30 Under 30 - Interview with panelist Karen Pearson
27 June 2013, Posted in: In the studio

'30 Under 30' - Interview with panelist Karen Pearson, Director of Folded Wing

Exciting times for the radio industry as the 2013 '30 Under 30' initiative was launched last week. Now in its third year, the '30 Under 30' scheme aims to recognise and celebrate the brightest talent under 30 working in UK radio. The lucky 30 will be selected to highlight those who are not just doing their job across a wide range of skills, but doing it brilliantly and to recognise superb ambassadors for the radio industry as a whole.

Folded Wing's director Karen Pearson has been on the judging panel for '30 Under 30' since it's inception. Karen’s radio career began 16 years ago at the BBC where she produced Gilles Peterson’s legendary ‘Worldwide’ show, helping it to become a globally respected and commercially successful brand. In 2005, she left to set up the company, which became Folded Wing – quickly establishing herself as an authority on podcasts and alternative audio broadcasting. Karen went on to set up groundbreaking projects and platforms across the world including Red Bull Music Academy Radio and Roundhouse Radio and of course Folded Wing now produce Jamie Cullum on BBC Radio 2 and The Selector for the British Council.

We asked Karen what she is looking for in a '30 Under 30' finalist……

Why did you decide to accept the chance to be on the panel for '30 Under 30'? I was really  honoured to be asked and very excited that the Radio Academy were setting it up. It's so important that something like this exists in the radio industry. Also, on a personal level, I found it so hard and it took so long to get into the radio industry in the first place, that it took me back to my late teens / early 20s and reminded me of the energy that's needed to work your way up in the industry. It's important to recognise those people who are putting the energy in!

What were you doing when you were under 30? I managed to get some work experience when I was 18, and then worked my way up to producing Gilles Peterson's 'Worldwide' show on BBC Radio 1, which eventually led me to setting up Folded Wing.

What are you looking for in a '30 Under 30' candidate? People who are pushing the future of radio forward and making a big difference in the industry. I love seeing people's passion for radio and those connecting radio to other areas and industries to make the radio industry bigger. And people who don't sit still and make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.

Does it matter what role that person does in radio or how old they are? Not at all! Just look at 12 year old Jack Hill (http://www.djjackhill.co.uk) who was nominated for '30 Under 30' last year. Whether you're 12 years old or 29, it really doesn't matter. It's much more about your abilities and ideas. It also doesn't matter what role you do, whether you're a runner, or working as a unit assistance, through to managing a team, it's what you're doing in your team that makes a difference, and finding ways to go above and beyond.

And finally when and how do people apply? To enter click on the below link to go to the Radio Academy '30 Under 30' entry page, where all the info you need for entering is listed out:


The deadline for entering is 5pm on 2nd August 2013 and the lucky 30 will be announced at the Radio Festival in Salford in October. To enter, you need to complete a simple form with the following:

  • your contact details

  • 250 words explaining why you should be in this year’s 30

  • a .jpg or .png photo of yourself

  • a single page CV

  • if nominating yourself, name and contact details of your station manager (or equivalent)

This will be the third year that the Radio Academy have run the '30 Under 30' scheme. On last year's list was Fred Bradley, the current chair of the Student Radio Association and a freelance producer, and Paul Fernley, also a freelance producer. Fred and Paul spoke to us about what it's like being listed in the '30 Under 30' scheme.

fredWho are you? - Fred Bradley

What do you do? - Freelance Radio Producer & Web Developer

Which year were you selected? - 2012

Why did you enter the 2012 '30 Under 30' initiative? Because I wanted to be recognised for the work I was doing. I saw it as another thing that would help me get known, and would only         improve my career.

How did you feel after actually being selected? - A little embarrassed. As I knew about 20 of the other 29 and I count them ALL as being fantastic, and much more fantastic than me! But after the embarrassment subsided, I guess I felt proud that I was recognised against such a strong competition.

What has it been like since you were selected? - Difficult to tell. Other than getting more interest in my website, and more notice in my CV, not all that much - certainly not easy to quantify.

Why do you think being on the list is a good thing? - You get recognised as being one of the top people in your industry (for that age range).

What do you think the judges look for in an applicant? - Someone that's contributed for the greater good to their company. Something that's developed over the year, someone that's done something significant that has made a huge difference in the way someone else (or perhaps the whole industry) now do things.

 Who are you? - Paul Fernley

 What do you do? - Freelance Radio Producer, currently at Real and Smooth Ltd

 Which year were you selected? - 2012

 Why did you enter the 2012 '30 Under 30' initiative? I entered myself as it seemed a   good way of finding out how I compared with my peers and see if I was good enough!

 How did you feel after actually being selected? - It was really exciting to know that the   hard work I put in over the last few years had paid off!

 Why do you think being on the list is a good thing? - It's a great way to get yourself noticed when introducing yourself - looks very good on the top of your CV. People you meet are impressed.

What do you think the judges look for in an applicant? - I think they're after something a bit different, something others aren't doing, or you're pushing further. If you're creative and doing exciting things - shout about it!

To find out more about this year's '30 Under 30', head over to the Radio Academy website where you can read up on all the judges and listen to a podcast with tips and advice for this year's entrants.