Alumni

Alumni profile - Lauren Arch

I saw a presenter workshop for my favourite online radio at the time and applied on a complete whim with zero radio experience. To my surprise, I got selected, and from there everything changed for me and I became dead set on working in radio full time.

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Why did you choose to study a BA in History at Queen Mary?

I always had a fascination with history, through literature and film, and decided from GCSE that it was what I wanted to pursue. I love writing and enjoy the research element; being able to explore multiple theories, question the validity of sources and come up with my own conclusions.

I hadn’t heard of Queen Mary whilst looking for universities until my friend wanted to go; she didn’t end up attending but I fell in love with the place immediately. The History department is so vast, and the course is pretty much designed by you from the start, which differed greatly to other places. I also like that they didn’t place pressure on our A-Level grades, which, to this day, I still believe are not a true representation of a student’s abilities.

What did you enjoy most about the course and were there any academics that had a strong influence on shaping your time and studies here?

My biggest interest outside of studying has always been music, and since living in London, I found myself drawn to online radio and the entire culture surrounding that.

I enjoyed how small and personal my seminar classes were, but most of all, being able to completely specialise by second year. I had a natural interest in twentieth century American history – socially and politically – and could take that as far as my special subject where I got my top choice – The Kennedy Years. Mark White, my special subject course leader, was by far my strongest influence. His passion for American presidencies, and the Kennedy era of politics was contagious and he was extremely encouraging when I chose a dissertation topic that had little secondary material surrounding it.

As a History alumna, what historical period do you find most interesting and why?

The Cold War period was most interesting to me, American politics and foreign policy. I wrote my dissertation on the Kennedy Administration’s relationship with India from 1961-1963. I found US Cold War tactics in the third world so wild. I also studied the history of New York and found myself surprisingly interested in policy and housing, which I am contemplating taking to MA at some point, but for the UK, with a focus on racial and socio-economic inequality within that.

Can you describe your career path since you graduated and touch on what you do now?

My career path was unexpected. I originally set out to pursue an MA in History but decided to take a break from education. My biggest interest outside of studying has always been music, and since living in London, I found myself drawn to online radio and the entire culture surrounding that.

I have done a lot of unpaid volunteer work at numerous stations, whilst working a bar job, then secured my first paid Radio Producer role in 2018. Since then, I have worked in Radio management for Rinse FM, and produced and programmed for Foundation FM. I have also done a fair bit of graphic design and social media work for places such as Transmission Roundhouse and other radio bits. I have been hosting my own specialist radio show on Foundation FM for two years. Whilst doing this, I found myself more interested in the music side of the industry and I am now a full-time Artist Manager and I run my own music platform/brand as well as freelance radio production.

How did you first become interested in working in Radio and how did you secure your first job in the industry?

I saw a presenter workshop for my favourite online radio at the time and applied on a complete whim with zero radio experience. To my surprise, I got selected, and from there everything changed for me and I became dead set on working in radio full time.

Even though I stepped into it wanting to be a presenter, which I now am, I found the production side so fun and rewarding. I then emailed every station under the sun asking to come in and volunteer and secured a Broadcast Assistant role at Rinse FM, which became my radio home for nearly two years. Whilst there, I worked my way up to producer in a few months, and then by the end of 2018 became Radio Manager.

You’re passionate about raising the profile of women within the Radio industry. What are some of the challenges that women face in this industry and how do you hope to tackle these?

Incredibly. I think from my perspective, when it comes to music and tech, a woman’s knowledge always gets called into question more. We find our voices aren’t always loudest in the room or our opinions get challenged/overlooked. I never personally experienced this from any colleagues throughout my time in radio but have done from countless DJs and musicians that would come into the stations I worked at.

One example I will never forget, was when I was Radio manager, and my intern was male. A DJ walked into the office, arm outstretched to the intern and said, “oh you must be the radio manager, nice to meet you”, whilst I was standing right next to him. Online/Pirate radio has been a male-dominated space for so long so it is hard to fathom to some people that a woman could be running things.

