Sheffield is where it all began for DJ - and it is very much still home

James Cusack is a presenter and DJ with Heart and recently, for BBC Radio 1.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:00 am
James Cusack started his radio career in Sheffield

He still lives just outside Sheffield and it is where he started his radio career as a schoolboy on the show presented to patients at the city’s children’s hospital.

Here he shares a moving personal piece about how the city kick-started his foray into presenting, the Sheffield landmarks he loves and how he thinks about local listeners no matter which show he works on.

James said: “On Thursdays after school, I'd go there to present on the in-hospital radio station, Chrystal Radio. I had the 4-5pm slot and my Mum would wait for me in the car park while I presented it.

Sheffield Childrens Hospital.

It was one of the first times I'd presented radio and I learnt the craft of 'how to do radio'. It let me record some demos (very bad demos most of the time) but eventually, one demo landed me my first paid work in radio. It was at Hallam FM, where I got my first radio break on overnights. (Thanks Gary and Owen if you see this!)

It was an easy transition, talking about Sheffield again and the wonderful listeners from Sheffield and there was an instant connection with the audience, despite only being young.

The Sheffield Childrens Hospital building is somewhere I still travel past on a regular basis, heading out that way to go on walks, which seems to have been one of the only things to do in the last 12 months. From the road, I can see the room we used to have and think about it whenever I pass.

Radio has evolved ever so much in the last few years, but has never been more important than in the last 12 months, where company, friends and feeling a connection to someone else has been needed that little bit more.

From hospital and local radio, I moved to regional radio with shows on Capital and now Heart, where I still am today.

I travel around a lot in my work, but there's no better feeling than either driving past the famous cranes by Meadowhall, or that last bridge you go under just before arriving at Sheffield train station. That's when you know you're home!

I've had the odd person say to me along the way, "When are you going to get a proper job?" But to be honest, I'd quite like to keep doing this and I'm glad I didn't give up.

Last year I piloted (radio term for a demo) for BBC Radio 1 and landed some shows there.

They've asked me back this year and I'm excited to see where it may lead. One Monday recently I was presenting in the same time slot as Clara Amfo which was quite nerve-wracking. She's a complete delight and sent me a message to say good luck - I definitely needed it!

Despite my shows on Radio 1 being nationwide, whenever I think about people listening, I instantly go back to people listening in their cars or homes in Sheffield. That's my go-to thought process!

As I finished my show on Radio 1 on that Monday afternoon, I was walking back through London to the train station and couldn't help thinking about where it all began.

That drop off bay at the train station was where Dad used to drop me off when I used to have my production assistants' job in Leeds, while still at college. And so, it was a bit of a surreal moment that he picked me up from there again that evening, only this time after presenting a show on Radio 1. (I'm sure he found it more of a chore than a moment, but you know.)

I thought while walking, I probably should have got a cab now I'm an adult, but to be honest it was rather nice to complete the circle... plus the small talk was easier.

Sheffield has been good to me, it's where I grew up and where it all began and its still very much home, wherever my job takes me.