BBC breakfast radio presenter Charlie Charlton speaks up for women
THOUSANDS of listeners start their day by tuning in to Charlie Charlton chatting to her best friend. As co-presenter of the award-winning Alfie and Charlie at Breakfast on BBC Radio Newcastle, the broadcast journalist explains the highs and lows of a 4am wake up call.
“I think if you can listen and laugh you can have a good life,” is an inspirational motto for anyone to live by but especially for the co-host of a phenomenally successful flagship radio show.
Warm and friendly, Charlie makes her job look easy – which of course it isn’t. Anyone who has an aura that crackles over the airwaves has worked hard to master their craft – listening and laughing are key.
She did a lot of both on a gap year between studying Philosophy at University College (UCL) in London and gaining a postgraduate diploma at the former London College of Printing.
Travelling to meet Geordies across the world, the trip faltered slightly in Japan when she missed her flight to Australia because she was having too much fun singing karaoke.
The ability to connect with people from every walk of life is an enviable skill she learnt early on, whether travelling across the world, helping her parents with their businesses or starting her career in sales and marketing, Charlie has the human touch in bucketloads.
As a proud ‘Gateshead girl’, the opportunity to move back up to the North-East more than a decade ago proved irresistible. Her impressive CV includes roles as BBC newsreader and reporter on tv and radio at national as well as local level.
She presents daytime shows on BBC Radio 5Live, filling in for presenters such as Adrian Chiles, Dan Walker and Peter Allen to name a few. She can also be seen as a newsreader for BBC Look North, and reporter for the regional current affairs programme Inside Out.
She has been instrumental in a cultural shift at the BBC which has seen more female presenters and subsequently more female listeners. The successful ‘double hander’ partnership she has with Alfie Joey has proved a winning formula and one the corporation has been keen to roll out at other stations.
“In the past I would attend the early morning news conferences it used to be me and a lot of middle aged men. The BBC had been looking to push more women as presenters and attract more women listeners at breakfast time so Alfie and I were put together,” she explained.
“At first Alfie and I were the odd couple, in that I was the journalist and he was the comedian, whereas it used to be the woman as the sidekick. He is my best friend so there’s chemistry between us.
“It works because we’re both of us are very upbeat people and we are both happy to have the mickey taken out of each other. There’s no ego involved so it works tremendously well,” said Charlie who is patron of a charity based at Hadrian School in Newcastle and the charity, Changing Lives which works with people who are or have been experiencing homelessness, are recovering from addiction or are moving on from offending.
Since the show’s launch, BBC Newcastle has twice been crowned Station of the Year at the Frank Gillard awards for BBC Local Radio, and has reached more listeners than any other local BBC radio station outside London.
Landing her dream job means getting up at 4am to host the breakfast show which runs from 7am to 10am. Music is a massive part of her life but such early starts have curbed her reports for BBC Six Music as well as number of gigs she can feasibly go to however she’s very much looking forward to the Primavera festival in Portugal this June.
Charlie is a big fan of an internationally renowned music venue on her doorstep – The Sage, Gateshead, which she’s visited as a reveller and as a host on stage. “The Sage is my favourite music venue in the world. The acoustics in hall one are amazing, and it’s in my hometown!”
Located on the Newcastle/Gateshead quayside, the area which was once a hub of the industrial revolution has been transformed to meet changing cultural demands. The media industry is now going through its own reinvention to cope with the internet revolution.
“The digital age has meant that the competition has increased as has the way that people interact with radio,” explained Charlie.
“There used to be a small proportion but now there’s Facebook, Twitter and text as well as listeners calling in and you have to roll with that. Radio is much more intimate than television.
One hour of the show everyday is effectively a phone-in and sometimes people open up about things they’ve never spoken about before. That’s when I feel I’ve really done something.”
She has wise words for anyone hoping to get into broadcast journalism – either in front or behind the microphone.
“Listen to as much radio as you can so you understand the mechanics and the different styles. And find topics that interest you so you have a specialism, if you can make sense of science stories then you are like gold dust. Business stories used to be complicated until they finally realised that they were about people not just facts and figures.
“There are a lot of people who come in who thought they wanted to be presenters but make outstanding producers and that’s a very underestimated role.”
Charlie added: “I still don’t want to be famous, I want to be satisfied. I’m not saving lives but if I can get to grips with a story, shine a light on issues and give people a voice then that’s a huge honour.”
Charlie Charlton tweets at @chatcharlton
Listen to Alfie and Charlie at Breakfast on BBC Radio Newcastle 95.4fm and online at www.bbc.co.uk/bbcnewcastle