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
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Graduate Sales Executive

17.5k + Commission (£18.5k after probation period): ESI Media: You will be res...

PPC Account Managers

£25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn