‘I’ll probably try to pretend in this interview that I really hate talking about myself,’ starts Rachel Humphreys. ‘But, like most people, I actually don’t so hopefully I won’t say too much…’ In fact, Rachel has plenty to say, which, as an aspiring radio journalist, we would expect her to. ‘I’d love to say that I live a rich, well-rounded fulfilled life in which I have many interesting hobbies and interests, but, I don’t,’ she says. ‘Instead I dabble in fairly pointless, yet entertaining time-fillers, including playing the ukulele, scouring charity shops and occasionally baking bread.’
Rachel’s ‘obssession’ with raiding charity shops has reached new levels of extremity (‘possibly paralleling my dire financial situation,’ she sighs). ‘I’ve developed a knack of finding interesting things that have been left on the street or in skips,’ she confesses. ‘My most recent find was a Marin mountain bike, and I also got a great chair from a film set. And a lovely corner cabinet. I’ve also begun a collection that I like to call ‘Passport Photos I Find on the Pavement’. Intriguing…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a fourth-year American Studies student at King’s College London, enjoying not having to live a 9-5 existence but also incredibly ready to not be studying anymore. Despite this I am hoping to do an MA in broadcast journalism next year as I’d really love to work in radio. I like wandering around London, a city that, even though I’ve lived here for three years, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. Originally from Cornwall, I like going back home and enjoying the contrast of being in an area that is very quiet, very rural and very local. (Sometimes a bit too quiet, rural, and local).
In America I kept a vague blog through which I learnt that I love writing, but don’t have the time to do it as much as I’d like. I plan to start a new blog. I don’t know whether it will materialise. I also bloody love Twitter; I hated it, resisted it, and now I can’t get enough of it. Without it I wouldn’t be answering these questions for you right now. Without it I’d probably have more time to live that fulfilling, meaningful life that I mentioned earlier, but without social networks can we ever be truly happy? That’s why I want to be a journalist, to really tackle these heady issues.
What are your inspirations?
I love the way that radio is so accessible, that you can have it on while you do something else, or make a point of sitting and listening to it. I love that you have so much choice within the medium and that you can take it with you anywhere. One of my favourite podcasts is This American Life, a one-hour programme distributed once a week by Public Radio International in America. Not only do I really enjoy listening to the stories and features (to the point that if I’m listening to it on the bus, I’ll miss my stop) I also think that the format of the programme, of taking a theme each week, is a great idea. The show’s host Ira Glass is fantastic, very funny and most of all, a good interviewer.
Were I not swamped with essays (or at least if I didn’t spend so much time thinking about doing essays), I would have more time to do what I really want to, which is making podcasts. I have a voice recorder and I like to play around with editing recordings of my friends and family. This could be for anything, from making one to promote a friend’s art exhibition to recording my Grandma talking about the 1948 Olympics. I also have begun volunteering at the new King’s radio station, KCL Radio (http://www.kclradio.co.uk/) which is going live next month and promises to be GREAT. I get inspiration not only from listening to the radio, but also the news, blogs and often things that are going on in my local area. I live in South London which has a really good ‘creative scene’ and subsequently there’s always something interesting going on, from art installations to pop-up restaurants.
What is your favourite piece of work you have produced?
The piece of work that I’m most proud of was not particularly technical or complicated, but simply some vox pops that I put together for a feature on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, where I was a runner last summer. The topic of discussion was teen fiction, which was going to be put together without using any actual children, so I suggested doing some interviews in a few youth centres, not only to get opinions, but also to get them from people who don’t usually get heard on Radio 4. I also went out on the street and then edited it all together. The piece was played on the radio and really opened up the topic for debate between the critics in the studio. I mention this story, not as a ‘I worked at the BBC’ brag, but to make a point that, if you get work experience at a big company you really have to make the most of it. Taking the extra time to put the vox pops together made me stand-out, and helped me get a positive reference from the BBC for my MA application.
Although I think that I’d like to work behind the scenes in radio, possibly as a producer, I have always loved it when I’ve had the chance to DJ. I spent last year studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz as part of my degree and I got involved in their amazing radio station KZSC (it’s GREAT!) I love that radio is such a huge part of the college system in America, and was blown away by the facilities at KZSC. While I was there I got a lot of training and DJ’d on two shows, a jazz/soul programme and also my own that I did with a friend-a European dance show called ‘Das Boot? Das Haus!’ Getting up early on a Monday morning to play Paul Van Dyke and Scooter at 10am to a slightly bemused American audience was a bizarre experience.
Who is your favourite ‘creative’ in your chosen field?
I really respect people who can conduct a good interview, who can get the most out of someone in an entertaining way. I think that Kirsty Young succeeds in this, on Desert Island Discs she manages to ask very personal questions whilst also retaining a degree of humour in her work. For me, it is this last element, a sense of humour, that I think is so important to being a successful journalist. I think that being able to make someone laugh is a good way to get through to them, and being able to do so in radio, with the visual aspect removed, is a valued talent to have.