A Portrait of Janice Long

A portrait of Janice Long is currently on display as part of the First Women exhibition currently showing at the Laidlaw Music Centre and Wardlaw Museum, University of St Andrews. the first woman to host her own daily show on BBC Radio 1 and first woman to present Top of the Pops, Janice has been described by many as a “Trailblazer” for women in broadcasting. This description comes not only because of these achievements but also in how, throughout her career she has paved the way for women to become influential in the music scene.

Janice Long ©Anita Corbin

Beginning her career on BBC Radio Merseyside in Liverpool in 1979 Janice featured the local music scene in Liverpool on her show Streetlife, championing emerging bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Following an interview she carried out with fellow DJ Paul Gambuccini she was recommended to BBC Radio 1 and by 1982 had her own show on Saturday evening. She quickly moved to a regular Monday – Thursday show from 1984 therefore becoming the first woman to host a daily show on the station. Along with fellow DJ John Peel, Janice became seminal in helping to promote new talent and was influential in helping new artists with their breaks in the music business. Artists like The Charlatans and later Amy Winehouse and Adele benefited from support from Janice in their early careers. With her infectiously warm and friendly outlook Janice was able to find emerging talent and set them up with sessions before many other DJs had heard them and in doing so became a mentor for many artists throughout her years as a broadcaster.

Following her earlier work on Radio 1 Janice moved on to set up other radio shows and stations including Crash FM in her native Liverpool and latterly was hosting a show on BBC Radio Wales. Her presence during many unforgettable moments throughout the history of pop and rock music throughout her life has been remembered by so many people. She was on the pitch with Midge Ure at Wembley Stadium when the Live Aid event was announced, she was also a judge for the Mercury Music Prize and a patron of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts founded by Sir Paul McCartney.

Fellow DJs such as Jo Whiley credit Janice as a trailblazer – paving the way for women to forge careers in broadcasting. As a teenager in the 1980s I will always remember listening to Janice’s show in the evenings and hearing her interviewing current and emerging artists – many of whom along with myself were really shocked and saddened to hear of her untimely death on Christmas Day 2021. Following the news that she had passed away after a short illness musicians and broadcasters flocked to social media to share their condolences with Janice’s family. Always remembered by so many as a funny, approachable and warm person she is a dreadful loss to the world of broadcasting and I will always be grateful to her for introducing me to fantastic music and artists whom I still enjoy travelling to see live today.

Janice Long in the Studio 1980s ©BBC Photo Library

When speaking to Photographer Anita Corbin during the installation at the Wardlaw Museum, she spoke warmly of Janice and of how she was so supportive of the exhibition and came along to open the show when it ran in St George’s Hall, Liverpool in June 2019. Following Janice’s untimely death last year an interview was published that she had given the First Women team during 2019. There she speaks openly and honestly about being a woman in the male dominated world of music and broadcasting. What strikes me most about Janice, and I think this is why she’s been such a role model for me, is that she didn’t ever feel the need to play down her feminine qualities in order to be influential and successful. In the 1980s feminine qualities such as empathy and gentleness were seen weaknesses holding back women from succeeding. Janice was always her true self and that is what made her unique at the time and a fabulous role model for women.

Janice Long presenting Top of the Pops ©BBC Photo Library

I had really hoped when this exhibition was being planned for the University of St Andrews that Janice might come and visit perhaps giving a talk and I could have told her this in person. Sadly that won’t come to pass but I hope this is a fitting tribute to her from a lifelong fan.

First Women UK by Anita Corbin.100 Portraits of 100 First Women to celebrate 100 years of women’s right to vote, created by photographer Anita Corbin over a decade and launched in 2018.

Cathy Cruickshank is the Retail and Operations Officer for Museums at the University of St Andrews and a lifelong fan of awesome music thanks to Janice Long.