With just over two weeks to go until this year’s Student Radio Awards, The Radio Magazine (now with an online edition) has published an interview with Capital FM’s Christian Williams about his career so far and why he says: “I owe it all to student radio”.
Last month we looked at student radio and its importance in developing young talent. One man who knows all about this is Christian Williams(pictured) who presents Capital Weekend Overnights.Originally, Christian wanted to be a cameraman. He went to Portsmouth Universityto study TV and Film Production. “My dad, who works in the media, suggested that I should get involved in student radio, but I put it off until I was in my last year.” Half-way through his last year in fact, something he rather regrets as, once he made it into a radio studio, he realised that was where he wanted to stay. “I was asked to be a guest on a show and once I sat in that chair I knew that this was what I wanted to do as a career so I got involved with the student radio station.”
Christian presented a show on Pure FM in Portsmouth and then covered shows on what he thought of as ‘real radio’ – on Express FM in Portsmouth “I wanted to push on and contacted Mike Cass [Group Programme Director] at Galaxy, the station I grew up listening to. He invited me to come up to London to meet him for a chat at the Global [Radio] building in Leicester Square.I got there about 11 in the morning and left at four in the afternoon and felt I’d had the most wonderful day. But then Mike Cass turned to me and said ‘what do you want from this day?’. I hadn’t really expected anything from the day apart from looking round but I thought I’d be cheeky and said ‘a job’.
Mike said he would try me out on Galaxy South Coast on the overnight show. I was speechless. I usually can’t keep quiet, but all the way back to my home in the Isle of Wight I sat in silence. It was surreal.” Someone from Oxford FM10.9 (now Glide FM) was driving through the Galaxy South Coast area and heard him. The next thing, she was following him on Twitter. “I had about 20 followers at the time so this was quite something!” She was Sophie Bruce, deputy programme director, and the next moment she had offered him the chance to present the Drivetime show for a short while. He made such an impression that he was used for cover on the Breakfast show. But the cover came to an end and Christian was once more looking around.
A friend from Pure FM, Fred Bradley (now chair of the Student Radio Association), invited him to the [National] Student Radio Association Conference in Nottingham. “On the last day we were invited to look round Trent FM (now Capital East Midlands). I’d thought the Global [Radio] studios in Leicester Square were cool but these were so good. It felt right there. I wanted to make a good impression so, as we went round, I asked lots of questions, including ones I knew the answer to. At the end, the programme director, Dick Stone said ‘there may be a weekend job going here’. I didn’t think there really would be but my friend persuaded me to send Dick a demo.
Dick rang me and suggested that I should come up for a chat. So I drove to the Isle of Wight ferry, then made the three-and-a-half hour drive to Nottingham for a half-hour chat with him. In all it’s a nine-hour round trip! He said ‘come back in a couple of days to do a demo’. So I did that on the Wednesday, went back to the Isle of Wight, and on the Thursday I got a call ‘you start on Saturday, come up tomorrow to record some localisers’ – it was part of the Hit Music Network at the time.”
Shortly after, Christian was offered a two-month contract and given some paperwork to sign. When he sent it back Dick was puzzled. Surely Christian had given his parents’ address on the Isle of Wight? He phoned Christian and was astonished to discover the dedication of his new presenter who was travelling several hundred miles each week, staying in a hotel and presenting the weekend show. More work followed and then he was moved to Capital FM on the South Coast. This was in where the Galaxy studios had been and there was a real satisfaction in sitting back in a chair there.
“When Mike Cass gave me the overnight shows on Galaxy he sent me an email in which he told me to keep my options open as I might make a career in radio or I might not,” says Christian. “That was a bit of a dampner but I pushed through it all and there I was.” In January this year, Christian came back to Capital East Midlands and within the last few weeks was given the chance to present Capital Weekend Overnights so goes out to the nation. It may mean being on air at 3am, but Christian is supremely happy. “I owe it all to student radio,” he says.
“If I hadn’t gone into that studio as a guest I would never have done this. And student radio lets you test things. Its like a sandpit – you can build whatever you want and knock it down. A lot of what I did on student radio was bad, but if I hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t know!”
You can hear Christian on Capital FM across the country at the weekends from 3am! – And you can always listen back if you’re not up at that time in the morning!
[There was no credit for the interviewer from The Radio Magazine].