One of the biggest voices in daytime radio, presenter and broadcaster Greg James joined BBC Radio 1 in 2007 as the voice of the renowned testing ground of the early breakfast show between 4am until 6:30. This was the era of Chris Moyles’ long running domination of the legendary Radio 1 breakfast show which spanned an incredible eight years which was a big achievement on a youth orientated station and offered the young Greg the perfect grounding. Graduating from the University of East Anglia with a 2:1 in Drama, like most novice broadcasters, Greg toiled with the art of hospital radio in his hometown of Lewisham failing to realise that the hospital had no means of transmission. Yet unbeknownst to Greg and those around him, his next brush with radio would be an all together more positive experience.
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Joining Radio 1 in 2007, he secured the infamous 4 -7 slot which has long since become a significant rite of passage for any budding broadcaster. The roll call of household names who cut their broadcasting teeth in this time slot remains somewhat of a phenomenon of modern radio: Chris Moyles, Scott Mills and Bruno Brookes each cultivated their style on this vehicle. For Greg, this was invaluable grounding as he was able to hand over to the titanic Chris Moyles and glean his rapport with his audience. Yet unlike the aforementioned mavericks of BBC Radio, Greg never wanted to push boundaries or cause high profile controversy and instead chose to focus on the mood of his audience. For him, the political landscape of broadcasting has never been on his agenda and is much more at home interacting with his audience than he is attempting to rock the establishment. This is possibly the key to his enduring popularity on what remains one of the most listened to radio stations in Britain.
With a lifelong passion for radio which began at a very young age when travelling to school with his parents. Being the son of two teachers who frequently moved jobs, Greg was bred on a broad range of radio stations both local and national. Driving such long distances gave the opportunity for him to listen to a variety of different radio stations. It was this time in the car which was able to cultivate his palate for radio and began his everlasting love affair with the wireless. The legendary Sir Terry Wogan was the subject of early inspiration in the way that he was able to nurture a delicate but enduring relationship with his audience which appealed to the young Greg. It felt like Wogan was solely talking to directly to him in his unique, jovial manner and it was never “the audience” or “you lot”, it was just “you, the listener”. This style suited Greg much more than the brash nature of the jungle format which Radio 1 had been bred on for generations. This was more akin with the interactive landscape of the 21st century thanks to the rise of social media.
Joining Radio 1 in 2007 proved a momentous occasion for the guy who had grown up with so many wireless influences. Beginning on what is widely considered the testing ground for national radio: early breakfast, Greg was able to tread the conventional, obligatory course of broadcasting greatness. Slowly coming up through the ranks of Radio 1, he experienced every aspect of daytime radio which was able to nurture a special relationship with the audience. Even during what is still considered the graveyard slot of early breakfast still gave Greg the opportunity to build an audience whether it was busy truck drivers or children getting up early for school. As a broadcaster, Greg relishes the interactivity of radio and encourages the audience to enrich and contribute to the collective conversation. This means that each show isn’t about him but rather the audience themselves. Public service broadcasting at its finest.
An opportunity to move to a prime time slot replacing Edith Bowman on weekday afternoons in 2009 offered Greg the opportunity to create a whole new audience. The early afternoon slot on Radio 1 has forever been occupied by fresh faced broadcasting mavericks with the desire to bring some light joy to proceedings. Irreverent duo Mark and Lard defined a generation with their outlandish, surreal take on the mainstream radio show format but now it was time for a new approach. Greg was able to bring this positive, boisterous energy to prime time weekday afternoons and offered the millennial demographic something which represented their hopes and aspirations. The rise of social media has brought the audience closer to the station than ever before and now it’s easier than ever to gauge their mood or how they feel about a certain song or artist. Features such as The 10 Minute Takeover began on this show and helped producers gauge the mood and interest of the audience and has followed Greg on his radio journey.
Throughout his Radio 1 tenure, Greg has never hidden his love for the ancient sport of cricket and in 2017 had the opportunity to combine the two. The popular BBC Sounds podcast Tailenders pitches Greg alongside Felix White, Jimmy Anderson, renewed producer Mark ‘Sharky’ Sharman (AKA Sharknado the Movie) and regular input from Bristolian Matt ‘Mattchin’ Horan for the ultimate cricket debate show. Five years later and Tailenders has spawned a live theatre show throughout the country which Greg has just embarked upon and is fully embracing the recent evolution of the podcast phenomenon. The success of Tailenders has been a real revelation for the ultimate cricket fanatic who remains excited to see where it will take him next.
Not content with just one successful podcast, Greg has joined an elite group of figures to have two to his name and the second remains closer to home. The inspiration for this came to him during the first lockdown in the form of a simple conversation between him and his wife Bella Mackie. Whilst on one of their obligatory exercise walks, the pair got talking about what they wish they had learned at school which eventually transformed into the celebrated podcast Teach Me a Lesson from BBC Sounds. Such a flexible format lends itself to featuring endless topics and subjects for debate from historical events to popular culture and Greg and Bella are the perfect messengers to guide the audience through this journey of discovery. Just like his radio style, Greg likes to create an environment where both the listener and he are simultaneously engaged in the same experience. A sign of a supreme broadcaster right at the very top of his game.
So whether he’s playing mysterious ringmaster in Channel Four’s Rise and Fall, messing around with comedian Russell Kane on BBC Three or broadcasting to millions on BBC Radio One’s Breakfast show, he does it all with the same charm and respect for his audience. In the age of controversial ageism at the BBC, at the tender age of 37, Greg still holds the keys to one of the most coveted slots in British radio and isn’t willing to give up his seat just yet. It was a true highlight to welcome the all conquering Greg James to Beyond The Title and I’m looking forward to seeing the next chapter of his remarkable career.