them,” said Emily.
“They're in their 15th year now and you can just look at all of the success stories that have come through Introducing. I think that's why Introducing is so important, because people at the top really respect Introducing and they really respect the Introducing presenters. They listen to them and they try to do as much as they can with us.
"When I was at Glastonbury the other week, IDLES, for example, they did a secret set on the Introducing stage. They were brilliant, they played their first album in full, and I don't know if that would happen with other kinds of companies.
"We're not a PR company that's getting paid to tell people about artists, so it's coming from a place of passion and wanting to help as much as you can.”
This Must Be The Place
What better way to express your love for a band than packing up and moving to their home city? That’s exactly what Emily did back after carefully negotiating a deal with her parents at the age of 17.
“When I was younger I became obsessed with a band called Pulled Apart By Horses, I actually heard them on the Huw Stephens show on Radio 1,” said Emily.
“I don't know what it was about them that made me so obsessed but I just couldn't get enough.”
After seeing tweets by the band raving about the music coming out of Leeds, Emily decided that this must 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 university, I decided I'd quite like to live in Leeds.
“The way I bartered it with my parents was that I'd go to Leeds for a year, because the only other option for me was to move to Salford and radio at university and I didn’t want to, and then I'd go to university if I didn't get my dream job in 12 months.”
Luckily enough for Emily, it only took six months of job searching until she stumbled across a role at BBC Introducing, one that opened the doors for her in the world of radio.
BBC Introducing in West Yorkshire
Playing the best up and coming music from the West Yorkshire region, Emily’s BBC Introducing show airs every Saturday night between 8pm and 10pm.
Collating music submitted to the BBC uploader alongside her producer and friend Archie Whincup, Emily debuts new releases, hosts 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 from people about what they've liked,” said Emily.
“It’s so nice too when people we’ve played on the show, their parents tag me in things. It’s a privilege to play things for the first time ever and being the first person to play someone’s music is a really important thing.”