Unfortunately for other women, their experiences in radio have been much worse. Sadly, these things happen in every industry. But I believe the best way to fight it is to take control and create space. This is why I love working with Foundation FM, which is a radio completely run by women who celebrate female musicians, DJs and creatives so loudly and proudly. Spaces like this demand respect and the talent and brands that work with them meet them with nothing less.

Working with other women is incredibly empowering, and I always make sure there are women in my team whenever working on a creative project. Recent events in the world have only highlighted even more that men also need to be central in the narrative to create safer spaces to empower women, and I believe building like-minded communities within your sector, primarily expanding horizontally rather than vertically, will ensure a better future for everyone.

How diverse is the radio industry in general? In terms of race, gender, sexuality etc.?

I think this is a hard question to answer as the radio industry itself varies so greatly. I have never worked for a national radio station, but I know from figures released last year that a lot of the major radio stations have been failing to create a diverse workforce across the board. When it comes to online/independent radio, I do believe they are way more diverse – especially in terms of gender – but I believe more work can be done for certain spaces to become more racially diverse – particularly in managerial roles. Bottom tier radio roles also need to become more financially viable options for people from a lower socio-economic background, especially in cities where the cost of living is so high.

In terms of your career, have you had any life-changing moments where you’ve realised you’re doing a job that you really love?

For me, going to New York in 2019 and curating my own show out there with US artists for a radio station in Brooklyn was a life changing moment. Being able to see my creations come to life, connect with people from a different country through music, and then actually tie it back to radio was amazing. Off the back of that I launched my own brand which connects the East Coast and UK underground rap scenes through radio, video, and live performance.

Another moment for me was securing my specialist radio show on Foundation FM, it was incredibly surreal, and through that I have met so many amazing musicians and even the artist that I now manage.

Were you a member of any societies or volunteering groups during your time at Queen Mary? If so, what did you gain from them?

I really wish I joined more societies; I didn’t even know Queen Mary had a radio station until I left. The only society I was a part of was Netball in first and second year, where I drank way, way, too much. I met my best friends through this though, who I'm still friends with today so it was all worth it.

What are some of your favourite memories from your time at Queen Mary?

Weirdly, writing my dissertation, although it nearly killed me, is a warm memory now. I think it was the solidarity of it all amongst the history students. We really had each other’s backs and became a library family as we basically lived there. I loved a lot of my modules and being able to have such intellectual conversations with some incredible professors was a real privilege.

What are your future aspirations in terms of your career and in life?

This changes often, but I know I want to take my work abroad and work for myself. I have some long-term plans for my brand that include its own radio, so I hope that blossoms into something really beautiful. I want to continue meeting amazing people and keep creating. I want to get my artist signed so he can look after his family. I want to manage more artists in the future and curate some international campaigns with them, and I would like to see my radio show continue to grow a loyal and supportive fan base.

Is there any advice you would give to current students or recent graduates interested in a career in Radio?

I would say if you want to present, work out what is authentically you and how you can bring that to life through audio. Create your own content and don’t wait for someone to give you a platform to do so. In terms of production, send those emails, don’t be afraid to chase people, ask them questions or even volunteer yourself to work. Once you secure that work, carve space for yourself and make yourself invaluable to that company.

If you’re interested in a career in radio, Lauren will be delivering the fourth workshop in the 'Journalism and Media 101' workshop series in collaboration with QMSU's CUB Magazine on Wednesday 31st March 2021 from 5-6:30pm. The theme for this workshop is 'Breaking into Radio Hosting' and in celebration of Women's History Month and International Women's Day, Lauren will place a special emphasis on women in radio. CUB members can register here

This profile was conducted by Alumni Engagement Coordinator, Nathalie Grey. If you would like to get in touch with Lauren or engage her in your work, please contact Nathalie at n.grey@qmul.ac.uk.