Gemma Bradley: It's good to talk about Real Life

Gemma Bradley is already making a name for herself on the airwaves, with BBC shows on Radio 1 and Radio Ulster. Now she's entering the world of podcasts. As it launches on BBC Sounds, the former St Patrick's College, Maghera pupil talks to Jane Hardy about Real Life

Musician and broadcaster Gemma Bradley's latest venture is a BBC Sounds podcast, Real Life
Jane Hardy

BBC Radio 1 presenter Gemma Bradley, who also has a Radio Ulster gig introducing new Irish music, is passionate about podcasts - in particular, her new outing, titled Real Talk, which launches today.

It involves chat between presenter Bradley (24) and three guests, all female or 'non-binary' contributors aged between 18 and 50.

You could maybe describe it as Loose Women's baby sister, but the ITV show isn't on Bradley's radar: "I don't know about that, but what we're trying to do is provide authentic discussion - sometimes funny, sometimes serious - on topics from relationships to body image."

"We look at difficult topics like mental health that people tend to skirt around," she explains, adding that one of the contributors, 18-year-old Cara, "was brilliant in that one".

And yes, sex makes it into the mix: "We recently looked at consent which is such an important question."

Asked what makes a good podcast, Bradley says: "It's spontaneous, conversational." She agrees with me when I suggest that it's rather like the best bits of radio creamed off.

In terms of the podcast's line-up, Bradley and her team chose people from influencers and the gabby online community who would produce good comment.

This included non-binary contributor Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin. Labels are coming off now, which is good and liberating, as Bradley agrees: "I think my generation is a lot more open-minded and is able to face those questions."

Asked to define 'non-binary', we get into the they/them terminology, and she admits: "I can't really define it as I'm not non-binary but maybe our language hasn't caught up. Whether we're more honest now depends on the person but I wouldn't hold back in conversation."

The main thing is the inclusiveness enables enlightening chat around sexual orientation.

Real Talk also ventures into questions of body image, with a particularly moving contribution from a woman who had suffered from an eating disorder.

"She was able to give people advice on what to do if their worries about body image were affecting their health. You need to admit you have a problem, then seek medical help," says Bradley.

On a lighter note, there's a sustainable fashion podcast. Sounding fired up, Bradley shares her ideas on not ruining the planet for a £3,500 Lulu Guinness handbag: "You know, there are planes whose sole purpose is to transport expensive bags to different countries. But you can use charity shops, which are great, or keep your clothes for longer and recycle them."

Asked for an example, Bradley says she has an old but favourite pair of jeans. "They're just the standard navy, a pair of nice mom jeans."

The other podcasts she most enjoys listening to are 6 Degrees from Jamie and Spencer, a BBC outing involving mates who talk to a range of guests.

"It's really good, they had Bear Grylls on recently and it was touching as the brother of one of the presenters is an explorer and he gave good advice. They had an Olympic swimmer on too, who was fun."

Bradley recently attended the live-again Stendhal Festival in Limavady for Radio Ulster and got to interview local, and international, musical heroes, Ash.

"They're the loveliest bunch of people ever and have that humanity. Everybody says so," says Bradley.

"I really like their work plus it was great to be at a live gig again. You got that human connection and we only had one shower so it wasn't all mud."

Bradley and Taylor Johnson, her Stendhal co-presenter, bat this about and he's envious she got to do the talk.

We discuss the alt rock group's output since their beginnings, with Girl From Mars a very early hit in 1995.

"Yes, that make-up on the video, it was crazy," she laughs. The boys were covered in impressive cosmetics, resembling 20th century human artworks.

Bradley's radio style is well captured in the Ash interview; she is warm, engaged and engaging, connected.

She says that when she joined Radio Ulster after college in Dublin, she worked on her accent: "I had to get my radio voice which is different from my Gemma voice."

Yet she uses the local argot nicely, referring to one Ash interviewee as "youse" at one point. It's friendly, a nod to her Draperstown roots.

She attended St Patrick's College in Maghera and says she got brilliant musical help from her teacher Mrs O'Kane and choir mistress Jolene Conway - "she was fantastic".

Bradley studied guitar from primary school and songwriting at college in Dublin, but doesn't claim to have a creative background: "I'm an only child and my mum Kathleen works for the council but I'm not sure exactly what she does."

Broadcasters she admires include Annie Mac, who has just left Radio 1, and Greg James.

When not broadcasting from the BBC studio on Belfast's Ormeau Avenue or making occasional trips to the Radio 1 base in London - "I'm looking forward to going over more often" - Gemma practises her other skill, songwriting.

Her latest summer single, Obsessed, with a funky continental vibe that carries you through the astute picture of an out of control affair, has got a lot of attention.

"It came about because I was thinking about love and the sometimes obsessive nature of relationships. I work with talented musicians, in this case Isaac Butler, who's really good," she says.

Her own musical tastes are eclectic, which works well in her shows. "I have catholic tastes, and like everything from heavy rock to the rapper Kam-Bu."

She admits to some guilty TV pleasures - "I like RuPaul's Drag Race and Below Deck" - and also hangs out with her boyfriend James, a chef whom she met initially via social media.

"We got talking and when we met for real, found we had a lot in common, and took it from there," she says.

They now share a Belfast home, and Bradley says they didn't find lockdown too much of a strain. "Although it was a pretty weird time for everyone, we didn't have any issues. The fact he cooks comes in handy - and he makes a great jerk chicken."

So she didn't need the good advice contained in the Real Talk podcast on relationships after all...

:: Gemma Bradley's six-part podcast series, Real Talk, begins today on BBC Sounds. Gemma also presents ATL Introducing on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Sounds every Monday at 9.30pm and BBC Introducing on BBC Radio 1 each Sunday at 11pm.

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