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Interview: Jo Whiley


With festival season in full swing, the question on everyone's lips is who's the next hot act - and how should you balance mud with mascara? Luckily, Radio 2 DJ and mum-of-four Jo Whiley is a bit of an expert when it comes to festivals, having fronted live coverage from Glastonbury and identified major talent such as Coldplay in the making since she started out at the BBC in 1993.

She fills Stylist in on festival must-haves, Radio 1 versus 2, her obsession with Twitter and THAT Beyonce performance...

You’re well-known for your coverage of major music festivals. What are your three festival must-haves that you can’t do without?

1. Wellington Boots. These should take absolute priority; they look good no matter what you’re wearing and suit any weather. The chunkier the better in my opinion.

2. A hat. If you’re staying at a festival for more than one day, your hair will inevitably start doing its own thing at some point so you need a hat to hide it and look stylish.

3. Wet wipes. If you’re going to be in a big crowd, you don’t want to be the one making everyone hold their noses! Wipes are also perfect for cleaning smudged mascara, and freshening up your face.

What’s been your favourite ever performance at a festival and why?

What a tough question! I’d say either Coldplay or Beyonce after their recent performance at Glastonbury. They really raised the bar and you could see the ambition and level of detail they put into their performance in terms of the staging, lights and fireworks. It feels like this year festivals have moved into a different, new area and are much more of a show.

Having known Coldplay since they were a baby band, I felt incredibly proud watching them. I was so nervous before they went out on stage, seems silly, but I knew the amount of work they put into this and was cheering them on! It’s like they were sitting a really big exam, after years of revision and their performance paid off- it was astonishing.

Beyonce was jaw dropping- the staging was amazing and her performance gave me a whole new level of respect for her as an artist. I knew I quite liked her music, but after watching her I realised how many fantastic songs she has. The way she dances in those heels and never stopped! I wouldn’t be able to do it I’d be saying “my bum’s aching I just need a minute please”.

Beyonce was jaw dropping - I wouldn’t be able to do it, I’d be saying 'my bum’s aching I just need a minute please.'

What did you make of Beyonce’s performance at this year's Glastonbury? Was she worth the hype or do you believe that major commercial stars like her should not appear at what is traditionally an alternative/rock festival?

I think the line was blurred a few years ago about whether rock/alternative festivals should feature hip hop and pop artists. Glastonbury is completely across the board anyway, you’ve got people like Example and Tinie Tempah playing, so I think it’s completely irrelevant now.

Whether Beyonce would work at Reading or T in the Park, I’m not sure but I think people shoot themselves in the foot if they say they only like one type of music. People should go to festivals with an open mind and not deprive themselves of some great performances. I think Beyonce totally deserved her place at Glastonbury and exceeded everyone’s expectations.

How do you juggle a busy presenting schedule with four young children? What advice would you give to other mums out there trying to do the same?

I wish I could say it was down to me being so organised but I’m not at all! Our house is like a commune- there’s always dozens of people in at any one time, boyfriends, friends and family and everyone helps out. The only way I can work and function is have a great network of people around me, such as my mum and dad and friends to help.

I have some fantastic friends who will do anything they can, as I would for them. It’s less down to organisation and more to do with existing on a wing and a prayer and relying on great friends and family.

I do have meltdowns when I’m drowning under a sea of laundry, and it is hard trying to juggle everything but then you’ll have another day, the washing is sorted and life is good again!

Do you take your children to festivals and if so, how do you balance mum time with keeping them happy?

I do take the kids to festivals and I will be taking them to Camp Bestival again this year, which they absolutely loved last year! I’ve actually teamed up with Persil 2in1 with Comfort to hold the first ever Persil Pass on the love Picnic at the festival. We’re asking families to seek out forgotten soft toys, give them a wash and new lease of life and bring them along to swap with other kids or donate to Oxfam for another child to love. Festivals can get quite expensive with the kids, so that’s why ideas like this are fantastic because they hardly cost anything but are a great way to get everyone together and have fun.

ABOVE: Jo Whiley with her family in 2007

Compromising is the key to balancing your kid’s needs and yours. When taking children to festivals, you have to take part in activities to keep them entertained and then ask them to watch a band that you want to see! As long as they are warm and full up, they will be content.

How does working at Radio 1 differ from your current post at Radio 2? Do you still keep in contact with your old colleagues and would you ever move back?

Moving back’s not a good idea, moving forward is always the best thing but some of my best mates work at Radio 1. I’m constantly in contact with Grimmy, Scott, Annie Mac and Sara Cox. Facebook and Twitter have been invaluable for staying in touch! We’re always going to the same gigs and festivals so we bump into each other on the same circuit.

It is a different kind of pace at Radio 2, as it’s quite frantic at Radio 1, but everyone’s a bit more laid back, which suits me nicely!

Why do you like using Twitter and are there any other tweeters out there who you always look out for/ chat with?

Twitter’s becoming more and more of an obsession. Caitlin Moran is one of the best tweeters out there, along with Lauren Laverne and Example. Lauren is really entertaining and we tend to talk about our kids. Example is really funny!

It’s a great way to talk about music, keep people updated with what I have going on the show, and to discover people’s real personality and humour.

Twitter’s becoming more and more of an obsession.

Where’s your ideal spot for a summer getaway? Are you more of a beach lady, or do you like your city breaks or something really adventurous like safaris?

I like a little bit of each, I prefer activity holidays - especially with my kids. They love surfing in Cornwall, but apart from that they get bored on the beach so we’ll invariably be on a boat water skiing or wake boarding. We all enjoy doing activities rather than lying around.

I can’t remember the last time I went away with my other half for a nice relaxing break!

What are your summer wardrobe staples, if any?

I’ve recently bought some cool J Brand purple shorts, and I still go back to my trusty converse. I’ve also just bought a leather jacket from Muubaa and I absolutely love it! If you throw on a leather jacket and pair of trainers you can make anything look cool. I’ve got a lovely sparkly gold skirt and that looks great with both.

What up-and-coming artists (UK or beyond) are you really excited about at the moment?

Ed Sheering, I have complete faith in his new album. Group Love from America has made a really great album. And I can’t wait to hear Noel Gallagher’s album, which is coming out in the autumn!

Ben Howard is a fantastic singer/songwriter from Cornwall. I’ve got a good feeling about Lana del Reya, she does some great moody tracks!



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