Steve Furnell and Karen Wight’s voices are two we don’t mind hearing first thing in the morning. In fact, we love them. One of the North East’s best-loved double acts, today they celebrate 15 years of presenting breakfast radio together, first on the now-defunct Galaxy and currently on Metro. Here they tell Man About Toon how they got their break, what they could be doing if radio hadn’t worked out and why a 90s girl group once walked out on them.
How did you two get started in radio?
Steve: I was 15. I joined a hospital radio station in South Shields and presented a show on a Wednesday night, eventually moving to Saturday morning. I left college at 17 to get my first paid job at Radio Topshop. They used to have their own in-store radio station broadcasting from the Metro Centre. A year later I got offered a job in North Wales where I worked for five years before moving back to the North East to launch Galaxy in 1999.
Karen: I did a media studies degree at the University of Sunderland and got involved with the student radio station, Utopia FM. At first I was working behind the scenes as a producer but when our newsreader didn’t turn up for their shift, I had to read the news! I was in at the deep end but loved it and caught the bug for live radio. From there I went on to become a journalist at Sun FM, then to Galaxy in Leeds. I came home to read the news on Steve’s show in 2000 and we started hosting together in 2001.
How long have you known each other?
S: We both went to the same primary school. Time has gone so quickly!
K: We actually went to the same school but never met there and only realized years later.
What’s been your highlight of working on the show?
S: I feel very privileged to do my job. The fantastic listeners make the show what it is. My highlights include launching Galaxy in the North East and taking the show to number one. Then when we moved across the dial to Metro – I’ve never been so nervous in all my life!
K: We really are privileged. Every day is different and we love talking to the listeners. People here in the North East have such a great sense of humour and their stories are always brilliant. We’ve had some amazing guests on the show, like Sir Bobby Robson, Ant and Dec, Beyonce and Paloma Faith, who I absolutely love.
Any difficult interviews?
K: I don’t think either of us enjoyed interviewing (90s girl group) All Saints. I’ll let Steve tell you why!
S: The interview wasn’t going that well to start with. It felt like they didn’t really want to be there. I made matters worse by calling them Girls Aloud by mistake. They weren’t impressed and walked out on us.
If you weren’t radio presenters, what would you be doing?
S: I would have loved to have worked with animation. I used to make films when I was a kid.
K: I always wanted to be a barrister when I was younger so maybe something to do with law, although I was a children’s entertainer at the Sea Life Centre for a couple of summers and I loved that!
Us North East folk are so passionate about where we live. What is your favourite thing about it?
S: For me, it’s being so close to the beaches (Bamburgh being my favourite), the countryside and the cities. We’ve got the best of it all here. I think our mams and dads bring us up to feel very proud of where we’re from. Football definitely helps too!
K: I think we’re so passionate about our area because it really is special. We have some amazing stretches of coastline, vibrant cities with music and arts to rival any other city in the UK, fantastic landmarks and of course, the sense of humour. My favourite thing about the North East is without a doubt the people.
Listen to Steve and Karen weekdays from 6am on Metro Radio