As Annie Mac beamed at the front of the hall while receiving her Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from The Phil, there is almost a sense of appreciation in the chamber for a local returning home – this is no ordinary celebrity.
Although a multi-award winning DJ internationally, best known for her infamous “Annie Mac Presents” music show on BBC Radio 1 in the UK. Annie hails from Dublin and does not shy away from her heritage, launching straight into the story of how it all began for her.
“I always wanted to act,” she started, “but when I got rejected from drama school, I cut off all my hair in a fit of teenage rebellion”. After an “epiphany” working in a nightclub in Queens University Belfast, she decided to pursue a life in music, and has gone from strength to strength ever since. However, it hasn’t always been easy – in her first summer of DJing she “went on the dole and spent [her] summer in the loft with some records and decks, mixing really badly”.
The topics of conversation varied, however, there was a focus on the closure of the famous London club Fabrik due to drug-related deaths, a topic which is very close to Annie Mac’s heart, as she herself had played there. She is adamant that clubbing is an “important cultural phenomenon” and is dismayed at the decline of the clubbing industry, as much of the electronic music industry moves to festivals.
With regards to the dangers of drug culture, she is in favour of “harm reduction” policies that have been introduced in other EU countries – in such situations, club goers can hand in their drugs to be tested by professionals within the club, and then receive information on what’s within them – leading to many deciding not to take said substances, once they realise the true dangers of what’s inside. She criticises extreme police crackdowns and harsh drug policies in clubs, which result ultimately in people “necking everything before they go inside”, leading to dangerous health situations.
On the topic of the demise of radio, Annie Mac is confident that radio will prevail even with the ever-increasing popularity of streaming services like Spotify. She refers to the “human element of radio” that you can’t get with streaming, the feeling that this voice in the background in your kitchen is an old friend:“This is the irreplaceable nature of radio.”
There has been a rise in interest for content available on demand and radio is adapting to meet this change – for example, on her own BBC Radio 1, they now produce 25 hours of weekly downloadable podcasts which can be streamed anytime. She says that radio is facing “the greatest upheaval in its history” and that it’s an interesting time to be involved in the industry.
And in terms of advice for those who want to follow in the footsteps of the great Annie Mac?“Create your own content, your own brand – and push, push, push it!”