Jen Thomas

Radio Presenter, Journalist, Blogger

SRA Selector

There are several things that I love in life. Pizza, tattoos, writing, flamingos, woodland animals…..and radio.

Since January I’ve been presenting a show called The SRA Selector, and had interviews and guests such as Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Amazons, The Pale White, Counterfeit and many more, including local heroes HECK,the gloriously named Taco Hell and The Varletts.

In November I was picked to present the SRA Selector, a student version of The Selector Radio show. The Selector is presented by the wonderful Goldierocks and created by Folded Wing and The British Music Council, broadcasting in 40+ countries around the world, and 6 of us were chosen to create our own version of it.

There’s a video here about the SRA Awards (I’ll do another post about that soon) and a bit more about the SRA Selector.

The show specialises in British new music, and at least 50% of our playlist each week was chosen from their playlist. Mine was more like 50-75% each week as I loved the songs!

In January we headed down to the Folded Wing HQ in Hackney for two days of training. There were Q&A’s with Goldierocks and Monki from Radio 1, as well as learning about live sessions, planning our shows, creating sounds and much more. It was a brilliant few days, getting to see performances from Otzeki and Happyness, before pairing up to present a live show on the last day.

I started my show the week after, on January 15th, and I genuinely have no idea where time has gone! 11 shows in total, and interviews with: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Amazons, The Pale White, Counterfeit, Vukovi and Into The Ark.

There were special guests in the studio most weeks, with some of the best musical talent the East Midlands has to offer: Matt Reynolds from HCBP/HECK, Rich List, Taco Hell, The Shrives, Eva Plays Dead plus live sessions from The Varletts and Rob Green.

Dean Jackson from The Beat/BBC Introducing East Midlands dropped in for a chat about the scene and share his wealth of knowledge.

The show was initially one hour long, but halfway through I was able to get an extra hour so was able to showcase even more great music. Have a look for the hashtag #SRAselector on Instagram and Twitter to see what we’ve all been up to!

Every week I tried to include some of the incredible local musicians we have in Nottingham and the East Midlands, as well as some of my favourite new rock and metal bands that I felt were a good fit alongside the Selector and Folded Wing’s playlist.

I discovered many brilliant new artists, and invited my studio guests to do a “take over” and pick some of their favourite new bands too as they often have friends in bands and have an ear to the ground to find the best talent first, from playing gigs with them.

It wasn’t all heavy rock though, with the beautifully soulful sounds of Rob Green in session, to interviewing reality tv stars Into The Ark who made it to the final of The Voice with their incredible vocals, I made sure to mix things up.

It was often eclectic, but I’ve had a fantastic three months and I’m sad that it has finished! The final show was a hectic one, with the Counterfeit interview and giving away a signed poster, with hundreds of tweets and messages coming in from their dedicated fanbase.

It’s been a wild ride and I’ve learned so much, a huge thanks to all at Folded Wing, The Selector and The British Music Council.

See below for links to every show that I did, as well as the full tracklistings for each show.

Read on, friend, for the full tracklistings and links

I’ve finally set up a YouTube channel! At uni we learn about filming and editing so it seemed like a good way to practice and put it to good use. There are a few videos up so far, an intro, a T In The Park behind the scenes, and interviews and clips with Counterfeit. It’ll be home to band interviews, chatty videos and some advice/guide sort of ones. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated, as would subscribing to keep in touch!

My channel!

Photo May 07, 12 49 12 PM

I’m pretty sure I could live off breakfast foods if I tried. Scrambled eggs, a full english, pancakes, salmon, french toast; you name it, I’ll eat it. Brunch at a weekend is something to be savoured, why pour yourself a bowl of sad sugar puffs when you can take the time to enjoy it? Breakfast in bed with a paper (or more likely, Facebook and online news sites) is brilliant, but brunch is a social affair. Meet up with friends, or treat a loved one, switch your phone off and just relax on a Saturday morning.

Oaks in Nottingham invited me along to try out their fabulous brunch offer. You can choose from two or three courses, and for an additional £12 you get unlimited prosecco or bloody marys for up to two hours. It’s available every Saturday from Midday until 4pm.

