Jo Whiley has been one of the nation’s premiere voices on radio for more than a decade, giving countless bands their big breaks for years on Radio 1 before moving to sister station Radio 2 in 2011.

Jo Whiley

Jo Whiley

She’s also got a rather large passion for travel, so with the summer just about coming, we chatted to her about getting the family holiday right, Doctor Who and why British music’s in such great form right now.


Travelling with kids can be, challenging, at the best of times. What’s your biggest piece of advice?

I think it’s all about the pre-packing if you’re going away with kids. You’ve got to have enough with you to keep them entertained during the inevitable delays at the airport or really long journeys in the car, so I always bet the biggest rucksack I can stick on my back and fill it with packs of cards, pens, books, and all sort of gadgets. Just as many things as I possibly can, but make sure you don’t forget headphones.

You’re kids are of wildly different ages, how do you pick where to go and keep everyone happy?

It just kind of works, we always try to treat every holiday as a bit of an adventure so there’s something to keep all of them entertained. I’ll always go somewhere with a swimming pool, as we can all get along there, there’s something for everyone to do and the kids will have a good time for hours, be it my 21 year old or my 4 year old.

It’s just all about the adventure; it’s always a case of seeing if there’s somewhere we can go surfing or throw ourselves off a cliff or is there something good for us to do. Generally, they really are game for pretty much anything and I rarely get them complaining that they don’t want to do something. I would never take them on a beach holiday.

Going to the beach is their least preferred thing, so I would never make them go to the beach all day. They’d just whinge and we’d all have a terrible time. If I mix an hour or so of the beach in with some coasteering or surfing, it’s all good. It’s all about mixing and matching things. Going with friends is great too. If they’ve got kids of a similar age, then you can all do things together.

So do you keep varying up where you go to help that?

We go to lots of different places. We go to Cornwall a lot, we really enjoy surfing, wakeboard and fishing down there. We go to Thailand quite a lot, we’ve got family over there which is a great slice of luck. Ibiza’s a real favourite of ours, especially when we go with another family, get a villa and spend a bit of time out there. It’s really important to me that they get lots of different experiences from all different parts of the world.

You’ve done your share of travelling, but is there somewhere where you’ve not been to yet that you really want to?

Japan, I’m desperate to go there. My best friend moved there last year and I both really want to see her, but I also really want to see what the culture is like over there. It seems so alien to anything we have here, it makes me want to go there even more. She keeps sending back photographs and little films of Japan, so that would be the number one place for me on that list.

Jo Whiley and her four kids

A lot of Brits are taking more than one holiday a year, why do you think that we love our holidays so much?

Because I think we have such bad weather here in the UK that we need to give ourselves a bit of a break and have some fun. I’m sure if you live in California or somewhere like that, the urge to go on holiday isn’t quite as strong. In the UK though, it does us good to get away for some fun and games.

You’re off to Bestival again this year, can you tell us a little about what you’re doing for Camp Bestival?

I think I’m doing some sort of presenting master class, not that I’m at all qualified to do it. It’s just a question and answer session in a tent talking about how in theory you do a radio show. I still don’t know how to do that, so I’ll just fudge my way through that one. I love Camp Festival though, I’ve been a couple of times.

Talking of family holidays, a lot of people see festivals as a holiday. I know I’ll certainly be taking all of my gang there because there’s just so much to do. Last year they had big skate ramps and extreme sports areas and my boys completely loved that. You’ve got great music as well, so it ticks every box on that front.

British music’s dominating the world right now, why do you think it’s in such good form?

I don’t really know, it just seem to be an incredibly rich time for British talent. We’ve been nurturing talent for a long time, as it takes a while for things like this to come good. When you have people like Adele, Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, it’s really helped young girls who were ten or eleven to watch them, take lessons from them, find out they’ve got a voice and then start to make music.

That’s how we’ve ended up with people like Rita Ora and Nina Nesbitt. They were probably inspired by that group of artists and have just come through so strongly. It all just means that we’ve got an incredibly healthy music scene.

So what’s on you iPod right now?

I love Laura Mvula, her album’s just fantastic and I really like The 1975 and Tom Odell. Outside of the UK, I love John Grant. Bastille are great too and that album’s done so incredibly well. They’re utterly lovely too, I’m sure they’re going to have a fantastic summer this year and they’re going to be incredible at festivals.

It’s been two years now since you made the switch from Radio 1 to 2. What’s that been like for you?

Its super exciting being there at the moment, it feels like the beginning of a whole new career. They’ve been great and I’m so lucky to be doing the show that I’m doing as I just get to play the music I really like playing, be it vintage music or new bands coming through. To have that free reign is really rare in radio, so I’m just cherishing being able to do that. I feel a bit like a child in a sweetshop really.

To finish off on a complete tangent, you’re rather famously a fan, so are you looking forward to the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who?

I was there in Cardiff yesterday watching the filming! It was brilliant, I can’t really say anything, but I was watching a lot of green screen work that will probably take about 20 seconds in the episode, but it was just wonderful to watch these people doing what they were doing.

I’m beside myself with excitement though about it. I think it’s going to be sensational, it’s a great reason to celebrate and there’s a lot of pressure, but the Doctor Who team is fantastic and they’re not going to fail. There’s just so much wonderful, wonderful history in the show, with all those costumes, stories and companions. I think it’s all just going to be woven in to what we see in November.


Jo Whiley is the ambassador for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, which gives you and your family the freedom to travel on your terms with its flexible rewards programme. Search ‘Amex Gold Travel’ for more information.

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