Annie Mac’s new chapter: the cult DJ on hanging up her headphones for life as a novelist

·5-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

On the 30th July, the legendary DJ Annie Mac will broadcast the final episode of her BBC Radio One flagship show. The acclaimed audiophile and broadcaster has been a staple of the station for 17 years, bringing insightful interviews and spotlighting fresh new musical talent, as well as forging her own cult status as a DJ and impassioned spokesperson for the industry. It is, quite simply, the end of an era.

“Isn’t it?” she agrees, taking a breath. “God, I really need to get better at looking back and articulating just what it has meant to me over the years. No matter how tired you are, literally within 10 minutes of being on air without fail, you feel energised and uplifted. Spending two hours of your day listening to music has always felt like the greatest privilege to me.”

Music is, and always has been, an integral part of who Annie Mac is, but she is ready for a second act. Later this month, Mother, Mother her debut novel will be released, a project over two years in the making.

“It was something I've always wanted to do as a kid, but never really tried to take seriously until after turning 40,” she explains. “A milestone like that sort of forces you to look back, stop and regroup. I just knew that I wanted to try something new.”

She enrolled on a writing course and somehow squeezed her new passion in amongst a hectic lifestyle of her nightly radio show, DJ gigs and raising two kids with her husband – and fellow DJ – Toddla T (Thomas Mackenzie Bell). She was surprised and overwhelmed to find interest in the story and says she still can’t quite believe that, as of this month, she will be a published author.

“This may sound mad, but I still don't know whether it's any good or not," she laughs. "I think that's something I'm going have to learn how to make peace with - just that kind of constant lingering feeling of doubt around the whole thing. Will I ever let it go?”

Doubts aside, there is a palpable sense of excitement to Mac when she talks about writing. It feel as though it was almost her guilty pleasure, slipped in between a punishing work schedule, a beloved secret that she is clearly still enamoured with. She talks at length about character development and the notion of being led astray by one’s own narrative. Throughout it all, you realise that she is exactly the thing she is worried she may not be – a true writer.

The main crux of her novel is, as the title suggests, motherhood. The plot revolves around two central characters searching for their mothers and, for one, discovering what motherhood has meant for them – and possibly cost them. It may be no coincidence that Mac found this her central theme, after becoming a mother herself twice over.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it kind of crept in and became the main focus,” she explains. “It might be the fact that, when I turned 40, I looked back and realised that I had had two kids and really hadn’t come up for air. I had just pushed myself forward without ever stopping to think about what it all meant.”

Mac has cited one of the main reasons for stepping down from radio is, alongside her new career as a novelist and her burgeoning podcast Changes, the desire to spend more time with her children. She is anxious, however, for people to properly consider her position.

“I am very aware that people will say ‘oh you became a mum and you left your job’ and I do not think that is fair at all,” she explains. “Feminism is about making the right choice for you. Crucially, being a parent is about making hard choices that are right for your family, whether you are a mother or a father. Let’s not forget, this is also a choice that my husband has made. He left radio recently to spend more time with the kids too. It's important to say that it's not just a female thing, and it shouldn’t be.”

While Mac is preparing for her new season of Changes (dropping in September), recording a special miniseries podcast to celebrate the launch of Mother, Mother and “figuring out how the best way to write books” as she works on her second novel, she is keen to make sure that music is still a part of her life.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

“The world is opening up again and I am getting excited about a few DJ sets I have booked,” she says. “I think a few months down the line, without radio, I will be like ‘get me to Manchester for a Friday night gig now!”

Yet, there's no doubt that the buzz she's currently experiencing is the thrill of this new challenge. “I've honestly never felt so alive,” she admits. “It’s that idea of just jumping off the edge and not even knowing where you're going to land.”

‘Mother, Mother’ (Wildfire, £16.99) is published 27 May and available to pre-order now.


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