We arrived at 12.30 and it was fairly quiet, but the buzz built up over the afternoon. With beautiful stripped wood walls, tiled tables and huge chandelier style light fittings, the restaurant is light and airy, with huge windows surrounding you.

 

We had the three course option. I chose the baked Lincolnshire Poacher cheese, which came with sticks of grilled garlic bread which were perfect for dipping into the perfectly melted cbeese. The table next to us were eyeing it enviously, waiting for me to dip the bread in; exclaiming “it’s like porn!”. Well, quite.

Duncan chose the battered sea bass with tartar sauce and lemon – the batter was light and delicate and remained crispy and the fish was fresh and flavoursome.

For the main course, I decided to pick one of the brunch specials, a salmon steak and scrambled eggs with an added portobello mushroom (I love mushrooms). Insta-fans will be pleased to hear that they offer avocado on toast too. The salmon was huge, perfectly seasoned and still slightly pink in the middle, and the eggs were beautifully creamy.  Duncan had the half chicken seasoned with paprika, chilli and garlic, with a side salad and hand cut chips. He enjoyed his too, struggling to finish the generous portions. The only criticism is that the chips were a little on the soggy side but everything else was lovely.

The prosecco comes out in a 500ml carafe for you to pour, and you signal to a member of staff when you would like more. We had three over the course of the meal between the two of us, as you want to enjoy the food and bubbles fill you up!

We left a break between the main and dessert, but it was well worth making room for. I chose a rich chocolate homemade tart with vanilla ice cream. The biscuit base was crisp and the chocolate wasn’t at all sickly. Duncan chose from the Bluebell Farm ice cream selection, with a scoop each of the Bakewell Tart and American Black Cherry flavours and was very impressed with the strength of the flavours and the unusual combinations.

Chocolate tart always makes me happy, that’s a definite “happy food face” there ^.

As well as the brunch offer on a Saturday, Oaks also offer Sunday roasts and midweek steak offers, and live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

We’ll definitely go back again, I’m keen to try out the steaks and experience some of the live music. Also, check out the toilets – they look like a giant walk in freezer!

The whole meal was complimentary from Oaks, but I was free to write an honest review and whatever I felt about the experience.

Belgo has opened in Weekday Cross, boasting a selection of 56 beers (including 4 that are exclusive to Nottingham!) moules, frites and belgian waffles. It’s the first branch to open outside of London, and people have been out in force to welcome them.

I was invited along to a ‘meet the brewer’ evening  and was seated upstairs in the wonderful Zot bar where we were greeted with a bucket of 6 different beers. There are blonde ones, fruity ones, dark ones, and the Delirium will apparently make you see pink elephants after a few too many (of course, you are encouraged to drink responsibly). Our waiter for the evening, Csaba, recommended that we start with a 9% (!) beer, the Straffe Hendrik – the brewer reliably informed us it means strong, or brave. The Halve Mann Brewery of Bruges has provided the Straffe Hendrik bottled and also on draught, as well as the Brugse Zot Blonde and Brugse Zot Dubbel, a dark beer.

 

Meet the brewer!

Meet the brewer!

It was definitely strong, but aside from the fruit beers that we tried later it was actually my favourite one, with citrus notes  to it. We had a selection of starters to choose from, with cheese and beer croquettes which were pleasingly melty, alongside paté and garlic prawns which Duncan devoured happily.

I’m not personally a fan of seafood but Duncan reliably informed me that the thai mussels were exceptional, with a delicate flavour with a chilli kick to follow up, there is a range of flavours to choose from and they’re rope grown in the Shetlands.

Csaba opened a Mongoza coconut beer for me, served in a coconut shell. At 3.5% it was nowhere near as strong as the first beer but it was my favourite of the night. It’s not one for the beer purists, as coconut and beer really shouldn’t work but it does, and it goes down very easily! Many of the beers have a unique glass and a story behind them.

Continuing with the unusual flavour combinations was a banana beer (with 20% banana juice, apparently!) which was also in my top 3, and other flavours include strawberry, raspberry, cherry, mango and honey. There was a lot of beer…

Duncan is definitely the beer aficionado of the two of us, and thoroughly enjoyed the Westmalle Trappist beer which is made in small batches by monks, and also the Kwak, which is another that comes in its own special glass that wouldn’t go amiss in a chemistry lab. To break up the beer we were treated to wonderfully crisp frites, and a taster of rib eye steak with béarnaise sauce and asparagus. The steak was medium rare and butter soft, and the combination of flavours means I’ll definitely order a full one next time!

