wears the trousers magazine

wii #3: chantelle fiddy
October 29, 2009, 10:14 am
Filed under: feature, women in industry | Tags: , ,


women in industry #3: chantelle fiddy

After an autumnal mini-break, WII is officially back, shining the spotlight on the ladies working their magic within the music industry. This month we catch up with multitalented journalist Chantelle Fiddy, a resident columnist for RWD Magazine and freelance contributor to Mixmag, SuperSuper and The Guardian. Her earlier ventures included roles at Smash Hits, i-D, Tank, Arena and Sunday Times Style, but she’s not just a writer; Chantelle has also worked hand in hand with artists and labels, spearheading projects with The Streets, 679 Recordings, Island Records, Ministry Of Sound and award-winning TV show Dubplate Drama, and a keenness to share her skills with others resulted in a mentoring role at LIVE Magazine.

Keeping a firm hold on her first love for radio means she’s regularly a guest on air with Diesel U Music radio, Radio1, 1Xtra, BBC Asian Network and Capital FM, but it’s her recent work as editor of www.ctrlaltshift.co.uk and its biannual magazine that’s got her hyped at the moment. The edgy current affairs publication is aimed at turning 18-25 year olds on to social injustice and global development. It’s a project close to her heart, and one clearly made possible by the strong work ethic she rocks and the dedicated years of music journalism that have created this platform. Chantelle talks to Wears The Trousers about facing challenges head on, keeping things competitive whilst staying humble, and the restorative powers of cake baking.

* * *

How long have you worked in the music industry and what inspired you towards the field?

Despite an age old love of music and creative writing, I’d always thought radio was my calling, but during my second year of a Journalism BA Hons degree I got the opportunity to work on the Time Out Carnival Guide, for six weeks, with music journalist Vince Jackson. While I was there Touch Magazine got in touch with him as they were looking for an editorial assistant and I began there soon after, working a couple of days a week while I completed my studies.

What was your first music-related role, and what are your memories of it?

When I first started as a music journalist I remember the sheer excitement of it more than the work I was doing or who I was interviewing. Seeing your work in print is an amazing feeling, although you definitely start taking it for granted. I do, however, remember thinking I was dreaming when I got my first press trip to LA to interview Justin Timberlake. I’d only graduated six months prior to this and to be staying in this amazing hotel, with journalists from Heat, FHM and The Mirror, going to a studio to get the first play of Timberlake’s new album, then sitting in a hotel room waiting for him felt more than surreal.

Do you feel your background/education/social status has encouraged or discouraged your career choices?

So much of what you do or don’t do in life is down to confidence. My parents split up when I was young and I didn’t live a life of luxury or go to private school but If you’re bought up well and encouraged along the way it makes all the difference. Good manners, being polite, humble and common sense go further than many things you can learn academically. I’ve never felt I’m the best writer out there, but my strength probably lies in my personality and the ability to hit deadlines, work under pressure and being able to get creative with the most boring of subjects.

How does/has your gender affected your career in the music industry? Do you feel it’s been beneficial or detrimental?

You can’t ignore that the music industry (like so many others) is a predominantly male environment. Naturally, If you’re good at what you do, and you’re in a minority, it’s to your advantage as you stand out. On the downside there have definitely been times I don’t feel I’ve been taken as seriously as a man would be, despite the fact I’m just as — or better — qualified. If we’re going to keep it real, there’s also a very different view taken on the personal relationships females have — if half of what I’d read about myself on forums was true it would be a disgrace! As a result, keeping my private and professional life separate, establishing the boundaries from the outset is important to me. My ex-boyfriend made me think about this a lot, which I’m grateful for. Primarily, I’m a businesswoman looking to do deals, not dates, so treat me accordingly.

The grime scene, which you have been instrumental in supporting, seems to be a predominantly male field. Has being a minority been empowering?

I’ve never really thought about whether it empowered me. I think it’s probably helped me grow quicker as a result. I stood out more, in a slightly novel way perhaps. Starting out at 21 might have meant it took me longer to be viewed as someone here to do a job, not some fan blagging a free CD, but it takes time to earn a reputation and I’ve served mine.

What makes your job difficult?

Things have changed so much, the boundaries move as your profile increases. Initially it was probably just getting taken seriously, earning enough money to live, the usual stuff. Now it’s that I don’t have enough hours in the day, or days in the week, to do half of the work I could be doing. That frustrates me massively. There’s also a lack of people who have the same work ethic — admittedly you could argue I’m a workaholic and you’d rather have more of a life, but it’s just how I am. And now that I’m in a position to pick and choose what I work on, it’s often about making the right choices and remembering to pace myself and do everything I put my mind to to the best of my ability.

What makes your job rewarding?

I mentored at LIVE Magazine, part time, for three years. Although I’m not there anymore a lot of the people I’m working with now at Ctrl.Alt.Shift are people I’ve mentored in some way, shape or form, and that’s exceptionally rewarding. And I learn a lot from them in return. Likewise, it’s great to feel I’ve played an instrumental role in helping to shape and promote the thriving UK music scene we’ve got today. My job at Ctrl.Alt.Shift is personally rewarding because it’s amazing to have this opportunity to break the traditional charity mould, using popular culture to engage people in social change and global injustice. Having a boss that has faith in letting you just get on and do what you do best is a rarity and I’m grateful for that and the new ground I’m able to break as a result.

What motivates you?

Some people are just never satisfied and I’m certainly one of them. I’m very competitive where work is concerned. I get bored very easily and have a short attention span when it comes to taking time out and kicking back. I’m a nightmare — I can’t even watch a film without doing something else at the same time. So I guess it’s self-motivation, always striving to better what someone else has done (or is doing), and wanting to see change in both the industry and the world we live in. Naturally, money falls into the equation too. I’d be lying if I said otherwise; I too want to be able to kick back and write books from my beach house one day.

What are the perks?

Funnily enough it’s not free CDs as for every 100 CDs you get three or four are likely to be good. Not to sound clichéd but I think we take for granted how blessed we are to simply get up and do jobs we enjoy and get paid for the pleasure. You look at the Dalits (people excluded from normal Hindu life) in India, who have no choice but to shovel shit for 10p a day, and it makes you ashamed to feel anything but grateful for the opportunities we have on a daily basis to benefit our lives and careers.

Do you have any personal ultimate career goals, or have you reached them already?

I’ve never been one to set goals really, as when I was at uni, and they pushed us on this, my only goal became to write for Touch Magazine. Having achieved that early on I decided to just go with the flow because sometimes if you focus on one avenue too much you can miss the alleyway that ultimately might lead to something beyond your expectations. If you’d told me five years ago I’d be editing Ctrl.Alt.Shift I’d never have believe you and I feel there’s a lot more work I can do here to make a real mark. One day I’d like to get a work of fiction out and getting a radio show on LBC (I’m really into the whole talk radio concept and think there’s a massive gap in this where reaching young adults is concerned) is definitely a dream.

Do you have any essential survival skills/tactics?

Skinning up. For medicinal purposes. Hahaha. Jokes aside, there was a time that I fell out of love with music because it became a chore, so being able to put your hands in the air and recognise when something’s not right for you is really important. Regularly taking time to step outside of your routine and evaluate where you’re at and who you are is key to survival and your happiness as you make that transition from teenager to woman and beyond. The woman I am at 29 is far from the one I was at 21. Time management is also key, and although I’m terrible at relaxing and taking a day off, it’s really important to have ‘me time’. I’ve started baking cakes as there’s no way I can do anything else while I’m getting my red velvet game on.

Are there any individuals who inspire you with their own career achievements?

There’s too many to list but I couldn’t not mention Hattie Collins, my best friend, next door neighbour and co-d. We started at Touch at the same tim,e but while music bored me to a point and I needed more, she’s excelled and is without a doubt the most prolific hip hop journalist in the UK right now, while also editing RWD Magazine. That’s no mean feat. Other ladies I’d like to salute on this occasion are my boss Katrin Owusu, who created the Ctrl.Alt.Shift brand, my mum and grandmothers for always keeping their heads high through rough times (whatever they may be), my production editor Emma Ellwood-Russell (an all-round superwoman who gets the job done), and one of my old journalism tutors, Melanie McFadyean, for her words of encouragement and inspiring me massively as a student.

What project, challenge or achievement are you most proud of completing?

Probably still being here, doing what I do and growing in both myself and my work. You see so many people come and go, and not always through lack of talent. I’m not perfect but I’m proud of how I’ve grown in the last eight years, and the lessons I’ve learned will hopefully serve we well for the rest of my career. But when issue 4 of Ctrl.Alt.Shift drops, at the end of November, I know it’s going to be a defining moment for me too — we’ve increased in size and have 80 pages to boot. I can’t really compare it to anything as there’s nothing like it as far as I know.

What advice would you give to other young women hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t approach your work as a fan, remember that as much as you love your job, it’s business. Conduct yourself accordingly. Align yourself with an army of fellow workers who you can bounce off — nothing was ever won single handedly. Carve a niche, do it well, but never be afraid to change direction or follow your gut instinct. What’s the worst that could happen?

* * *

Charlotte Richardson Andrews

Issue 4 of Ctrl.Alt.Shift will be available from all good stockists at the end of November, including contributions from Sarah Maple and VV Brown.
Chantelle is pictured with her colleague Tekla at the Ctrl.Alt.Shift Raindance Film Festival Party earlier this year.


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