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Reception desk to BBC sensation

TRIUMPHANT: Paulette Edwards has overcome the odds

ANYTHING IS possible with determination, endurance and a splash of personality - particularly in the realm of media. Ask Paulette Edwards, the latest addition to the BBC Radio Sheffield weekday breakfast rota.

Born in Sheffield to Jamaican parents, Edwards actually started her career at Radio Sheffileld as a receptionist and was a teacher before that. The latter had been a lifelong aspiration of hers but due to fluid on the brain, Edwards was forced to change her job to something less strenuous, whilst undergoing medical treatment.

After a few months on reception on part time hours, her curiosity got the better of her and she decided to ask then presenter, Ony Bright, about her experience of being on the radio. Subsequently, Edwards was offered to come up and experience it for herself.

After some time, she went from being a volunteer broadcast assistant to presenting an afternoon show and the rest, as they say, is history. This goes to show that sometimes, if you don’t ask, you
don’t get!

Edwards spoke to Life & Style’s Nadine White ahead of her brand new show.

NW: You were a teacher and had always wanted to be one. What was it like, having to give that up due to your health condition [fluid on the brain]?

PE: I agonised over it. This was one of the hardest decisions that I ever had to make. Teaching isn’t easy but it was something that I felt I was good at. I enjoy talking to people, relating to people and being another adult in the students’ lives, helping them to realise their ambitions was just a phenomenal privilege. Though, at the time, I didn’t feel like I was giving up but rather letting it lie whilst I got better - cutting that link was difficult.

NW: How and when did this develop? In some cases, it can be during infancy or around the middle age mark.

PE: Yes, but I tell you what, I didn’t have any problems with it until the age of about 30! I had caught a cold which turned into flu and then I started to feel a real pain on my shoulder and back area, then lose sight in one of my eyes. It came out of nowhere and even now, doctors don’t fully know the cause of it. It’s not affecting me now though, thankfully and I am a lot healthier!

NW: Your transition into presenting started by chance. Did you ever have a prior aspiration, on any level, to being a radio presenter?

PE: No, is the honest answer because I didn’t think it would be a job that anyone would ever allow me to do. It seemed beyond my capacity. It felt as far away as someone asking if I ever felt like I could become the Prime Minister!

NW: Tell me three things you’ve learned from your volunteering experience of being a broadcast journalist?

PE: Every single person has a story, what you see is not necessarily what you’re going to get – it’s important to find that common ground because we’re not so different as human beings and always have a go and try new things, even if you’re scared to begin with!

NW: What will your new radio show consist of?

PE: We are hoping to just have as much fun as possible and reflect real people’s stories and their thoughts, fears, anxieties, triumphs and celebrations. We do want to reflect news and what’s happening in the world but on the other hand, we must reflect other aspects of life too. We want to connect with every emotion and for people to know each other through the show.

NW: What was it like, growing up in Sheffield?

PE: It was a good place to grow up. I lived in a very diverse, mainly Jamaican, happy and healthy community with loads of nice people around. My parents left Jamaica in order to give us a better life, my mother said she didn’t want us to be poor, like she was. Going to Jamaica recently, made me value that sacrifice. That place is paradise – it made me wonder why anyone would want to leave.

NW: Ah, yes! Your venture to Jamaica was partly in aid of learning more about your family’s roots and background, from what I understand. How did it go overall?

PE: I was there for two weeks and took it as a bit of a holiday too, as I wanted to rest. At the age of 52, I’ve never been! My parents were born there and I am the first of five to be born in the UK. It was a phenomenal experience; I was quite overcome with emotion and even cried for a bit as I sat on the plane at Gatwick. To see the people and the beauty in that jewel of an island, swimming around in the sea, going up in the mountains was massively profound. There’s a layer of me in there that I really didn’t know, like looking into a mirror.

NW: Now that you are living a new dream in presenting on a platform within the largest broadcasting organisation in the world, do you have any future goals with the vocation?

PE: My goal is always to be the best that I can be. I want to give everything that I’ve got to the now, today, this moment I am in and enjoy it too. Sometimes when you look ahead it robs you of the present, though I’m not sure if that’s a lack of ambition!

Catch Paulette Edwards presenting the breakfast show on Mondays from 10am – 1pm on BBC Radio Sheffield.

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