A career in the spotlight

Lindsey Chapman with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Since completing her degree, Lindsey Chapman (BA Drama and Theatre Arts, 2005) has had an exciting career as a performer and most recently a presenter for the BBC. She speaks to Old JoE about her time at University and how it helped prepare her for a career in the media industry.

After completing her degree, Lindsey trained as an actor and toured with various theatre productions around the country before becoming a presenter for radio and television programmes. Most recently, she has presented Winterwatch Unsprung with Chris Packman on BBC Two and the BBC Red Button.

We sat down with her to discuss her time at the University and how it helped her in her exciting career…

‘I choose to study Drama because I really liked acting and performing at secondary school. I had other interests but nothing quite gave me the same buzz as being on stage. I specifically choose Birmingham because it was at the top of the league tables and the course offered a good balance of academic and practical training.

‘I had a brilliant time at University. I lived in Mason Hall in first year and had a great group of friends that I still know now. I loved my course and how varied it was. We studied a range of disciplines from Brecht to Alexander Technique to stage management. I was able to specialise in Shakespeare in my final year and do things like go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with my Guild society.

‘Every time I go past the University on the train, I feel nostalgic. I miss the feeling on campus - that sense of community.

‘My three years at Birmingham set me up for a career in performance and media. You have to be creative and versatile to survive and my degree really prepared me for this. I got to do a mixture of both scripted and improvised work and the variety of modules on the course was really good. In terms of presenting, the improvisation side of the course really helped in my current role; I do a lot of live broadcasting so I have to think quickly on my feet, listen to talkback and remember large chunks of information.

‘My advice for people looking to work in the media industry would be you need to be versatile, enthusiastic, and a great communicator. Go out and meet people, get as much experience as you can - which may mean doing things unpaid to start with! It’s going to be hard at times but you have to stick with it and at some point, an opportunity will arise.

‘For example, I produced and presented my own TV pilot for BBC CBeebies about getting young people outdoors. Along with my experience on 5live and Sky Sports, my pilot idea led to me being offered the role of Roving Reporter on BBC Autumnwatch.

‘Working in TV is fascinating. Last summer I worked on a BBC One series called Big Blue UK which I presented with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Whilst filming a piece for the show about tagging gannets with the Alderney Wildlife Trust, I remember having to jump from a small rib boat on to a rock in the middle of the sea which was filled with thousands of nesting gannets. Northern gannets are Britain’s largest sea bird, they’re beautiful but also hugely impressive, with a wingspan of up to 180cm. It was one of the most magical experiences of my career, to be there in the middle of the English Channel on a rock with these incredible birds, but I also remember that it really stank - an overwhelmingly strong smell of sea salt, bird poo and fish, that didn’t leave my shoes or trousers for a long time!’