My name is Rob Lilley, formerly of Fly FM. I absolutely adored student radio, and now I get to chat about sport every Saturday on Juice 107.2 in Brighton – and they’re even willing to pay me for it.
I mean – sure that’s a very brief round-up of what has happened since my first student radio show on Fly FM back in October 2011. What that doesn’t include is the endless frustration, networking, seeing your friends succeed and wonder whether you’re really good enough, and whether you should even bother at all.
The answer is yes by the way…you should bother.
My favourite moments on student radio were always on a Saturday afternoon, just me and my mates taking about sport. Sure, we probably had about six listeners, but we were having a laugh – and surely that’s why we all love student radio isn’t it?
If I had any advice for anyone in student radio, it would be to do it properly. In my three years at Fly FM I held three different committee positions, and spent my final year as Station Manager. I’m not saying you should be that keen (and I’m aware that was very keen,) but commit, and get involved – you’ll definitely meet people who’ll be able to help you out further down the line.
At the Student Radio Conference in Newcastle back in 2013 I met Matt Deegan – an all-round radio guru who has provided me with useful advice and most importantly, motivation. That conference was also the first chance I’d had to meet David Cameron Walker, a Fly FM alumni and talkSPORT producer. He was really helpful in giving me my first chance to experience proper sports radio, and I wouldn’t have been able to shadow shifts at talkSPORT without his help and contacts. I’ve always been naturally quite a shy person, but plucking up the courage for ten seconds of awkwardness has definitely paid off in the long run.
Volunteering is also a great chance to gain experience too – I’ve been to the Olympic Games, Rugby World Cup and Rowing Championships, and while I didn’t earn any money, the experience I gained was priceless.
You forget that pretty much everyone in radio has been exactly in the same position as you, wondering whether you’re good enough, or if it’ll always just be a dream. The year before my time as Station Manager, Fly FM won five Gold Student Radio Awards, my year rolled around and…well, we didn’t win any.
When I graduated from Uni I was so worried about being unemployed that I took a job away from radio. I did that for twelve months, met some great people and learnt lots – but I knew at some point I’d have to take the plunge to get my opportunity in radio. I left my job, and moved to London with nothing secured – perhaps not the most sensible thing to do, but sometimes you have to take a risk. Eventually one of my Uni mates and fellow Fly alumni suggested I email one of his contacts, a family friend of his actually, and well…the rest is history.
I had a meeting at BBC Radio Berkshire, was able to use my student radio experience to persuade them to give me a chance, and well…I’m still there today. I’m currently on a Producer on their mid-morning programme working with TV legend Anne Diamond (ask your parents) and Tony Blackburn, the don of radio industry. I have also been given the opportunity to work on their sports coverage – whether that is reporting from non-league football matches, or reading bulletins during their day – something that wouldn’t have happened without those Saturday afternoons locked in a radio studio doing the Saturday Sports Show at Fly FM.
I gradually gained more experience, built a demo, and asked everyone I knew for feedback. Literally everyone, even people that definitely didn’t want to listen to me waffle on about god knows what. But it was all worth it when an opportunity came up at Juice 107.2 in Brighton.
Like all of you I often spend my evenings looking for my dream job – and the presenting job that came up at Juice is perfect for where I’m at in my life at the moment – especially as I can combine it with a job at BBC Radio Berkshire that I thoroughly enjoy. It was all a case of right place right time, and luckily I had what they were looking for.
If I’d given up, then well… it’s all irrelevant.
You forget that people only share the good stuff on social media, everyone struggles, but you’ve just got to believe in yourself and keep going. If you love radio as much as we all do, it’ll all be worth it in the end.