When you spend a little time in the company of Jo Good, presenter of XFM’s Monday to Friday afternoon show and all round radio enthusiast it’s easy to see why F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is such a huge influence. Jo says she feels an affiliation with Jay Gatsby himself, a hopeless romantic forever chasing dreams that will inevitably elude him.
Tonight though, there is more of the Daisy Buchanan about her, insisting on knowing what other people are up to. Jo and I have met before: “So, how are you Bobby? What you up to? You got a girlfriend yet?” “I’m fine”, “not much” and “not really” come my three rapid responses. “What does ‘not really’ mean?” she counters immediately, and before you know it, I’m the one that’s being interviewed. Not difficult then to see that Jo’s innate curiosity about the lives of others, reminiscent of Daisy Buchanan’s comment on the inevitable life threatening ennui “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” make her the ideal interviewer and my natural reticence and defensiveness make me the poorest of interviewees. Just as well that’s not why we’re here then.
For now, ‘here’ is Manchester’s legendary venue Band On The Wall where Jo has a new residency with her First Friday showcase of new bands and indie DJing. Opening with current indie favourites Theme Park, the inaugural night fills up at a promising rate, perhaps better than initially hoped. “There’s people here, actual people, and that’s a good sign. Good vibes”
Do you still get nervous at things like this?
“Yes, a little bit. There’s always that bit of residual Imposter Syndrome, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.”
“It’s that nagging feeling that you’re not quite good enough and that you don’t really belong wherever it is you are. I get it less and less now but I used to get it all the time. A lot of people get it, but I think it’s one of the things that can actually motivate you to get better and better all the time. Making it something positive instead of potentially debilitating”
Jo is also an active and enthusiastic member of Sound Women, an unapologetic and self-proclaimed support group and ‘pressure group devoted to giving women a louder voice’, particularly in radio.
“I’m not really into being negative about the gender issue but it has always been there and continues to be there and always will be. You have to try and work to close the gap. I think it just has to be a case of strong women continuing to be strong and making it through and holding the door open behind them. We openly advocate for other women. We don’t need positive discrimination, we just need to give girls in radio a path to follow – that’s what Sound Women are all about.”
“Charlotte Church delivering the John Peel Lecture at the recent Radio Festival is the perfect example. It was honest and a well researched and presented account of exactly how things are. The fact that it has to be strong and well researched has to be coming from a woman so there is less chance of criticism. Someone like Charlotte has to absolutely nail it. She has to work so much harder to be taken just as seriously as men and she’s done it brilliantly.”
The gender conversation is still going on and is being addressed more at the moment. It’s becoming less under the surface, which is how it should be.”
Charlotte made mention in the lecture about the level of abuse she receives over social media, which is overtly sexually aggressive. Is that a common thing?
“Absolutely. I found that from my very early days in radio when I was little more than a teenager. You know, people say you should expect a certain amount of abuse, but really? Should you? Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches wrote about it very recently too. Criticism is one thing, but being called a slag or a bitch because people don’t like what you’re doing as a job is something else entirely. Would men, and it is always men, speak to a female member of their own family like that? Guys don’t get it to the same level. I used to meet the trolling thing head on and when their phone number would come up on the screen when I was presenting I would sometimes call them back after the show. Without exception they were men and almost always tried to pass it off as just banter and they would invariably apologise. I don’t really bother with it anymore though. Trolls are just weak, pointless and silly.”
Acting as wing girl for Jo tonight is Hattie Pearson. With far too much energy and enthusiasm than is right and proper in any human being, Hattie inhabits XFM’s graveyard slot of 3:00am to 7:00am on Saturday and Sunday morning.
