Numi Gildert: Radio Presenter

From volunteering as a temporary host on university radio, to co-hosting a show on Radio 1, it seems that the only way is up for Numi Gildert’s radio career. She sat down with Alumni Voices to discuss her radio career so far, and how her time volunteering with University Radio York (URY) put her on a career path she could never have expected. 

Numi was two years into her Masters in Engineering course when a coursemate first suggested she join URY. 

“There were a lot of people in electronics who were involved in the engineering team for URY. There was a guy who was a couple of years older than me who was really involved. I used to be really loud in labs and one time he was like, ‘Have you ever considered URY?’

My first time on air was for five minutes. YUSU Elections were on and I was given the interview for Women’s Officer. There was only one candidate that year so it was very straightforward; I didn’t have to go Paxman on them or anything. 

But being in that moment was an incredible feeling. The anticipation of going live, hearing your voice through the headphones, knowing you couldn’t mess up. I came off air and was like ‘I have to do that again!’”

Numi was soon given a weekly slot on air, and continued to volunteer for extra opportunities. In the years that followed, she became Programme Controller, spent a term as Assistant Station Manager, and helped to organise URY’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018.

After completing her Masters in 2016, she decided to stay at York and complete a PhD in Electronic Engineering – in large part because she was not ready to leave URY behind.

“I’d been thinking about a PhD for a while but I had all these friends who were still around. So I decided to go again. 

In radio, you talk about doing your air miles, and you try to get as many hours on air as possible. URY is so good for that. The stakes are so low but you can learn as you go. You know things are going to go wrong, things are going to break, but you learn how to adapt. You get to go on air hungover from the night before. 

All of those experiences set you up so well to adapt to a real world situation, where you’ve got a few more listeners than your mum.”

As the UK’s oldest licensed independent radio station, University Radio York has a long history of tackling new and unexpected challenges. 

When the pandemic began in 2020, many student radio stations were unable to continue; unable to go into the studio to present, they had to go off air for several weeks. But at URY, the team wasted no time in finding a workaround. 

“The technical team were phenomenal. Over the Easter break they created a bespoke piece of software to allow people to present from home. It was by students, for students. 

It interfaced with the equipment back in the studio but you could control it remotely from your room. So we were able to go live as we normally would, in spring of 2020, where a lot of student stations couldn’t do that.”

Through student radio networks and awards, Numi and her colleagues soon began to attract the attention of some big names in radio. After winning Best Chart Show at the Student Radio Awards in 2020, she was contacted by Aled Haydn Jones, Head of Programmes at BBC Radio 1. He had a simple question: would Numi and co-host Alex West like to present the first official chart of 2021 on Radio 1?

“Obviously we said yes! Presenting that show was amazing, it was a dream come true. It was a fantastic experience.”

Alongside her Radio 1 stint (and completing her PhD), Numi and Alex were soon invited to host a brand new chart show for regional station KMFM.

“We launched that show in April 2021. Radio is such a challenging industry and when you’re working a full-time job you don’t have time to try and get into it. 

During this time I was working as a tech consultant, so I was working Monday to Friday and then on Sunday I’d go back to my little radio show. 

There was one day we got asked to do last minute cover for Radio 1 too, so I did Early Breakfast on Radio One and then went to the office and did my normal job.”

Numi and Alex returned to Radio 1 to cover the Early Breakfast show multiple times in August, and shortly after this Numi was offered an opportunity to present a daily show on KMFM, where she is now working full time. But she is clear that none of her radio opportunities would have come about without her time at URY. 

“The wonderful thing about York is there are so many societies you can get involved with. And they can shape your life. I met all my best friends through URY. I know so many people who’ve fallen in love through URY. 

You just have to experience these things and get out and have fun. You never know where it’s going to take you. 

KMFM has quite a small team, so there are so many times where it feels like URY. It’s so wonderful to have these moments where you feel like you’ve been here before.

I always liked radio when I was younger. But I’ve now found something that is now my favourite thing in the world. It’s the love of my life. When I’m driving to work I often have a moment where I’m like ‘I can’t believe this is my life.’”

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