Interview: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire presenter Louise Hulland
Radio presenter, broadcaster and author Louise Hulland can be heard two mornings a week on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
Louise, who has a 6am-10am slot on Fridays and Sundays, is a Sony Award-winning journalist, TV and radio presenter and documentary maker – she has fronted two investigative crime documentaries, which she also devised and produced, for London Live.
It’s quite a list of talents. And the 41-year-old can now add ‘author’, as her first book, Stolen Lives – about modern-day human trafficking and slavery in the UK – was published last year by Sandstone Press.
Lancashire-born Louise, whose TV credits include The One Show, Watchdog, and Inside Out, said: “It sounds really cheesy but it’s been such a privilege to be on air during this period, because obviously first and foremost you’re a journalist and a radio presenter, but you’re also a human who has not been able to see their family and friends, and we’re going through it just like everyone else is.
“So to have that marker in the week where I get to go on and be with the listeners, it’s been a bit of an anchor for me. The listeners have been so brilliant and so welcoming. It’s been such a bright spot for me in what’s been quite a challenging 12 months.”
Has Louise felt any pressure when it comes to trying to lift people’s spirits?
“I think I’ve probably gone in just being honest about how I’m feeling,” she said, “because there are days when I’ve had a tough week and there’s always someone who will get in touch and give me a bit of a boost, and then there are days where I feel more positive and you go in and go, ‘Let’s see if we can spread some positivity’.”
Louise, an official member of the Radio Cambridgeshire team for just over a year now – although she previously worked there on a freelance basis – tells listeners at the beginning of each show: “It’s your show, we want to hear from you."
She noted: “I think it’s about being as authentic as you possibly can be. I really feel like I’ve been welcomed with open arms by people, and it’s been incredible.”
It’s clear that radio has a special place in Louise’s heart. “I’ve written a book, I’ve done TV, I’ve produced radio, I’ve made documentaries – every bit of my career I’ve really loved,” she said, “but radio for me is where it’s at; that’s where I’m spiritually most comfortable.
“It’s just the intimacy and the immediacy of it... the fact that it’s just you in a room talking, in my mind anyway, to just one other person. For some people it will be the only company that they’ll have all day, for other people you’re maybe a bit of different company for 20 minutes. It’s just really special, and it’s at times like this when you realise just how crucial radio is for people.”
Louise got her first radio job after she finished university, at her local BBC station in Lancashire. She cites John Peel and Terry Wogan as huge influences – she even got the chance to work with the latter, describing him as “absolutely peerless”, during her 20 years living and working in London.
“My first job in London was working for Newsbeat and Radio 1,” she recalled, “so I learnt so much from presenters like Jo Whiley.”
Other London-based jobs have included paper-reviewer on BBC Radio London and TALKRadio, and prior to that, Louise could be heard on BBC6 Music News and BBC Radio 2’s Art Show with Claudia Winkleman, and as a showbiz reporter across the commercial radio network.
Louise used to commute from London to Cambridge but moved here in 2020, when her book – Stolen Lives: Human Trafficking and Slavery in Britain Today – was also published.
“Away from being a radio presenter, I’ve been a journalist for 20 years and one of the issues that I’ve been very interested in is investigating human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK,” she explained.
“I met a survivor several years ago and that kind of changed things for me, because it went from being a topic that I had a journalistic and academic interest in to it becoming much more personal when I actually met someone who was a survivor.
“There are 40 million people around the world in modern slavery, but all of a sudden it’s easier to understand the plight of one person when you’re sitting with them and talking to them. It’s easier to understand that than the huge figure of 40 million people – our brains can’t really comprehend that level of suffering, I don’t think.”
Louise added: “It felt like something really important to write about, and there was a real sense of accomplishment when the book came out. But it was definitely challenging to write because there are so many accounts of human suffering, and I had to counteract that knowledge with the fact that there are also many people doing incredible work fighting the crime and helping survivors put their lives back together.”
Listen to Louise on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire every Friday and Sunday from 6am to 10am.
Her book, Stolen Lives: Human Trafficking and Slavery in Britain Today, is available now. Find out more about Louise at louisehulland.com.