If the beers aren’t enough, there’s a range of cocktails and schnapps to choose from too. A taster board of schnapps were brought out and we clinked glasses with the brewer. I had one which tasted like apple schnapps, another was a chocolate flavour similar to Baileys, and the others were fruit flavoured but all beautiful. To finish off and keep my sweet tooth happy there was a sampler of a belgian waffle, with chocolate sauce, blueberry compote and chantilly cream.

Fly FM will be doing a giveaway of dinner for four people next week, check out @fly_fm on twitter and you can listen in at http://www.flyfm.co.uk. Other choices on the menu include rotisserie chicken, lobster, mussels, and the intriguingly named ‘stoemp mash’ – creamy mashed potato with carrot, savoy cabbage and leeks. We’ll definitely be returning for more.

http://www.belgo.com/restaurant/nottingham/

The dinner and beers were provided for free as part of a press night for review.

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I have a new addition to my novelty handbag collection! Anyone who knows me will vouch for my love of unusual handbags (I swear I keep Skinnydip in business with glittery Xmas Scrabble handbags and pink Unicorn tears bags) so when I was sent a link to this vintage radio handbag from Accessorize I had to buy it.

I tweeted about it in my usual overexcited fashion and it turns out many fellow radio fanatics also want it, judging by the RT’s and likes. It’s a cross-body bag, with a magnetic clasp and inner zip pocket. I’ve got another satchel from Accessorize and it’s still going strong a year and a half later, a lot of my bags die a death with the straps falling apart before then so I have high hopes for this latest addition too.

The pastel shades are perfect for spring and there’s enough glitz in the gold sections and the chain links on the strap to make it wearable for night and day. I’m already eyeing up a new flamingo Skinnydip bag though…

How has it been two months at Nottingham Trent Uni already? In some ways it feels like a lot longer as so much has happened.  I’ve got an internship at Capital FM East Midlands with Dino & Pete, become a freelance Broadcast Assistant at BBC Radio Nottingham, and also hosting my own two hour radio show each week on Fly FM. You can listen online every Tuesday from 1-3pm! In addition, I’ve got a monthly column in the Nottingham Post paper. The first one about the perils of social media and your legacy can be found here.

It’s funny how things can snowball. This time last year I was suffering with pneumonia, unhappy with my day job (they were a great company to work for but I had been there for six years, couldn’t go any further and my heart had always been with radio and journalism), living with my parents and worrying about the future. Since then I’ve started the course, undertaken numerous brilliant placements,  spoken to many helpful people within the industry who are kind enough to share their experience and advice, got the aforementioned jobs/internships and I’ve moved in with my boyfriend too.

I’ve met so many lovely people through the course already, and the lecturers genuinely have a passion for what they do, whether it’s radio, documentaries, democracy and politics or the inner workings of a court room. We’ve written online articles, started working on radio packages, and I now know more about politics than I ever thought I would.

It’s interesting being there as a mature student, there’s only 11 years difference and sometimes it’s very noticeable (when I don’t understand a slang phrase/emoji, or I tell them that there was no iPhones until I was 21.) but for the most part we’re all there for the same reason and everyone has their strong points and experience. Writing academically is a challenge, but I’m keen to learn.

For Fly FM I’ve interviewed Young Guns, Yashin, Scouting For Girls and Don Broco and on Wednesday I’ll be interviewing The Darkness!

I’m so glad I decided to make the jump and apply for the course, it wasn’t easy leaving a secure, well paid job but I knew what I wanted to be doing. It’s already proved itself to be the right decision as I’m so happy to be where I am, and I’m excited for what will develop over the next three years. I’ve got my first BBC shift booked in too!

Some of the interviews and radio clips can be found below. For more, head to http://www.soundcloud.com/jenthomas

Congratulations! You’ve started at Nottingham Trent University. You’ve met some of your flat mates, got lost in the rabbit warren of the Lace Market/Hockley, and collected some questionable phone numbers at Ocean; but how can you make the most of this exciting first week? Here are ten tips of how to make sure you don’t crash and burn on Freshers Week.

