URN – taking to the airwaves

University Radio Nottingham, or URN to give it its more recognisable name, has helped advance the careers of many of its former members since it first began broadcasting over 40 years ago.

As we launch our LinkedIn group to help URN graduates stay connected and network, we catch up with three of its alumni to find out where their careers have progressed to since Nottingham.

URN taking to the airwaves

From left to right: Giles Gear, Owen Masters (photographed with Lindsey Lohan) and Shivani Dave

Our graduates:

Owen Masters (Law and Politics, 1996) - Assistant Editor on ITV's Good Morning Britain

Giles Gear (English and History, 2014) - Senior Podcast Producer at the Daily Telegraph

Shivani Dave (Physics, 2017) - Presenter, Virgin Radio and podcaster


Share a little more about your current role

Owen Masters: As an Assistant Editor I oversee day-to-day programmes, deciding what stories to run and devising ways to treat them. I run a team of producers and researchers, liaise with multiple aligned departments as well as our team of presenters. I am also the Head of the ITV Daytime Academy which helps to train those in the department who are newer to ITV and to broadcasting.

Giles Gear: My role encompassed working across the Telegraph's slate of original podcasts, from award-winning true crime (Bed of Lies) to chart-topping daily news shows (Ukraine: The Latest) and weekly political analysis (Chopper’s Politics).

Shivani Dave: I broadcast across the UK and Ireland on Virgin Radio Pride, Virgin Radio Chilled and our Ireland pop-up radio station, Pride Vibes. I also work on a number of podcasts, from hosting ‘She Said, They Said’ to producing ‘The Log Books’. And I am a voice over artist. I am a member of the Radio Academy’s 30 under 30, have won British Podcast Awards and international accolades for my presenting and production work.

Tell us your favourite URN memory?

OM: As well as having the privilege of presenting the breakfast show when we had our temporary FM licenses, there is another great memory. For a period, URN would entertain the Saturday night crowd in the Buttery bar. Having the opportunity to DJ in front of a load of Nottingham students was incredible. We also broadcast our sets live on URN. As treasurer I think I also managed to make money for the station from doing this!

GG: It’s honestly difficult to pinpoint just one memory; URN was quite possibly the favourite time of my life. In my first year, I was presenting the breakfast show (8-10am) and recorded hilarious events such as the Quidditch society being unexpected “attacked” by a group of Dementors (a bunch of rugby players in binbags). I was also used as a guinea pig and was live on-air while being high up on the Nottingham Christmas Fair big dipper.

Winning Best Student Radio station in 2014 after months of hard work, coaching presenters and editing the awards over the summer break was a particular highlight. Introducing the “URN Boat Race” was also a hilarious memory: the presenters would hire boats and row on the lake as we commentated live. Despite it being only a 25 metre course, it would take quite some time.

SD: How do I choose just one memory? There are countless. Honourable mentions go to the countless Disney themed music shows that kept people going, particularly during exam season. Losing a URN social challenge meaning I covered the airwaves from 3-5am (on a Saturday morning!) which kept people partying past Ocean.

The all-time favourite memory has to be the friendships I made from being sat in the URN office, those were some of the closest people in my life, at university and now.

Who's your broadcasting idol and why?

OM: My radio idol is Simon Mayo. He was the Radio 1 breakfast show host in my formative years and I adored his show.

I was later lucky enough to work alongside him at Radio Five Live and witness his extraordinary talent for speech radio – from breaking news to sport analysis, long form entertainment and human interest interviews. He’s a radio genius.

GG: Chris Moyles for the anarchy and anti-establishment attitude and style. James O’Brien for his visceral monologues.

SD: I look up to many broadcasters, I think it is important to find elements of presenters you like and weave that into your style while remaining authentic to yourself.

I love Stephanie Hirst for being totally upbeat and relatable, for her music passion and her connection with her listeners. I love the way Jeremy Vine can jump between serious news topics to have you crying with laughter at something light-hearted and fun in minutes, as well as the way he speaks his mind. Lauren Laverne always knows how to strike the perfect balance for the start of your day if you tune into 6Music, her talent for hitting the perfect mood is next to none.

What's the one piece of advice you'd given to someone aspiring to work in broadcasting?

OM: Get experience. There is little more as an employer that tells me how much someone cares about broadcasting, than giving up spare time to see what it’s really like. It’s not easy getting work experience but if you try hard enough, it’s a brilliant way to skill up and understand better how things work.

GG: You don’t have to just be Greg James! There’s more to the audio industry than just the BBC or Global. There are countless fantastic audio production companies who produce programmes for national radio and chart-topping podcasts too.

Understand what you enjoy doing most – sound engineer, sound design, presenting, editing audio, producing presenters, show prep, music research, DJing – and connect with industry people and ask them as many questions as humanly possible. The audio industry is blooming massive with loads of opportunities – don't fall into the trap of thinking it is just Radio 1 that’s the place to be.

SD: Give it a go! Get involved with something like URN, start a podcast, download some free software and just try it out. You don’t need fancy kit for most of it, I have made BBC World Service news packages with an iPhone 6 and a bedsheet.

Broadcasting is all about practice and experience, so start building up those airmiles to find your voice. There is no point trying to sound like Greg James, because you aren’t Greg James. Work out what it is you bring to the airwaves and bring it. And bonus advice: this industry is hugely based on personal taste. So, if/when rejection comes it can feel really personal. It’s okay to spend some time licking your wounds, but remember to bounce back and keep going.

Fond memories of URN?

We'd love to hear from you! Drop us an email with any stories or photos from your time on the station.