A graduate of English from Manchester University and winner of Best Student Radio Award 2012, Hattie also presented radio shows in Senegal during her gap year. She has produced shows for 6 Music and presented a show on Radio One and will say XFM is her first proper job on the radio. When not occupying the graveyard shift for Manchester and London’s insomniacs, shift workers and night birds, Hattie manages Liverpool band The Etches (see Louder Than War review) and for the last year or so has hosted Girls On Film, the Deaf Institute’s eighties indie night on the first Saturday of every month. On any given night or day she can be caught promoting bands and gigs across the city and tonight she’s collecting door money for The Apples, a phenomenally good Israeli seven piece jazz funk outfit playing at Gulliver’s on Oldham St. I’m guessing she sometimes sleeps, but I’m not entirely certain.
“I think it’s a bit different for me. I know it sounds odd, but I went to an all boys school in Reading from aged 13. I’m very aware that not every girl will have that kind of experience, but I’ve always been confident in my own ability as well as being a proper tomboy. I experienced a lot of sexism from a very young age from the boys at school as well as the teachers, but you just have to get your head down and get on with it. It’s there, it happens and you have to deal with it. Fortunately, I’ve never found it difficult to show anyone I can be just as good as they are”
You’ve been involved in radio for a couple of years now. Compared to other mediums where people can access entertainment, is there still a place for it?
There’ll always be a place for radio, but it’s becoming more and more a matter of visualisation.”
Visualisation of radio? Explain.
“Radio presenters these days are becoming more and more visual. They don’t just have their radio slot, it’s broadcast on webcam and they also present TV programmes. Everybody knows what they look like and with Twitter and Facebook an Instagram picture of Simon from Biffy Clyro backstage at last night’s gig or something that immediately creates a visual dimension that radio has never had before.”
So video didn’t kill the radio star. It just turned it into a bigger star.
Back to Jo on the future of radio:
“Radio was the first real medium of mass communication and although people now absorb their culture and information from many different sources, it still remains a strong focal point for news, music and information. If the world ended and we had to rebuild all over again, one of the first things we would do is build radios to communicate with each other because it has that tremendous power as a direct communicator.”
So radio will continue to hold its own against all the other media vying for our attention?
“The world is changing and people will continue to absorb culture through lots of different ways, but radio will always be with us. I do worry about the death of local radio and of course these days everybody struggles for funding, but I believe that community radio will survive with support. You have to go out and get the money somehow. Crowdfunding is now the big thing where people can make a small investment in something they believe in and be a part of it. People can Podcast from their bedrooms. Just get it out there, get yourself heard and get other people to listen to your stuff. It’s the medium that matters. I think radio still has that intimacy and that you as a presenter must feel you have friends out there in the audience in the same way that the listener should feel they have a friend in the presenter.”
And the future for Jo Good?
“I’m really just a salaried attention seeker. I’m at XFM now which I’m really enjoying, but wherever I am and wherever I will be in the future I will be there in a place of joy. I value talk radio as much as music radio and local as well as national. I’m always on the look out for new talent to nurture, both boys and girls and encourage people to come up and take my place, like Hattie there. And that’s a good thing. It evolves and it’s positive.
As Hattie starts to wind down her set, Jo prepares to go on and introduce the band. Theme Park are lining up backstage as she takes another hit of Prosecco, a deep breath and a big smile. Maybe Jay Gatsby was right: large parties like this are more intimate and small parties give you no privacy. First Friday is a big party.
“Right now, I’m just tackling everything as and when it comes at me. I’m just shooting the wolf that comes nearest the sledge”
The Great Gatsby was almost titled just Gatsby. It became ‘Great’ because it sees the death of youth and idealism as a disaster, and the theme of the whole book is that in order to confront and defeat that disaster we should challenge it and meet it head on. Oh, and have a massive party.
The Great and the Good. Yeah, that’ll work.
Jo Good can be heard on XFM Monday to Friday 1:00pm-4:00pm. Twitter: @MissJoGood.
Hattie Pearson can be heard on XFM each Saturday and Sunday from 3:00am-7:00am. Twitter: @hattiepearson.
More on Sound Women cane found here.
First Friday is, as the name suggests, the first Friday of every month at Manchester’s Band On The Wall. This Friday features Catfish And The Bottlemen. December is yet to be confirmed, but if what I’ve heard is true, it will be a great show. Keep your eye on it.
Book tickets here.