1. Try and get some sleep. While partying every night might sound fun, it will suddenly seem like a Very. Bad. Idea. when you realise you have several 9am seminars this week.

Being the life and soul of the party, the one screaming songs at 5am and collapsing face first into your chips and cheese at 6am might make you popular with fellow social butterflies, but it won’t make you popular with your tutor when you miss your fourth lecture in a row. Oops.

2. Make the most of the free food while you can. Pizza! Greggs! Sweets! 

Your student loan might last a few extra days if you make the most of the free buffet of Dominos, sausage rolls, sweets, and vouchers that will be shoved into your grabby hands by the freshers fair staff. So. Much. Free. Stuff.

3. But try and eat something  green/healthy occasionally. (Peppers on pizza totally counts.)

A diet of microwave meals and pasta with cheese won’t help you when freshers flu inevitably arrives in your face. Orange VK’s don’t count as vitamin C either, sorry.

4. Don’t just stay in your room. Everyone is as scared and as nervous as you are, buy a doorstop and leave your door open to give people a chance to say hello.

Your new BFF might be the other side of that door. Or they might be a complete weirdo, but you never know unless you try and meet people. You’ll get a good story either way.

5. Explore the city. Be prepared to get totally lost, both on campus and in the surrounding area. Accept that you will turn up to the wrong room at some point.

If all else fails, follow the tram lines in the direction of Phoenix Park or Hucknall, it’ll bring you back to the uni.

6. Take photos. Lots of photos. Practice your pout. When you’re 30 you’ll look back and wonder what the hell you were wearing, but it’ll be funny. Trust me.

“*Why* did I wear dungarees?”.

7. Don’t even think about wearing high heels. Comfort is a must, and after one too many free jagerbombs you’ll regret them.

At the start of the night you think you’ll be dancing like this. You really, really won’t be.

8. Be prepared to forget the names of all of the people that you just met.

You’ll probably get called Bob, or Sarah, and it’ll reach a point where you feel too awkward to correct them.

9. Drink water. LOTS of water.

Drink a pint of water before you go to bed, and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or juice. You’ll thank me tomorrow.

10. Most importantly, have fun.

You’re only here once. Hopefully.

freshers

Freshers week 2007. I was 21, convinced I was ancient, and wearing what passed for a gothic version of school disco fancy dress. That ill-fated stint of education ended prematurely after a mere three month whirlwind of terrible outfits, fire alarms at 4am, and the joys of writing shorthand to Katie Melua songs. I was studying print journalism even though I’d really wanted to do broadcast journalism, however a nightmare admissions interview had put paid to that.
The hotel room that I’d booked for a pittance the night before contained a lumpy bed and a broken TV. This was before iPhones were A Thing. I can just see the horrified  faces of the Freshers of 2015, there was no Snapchat, no Whatsapp, no Twitter! I’d signed up to Facebook three months before, and still used a dictaphone with full sized cassette tapes. I had a crappy flip phone with no mobile internet connection, and the interview was at 8am and no shops were open for me to buy a paper.

I walked in to the assessment room. A brusque greeting, followed by “What are today’s top news stories?” “er……”. I wanted the ground to open up. I knew the golden rule of knowing what the news was! They weren’t impressed. I vaguely remember it being something about Gordon Brown. I was told the broadcast course was full, but was offered a place on the print course, despite having already been working as a freelance journalist for 8 years by this point. I accepted it anyway, desperate for change. The house I was in made me miserable, which just compounded the fact that my heart wasn’t in it. I’d enviously watch the broadcast students as I wandered off to a shorthand seminar.

Fast forward to 2015,  at the age of 29 (and now feeling younger than my years!) and I’ve been up to my ears in packing boxes as I move to Nottingham to a houseshare with my boyfriend and one of my closest friends, and I’ve left my day job after nearly 6 years there.  I’ve been making plans, buying enough stationary to start my own branch of Paperchase, and trying to remember various drinking games.

It’s been an excellent month for radio, I was thrilled to be invited in to shadow (sit and watch) The Jeremy Vine show at BBC Radio 2. Jeremy is off bedecked in sequins while on Strictly Come Dancing, so Paddy O’Connor had stepped in to cover.  It was fascinating to see the numerous guests, in the studio and on the phone. There was also a piano donated by Elton John in the reception. Not bad for a Thursday, so thanks to Tim J and Tim C for having me in!

