Our next interview is with TV and radio presenter, Dan Westwood! Best known for his work in presenting, Dan is also a mental health ambassador, with his amazing campaign Here4U. Whether he's hosting his brand-new radio show, or helping others through his campaign, Dan's work is always fresh and exciting. Here's what he had to tell us...
Hi Dan, how are you and how is 2021 treating you?
'I'm very well actually, thank you for asking. Obviously we ask how people are, but I think sometimes it's thrown away and we don't really wait for the response. You've got me at a really good time! I'm busy which makes me happy, just started a new radio show.
I was very fortunate to get to work during lockdown remotely. I came back home to my mum's apartment and filmed a lot from here. I wasn't as busy as I normally was, usually travelling round and doing live events, but I was doing a lot remotely. I think this year can only get better.'
Can you tell us about being a presenter and why you decided to get into it?
'I kind of fell into it! I was a trained dancer and trained as an actor as well and then I just fell into presenting. I know that's kind of annoying for people to hear, because it is a hard job to do. I've probably been doing it now for about 10 years. Meeting people like Justin Fletcher, doing CBeebies stuff, doing different bits of radio and getting a bit of a bug for it. It's a lot of work, even in lockdown I was on a lot of webinars and really practising the craft. If you watch a normal TV show, people don't realise how much goes on, you've got someone talking in your ear, you've got cards and I'm still learning all of that. It's probably one of the best things I've done and I'm still at the very start of my career.'
What is your favourite part of your job?
'Meeting people, whether it's new crew, people that I work with or guests and people that I'm interviewing. I like travelling to new places as well, that's another great thing when you're a freelance presenter, you get sent all over. I always make time to check out the local city I'm working in.'
I’ve listened to your brand-new radio show, it’s fantastic! How would you describe it and what is it like presenting it?
'It's a Saturday afternoon show and I've done a lot of radio, but I had a break during lockdown. The difference with this is I've always had a co-star, normally a girl because a guy and a girl work best together, just for different opinions, but I've worked with both sexes. This time I'm on my own, so it's a bit...challenging, but it's fun! It's with Gorgeous FM which is broadcast to Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Shropshire, but you can also get it on DAB, or on the website for people not in those areas. It's basically just a feel-good Saturday afternoon show. I wanted it uplifting, really good up to date tunes and I have a guest on every week with me for the 3 hours that the show is on. We talk about loads of different things and we get them to request a song that means something to them. We had Claire Sweeney on last week and she requested her favourite karaoke song, so it could be something really fun or something sentimental, then to wrap up the interview, we play the song.'
If you were a guest, what song would you choose to play?
'I love loads of music! I do love pop music, maybe Little Mix or stuff like that. I'll go with my favourite song at the moment and it's called 'At Least I Had Fun' by Martin Jensen. I played it on the show as my top track that I like to start off with. Other than that, 'Peaches' by Justin Bieber I love at the moment and 'Starstruck' by Years & Years. I will be playing those songs every week on the show because I love them and they're just really good instant summer songs.'
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
'You're probably asking the wrong person! Many would call me a workaholic. Obviously, suffering from anxiety, I've spoken to a therapist and a counsellor quite recently and they're helping me to do that. I'm good with my anxiety when I'm busy, but it can also be a double-edged sword, as in I could be overly busy and I get anxious over how busy I am. Right now, I'm at the stage where I've got so much to do and not enough hours to do it. It's busy but you do start making lists. Speaking to a therapist and a counsellor, I've learnt without me, all of this work can't be done, so I need to protect me, my health and my sanity.'
What would your perfect day look like?
'I think I'd probably work. I'd love to start off doing a radio show in the morning. Afternoon, lunch with my friends and a spa and then go the the theatre in the night. If I've got time, throw in a bit of shopping. I just got back from a week or so away filming the show and it's sales time because all of the shops have just reopened. I come back with a case full of stuff!'
If you could go back to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell him?
'Probably not to worry as much. Everything will be OK, everything happens for a reason and people will still love you. I moved to London when I was 16, believe it or not, so I was kind of a bit more advanced for my years because I was around adults and moved away from home. It was quite a tough time emotionally. I was at drama school and dance school, so it was very competitive which can have an effect on you.'
Who would be your dream interview guest?
'Well, it's not possible anymore because she just recently died, but Dame Barbara Windsor, who I adore. I love Alan Carr, though it probably wouldn't be much of an interview because we'd just be laughing! Also, Phillip Schofield who I think is a staple on TV, so I'd love to have a sit down chat with him for the knowledge. I'm going to say Alan Carr because I absolutely adore everything he does. I'm listening to his podcast at the moment, which is great for travelling and I had it on in the hotel the other day. He's just so quick-witted and I think you'd never be bored in his company.'
Are there any people, in your life or celebrities, that you look up to and aspire to be like?
'I've got a lot of role models and people who influence my career. Obviously, Justin Fletcher's a massive one, I've worked with him on CBeebies and on his shows. My guest last week on the radio was a lovely friend of mine, Claire Sweeney, she's amazing for advice and she's been in the industry for ages. You name it and she's done it! I also used to do a show a few years ago with Hilary Devey and she told me that I was hard-working and had lots of tenacity which I carry on into every job that I've done. Noncelebrity wise, my mum and my grandma. My mum's a single mother who worked hard and put me and my sister through private school and drama school. If I said to my mum 'I want to be an astronaut', she'd be like 'If you put the work in you will be'. My grandma and grandad as well because they were the backup support when my mum was working all the jobs. They were like the dad we didn't really have.'
Mental health is clearly a huge passion for you, as we can see from Here4U, what made you decide to start this amazing campaign?
'I had a panic attack when I was filming a chat show and I just carried on with interviewing this lady. People normally think they're having a heart attack, but I kind of ignored it, I wouldn't do that now as I've got respect to say I need a break, whereas at the time I didn't because I didn't know what was happening. I was also on tour with my lovely friends at CBeebies and I was just really upset during the interval and I didn't know why. I cried to someone and I said 'I'm crying, I'm upset and I don't know why' and it is as simple as that. To the outside in, I was living my best life, but to me I was upset. I wanted to put something really nice back onto the internet, which is why we came up with Here4U.'
Finally, what is one piece of meaningful advice you could give to the readers?
'Be you. Be you and be happy being you. Mental health wise, I would say, if anyone is struggling, talking is the best medicine. You'd be surprised, myself included, how many people struggle and also, you'd be really surprised and overwhelmed with how much help is out there.'
Follow Dan on Instagram here!
Don't forget to listen to Dan's radio show at Gorgeous FM Saturday's 1pm-4pm!
By Pia Talbot