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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine