Radio presenter Sally dreamed of stage career

nrhn 180413 Alfreton born and bred BBC Radio Derby presenter Sally Pepper.
nrhn 180413 Alfreton born and bred BBC Radio Derby presenter Sally Pepper.

She is Derbyshire’s current voice of the mid-morning air waves, counting pop star Amy Winehouse as one of her many interviewees during a 13 year broadcasting career.

But things could have been very different for Alfreton born and bred Sally Pepper - if her plan for a life on the stage had come to fruition

Speaking to the News this week, the former Mortimer Wilson School pupil and now host of BBC Radio Derby’s mid-morning weekday show, has told how she originally moved down to the capital with hopes of landing a role on the West End - rather than a slot on the radio.

“I guess it all kind of came about by accident,” mum-of-two Sally said this week.

After completing her A Levels in Alfreton, Sally studied performing arts at the renowned Bretton Hall campus in Leeds before moving to London with hopes of kick starting an acting career.

She explained: “I never wanted to be in radio when I was younger really - I wanted to be on the stage - West End musicals were my dream.

“I played piano and I was a singer and a dancer , they were great times”

While preparing to take a two person play to the Edinburgh Festival, her co-performer told her of a radio job up for grabs at Metro Networks - voicing traffic reposrts.

To her surprise she applied and got the job.

“I quite enjoyed it, Sally said. “It was certainly better than some of the rubbish temp jobs I was doing at the time!”

In 2000 she moved to Mercury FM, based in Watford, to become co-host of its weekday breakfast show.

It was when her fellow presenter left the show unexpectedly that year - Sally got her big break - and was called upon to anchor it’s breakfast show at short notice.

“I had no idea how to use a radio station desk,” she said. “ I just said to the producers, you can take me off the air if I’m really bad!

“You have to take these chances when they come along.”

Having now affirmed herself as a talented broadcaster, Sally’s career began to take off. She moved to Nottingham station Trent FM and soon Century FM head-hunters recruited her for its evening show in the city.

Here she rekindled her love of music, with regular big name pop acts called in for ‘live lounge’ style acoustic sessions. Sally recalls being mesmerised when a young Amy Winehouse was called in to play an acoustic set at Century’s Nottingham studios.

“That had to be my highlight of my time there,” she said. “She was almost unknown at the time, but her voice was incredible, she was absolutely amazing.”

When Century decided to network its evening shows in 2005, Sally, who was soon to become a mum for the first time, moved to the BBC.

Her time at the corporation has seen her branch out in to television - many will be familiar with Sally as the weather presenter for BBC East Midlands Today or her Countryfile-style Sally Goes Wild series.

But now, she finds herself back in familiar territory, hosting the 10am until 1pm weekday talk show on BBC Radio Derby.

“Occasionally it can be tough,” she said about her latest role, “but nine times out of ten it’s just great fun.

“I’m being paid to talk for a living - how can that not be good!”

Now living in Somercotes with her husband and two boys aged seven and five, 38-year-old Sally’s tips to other aspiring broadcasters is to seize the moment.

“You have to grab the opportunities when they come along,” she said. “However scared you are you just have to say you will be fine and you have to hope for the best. If you are interested in broadcasting you need to know what area you want to go in and just get your name out there!”