The week after I spent a morning at Capital FM with the Dino & Pete breakfast show, watching the sun rise through the window at 6.30am and then helping out with the social media/Twitter and watching the show go out. They’re a great team and hilariously funny, and I hope to be back there again over my course. Below you can witness my irritatingly perky 6am face. I don’t even need caffeine, I’m just naturally annoying.

I’ve also spent a day at Lincs FM on their news desk, editing some clips from a Battle Of Britain interview and making calls to chase up stories. It was my first experience of a proper news desk and it’s very different from the shadowing/presenting I’ve done before, so it was invaluable to see. I’m also part way through two weeks at BBC Radio Lincolnshire, editing audio, shadowing reporters, watching the shows go out and calling guests to book them onto the show. Everyone has been really welcoming and kind, and it’s an eye opening experience seeing how much work goes into those hourly news bulletins you hear! I also shadowed a reporter to a tea party celebrating 100 years of the WI, we met some incredible ladies and they had made some stunning cakes.

wibbc

Fingers crossed it continues, and my Linkedin will continue to grow. I’ve been really lucky and grateful that people have been willing to give me a chance and invite me in, but it’s taken a lot of hard work on my part too. 8 years on from my failed freshers experience, it’s a totally different picture. I got here in the end, I just took the scenic route.

Jenradionewark

 

After my exciting news that I’m going to uni in September, I was over the moon to be asked to guest on Radio Newark with the lovely Annie Turner, on her rock show “The Outer Limits”. I got to choose some of my favourite music (local and national) and we discussed the first ever singles that we bought, mine was Mr Blobby’s christmas single, for shame!  I had the best time and I’m hoping to go back again soon. You can hear an edited version without the music below. Ever the chatterbox!

I chose the following songs:

Young Guns – I Want Out
Set it Off – Why Worry
Pvris – My House
Beartooth – Body Bag
Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock
April Towers  – A Little Bit of Fear
On the Open Road– Hold On to This
Rich List – All the Love
Papa Roach – Getting Away With Murder
Don Broco – What You Do to Me

jenthomasnew

That’s right! At the age of 29 I’m going to be a not-so-mature student (come on, I wear flamingo print trainers and have a tattoo of Hello Kitty as Edward Scissorhands.) I’ve got an unconditional place to study Broadcast Journalism at Nottingham Trent Uni from September and it is safe to say that

I.Am. Very. Very. Excited.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to co-present on BBC Radio Stoke on the Introducing show with the lovely Rob Adcock (you can hear a clip on my soundcloud of my first ever show) and was bitten by the radio bug. However, as it often does, life and bills got in the way when I relocated to London and it fell by the wayside when I had a phone based day-job and concentrated on writing freelance for Rock Sound, Big Cheese, AOL and the like.

I often get comments about my voice as it’s on the lower end of the scale – think Lauren Bacall/Joanna Lumley/the Caramel Bunny as opposed to Barry White! – it used to be the bane of my life but now I get a lot of compliments. Apparently it comes across well on air, I’ve recorded the hold messages for a few places, and as my loved ones can confirm I love to talk. Having pneumonia and pleurisy at the start of the year really did put things into perspective, as much of a cliché that is, I’m really grateful to have this chance now and fully intend to make the most of it.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to come on to Notts TV and record a section about recommending new bands with Richard Spurr, unfortunately due to some technical gremlins it didn’t air but hopefully I’ll be going back to re-record it at some point! It was amazing to be asked and although terrified beforehand it proved to be great fun. I’ve also secured a two weeks placement at BBC Radio Lincs just before I start uni in September, so it’s all go.

If anyone has any tips/advice for student life (especially from those who went when they were a little older) please do send them my way! I won’t be living in halls, but I’m moving back to Nottingham itself. Exciting times. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of nerves about being older than most there, making friends, fitting in, going back into education after so long, but mostly I’m just looking forward to it.

Oh, I also dyed my hair black again after all that, because I’m contrary. Oops. I have two new tattoos too, (up to ten now!) and due an 11th next month! Post about them coming soon.

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