My Life in Media: Helen Terry

'Competition for performance slots is ferocious and I have to steer along a path that will please both the broadcaster and those of us who still love music'

Helen Terry, 51, is the executive producer of the Brits, the annual pop music award show. Terry's first taste of success was as a singer with Boy George in Culture Club and she later had several solo hits. She switched careers in her mid-thirties to work in television and refused to take part in Culture Club's 1998 reunion tour, having fallen out with George over his portrayal of her in his autobiography (the pair are reportedly friends again). Terry lives in Perthshire, spending four months of the year in London to make the Brits. This year's show, hosted by Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, will be broadcast live from London's Earls Court on ITV1, from 8pm on Wednesday.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I was inspired by what I wasn't seeing on television. I was ancient when I started my TV career so I absolutely knew what was wrong with music television and, having been on the receiving end of it in my former career, I thought that I could make a change for the better. Easier said than done at first, but I'm getting there these days.

When you were 15 years old which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

I was hardly ever in the house when I was 15 so I can't recall what my parents read, aside from the Maldon and Burnham Standard, our local newspaper, which I would read from cover to cover. I devoured my grandma's Cork Weekly Examiner, which I remember was required reading for all expatriate Irish Catholics at the time.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I loved Civilization, those old school patrician broadcasters infused a passion for discovery in me. Schoolgirls in rural Essex didn't have much in the way of role models back then so my childhood path was 50 per cent swot, 50 per cent rock'*' roll. This did not go down too well at school but my wonderful parents just let me get on with things.

Describe your job?

Part Mystic Meg, part diplomat. I have to second guess the mood of the nation six months in advance and put together a show that either reflects this or acts as a diversion. Naturally I also have to figure out who might win the gongs and then mix it up with performers who are at the peak. Competition for performance slots is ferocious and so I have to steer the show along a course that will please both the broadcaster and those of us who still love music.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

I always log on to BBC news and then trawl through Popbitch and Holy Moly for a bit of sanity. Daily papers don't figure at all because they just make me angry.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

As above really. We get the New Statesman, New Scientist, Prospect and Private Eye at home and they keep me going.

What do you tune into when you get home?

I'm addicted to CSI and House. I'll tune into random programmes occasionally but it's either Five US or BBC4 who make some of the best music documentaries. I do love a good drama as well – Cranford was a wonderful example of an ensemble piece.

What is the best thing about your job?

My team. I rather treat my job like being in a band and so I take huge delight in working with a bunch of people who never cease to amaze me with their ability to get things done and to get them done well. It's the same sort of pride a singer has in having the best players in their band.

And the worst?

The commute. I live 500 miles from London so I have to leave home for four months, returning to sanity on the weekends.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Bringing extraordinary talent to the attention of a broader public and seeing it change their careers.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Far too many to mention.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I do get The Observer, but only for Nigel Slater's marvellous food section. A good friend was a Sunday editor and so I know far too much about how the press works and how divisive they can be. I love Vanity Fair. Graydon Carter is an extraordinary editor and the standard of writing is superlative. I polish off most inferior magazines in about 20 minutes, but if I start reading VF at Kings Cross I'll just be finishing it whenthe train reaches Stirling.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I don't. The artists speak for themselves, I just do the maths and write the scripts.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?

I've got a cinema release documentary up my sleeve, watch this space . . .

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

I'd probably be a washed-up has-been singer by now. Television has rather saved my life.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Andrea Wonfor (the late managing director of Granada Television and producer of The Tube) was an inspirational figure. Never smug, always questioning and rarely averse to a good night out. The perfect balance. Germaine Greer is also up there because she is utterly unafraid to take on the sacred cows and few can match her erudition.

The CV

1974 Abandons educationin favour of random employment including work as a performance artist, comic synopsis writer and singing teacher
1981 Becomes a member of Culture Club alongside Boy George
1985 Leaves the band to launch a successful solo career
1990 Moves into television as a researcher on Saturday morning children's TV
1992 Begins making documentaries including an Omnibus on Creation Records founder Alan McGee and Collectors with Damien Hirst for BBC2
2001 Joins the team behind the Brit Awards as the show's music producer
2005 Appointed the show's executive producer

Suggested Topics
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments