We challenge you to find anyone as bubbly and vivacious as the 40-something year old journalist, broadcaster and proud Brummie, Marverine Cole!
With a media career spanning nearly a quarter of a century (she doesn’t look old enough, right?), as a little girl, she dreamt of becoming a television news journalist after seeing Moira Stewart and Sir Trevor McDonald reading the news. She took the first few steps toward a broadcast career as a 22-year old DJ on Radio Lollipop, which was based at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Fast forward a couple of decades and her impressive CV now includes being a SKY TV anchor, BBC TV reporter and a presenter on popular home shopping channel, QVC. She has recently turned her sights to running her very own podcast, Quintessential Voices, a platform to celebrate women of colour.
Her journey fascinates us, and so we recently caught up with Marverine to find out more about her impressive media career and exciting new plans for the future.
“I researched and planned weekly features on Arts and Culture around the city. My boss was sympathetic (I was a secretary to a Commissioning Executive at BBC Pebble Mill at the time) and she allowed me a take long lunch breaks once a week so that I could meet my cameraman to film it. Then he’d take it back to the studio for editing, whilst I’d zoom back to work.”
She knew that her future beckoned toward a media career. However, she recognised that she needed much more experience to go for the roles that she wanted. Never one to shy away from grafting, Marverine rolled up her sleeves and embarked on a gruelling schedule that saw her working seven days a week for over a year to build up her live radio experience up even more.
Her hard work paid off when she was hired as a stand in presenter for a three-hour African-Caribbean show on Saturday nights at BBC Radio WM.
“I really enjoyed being a regular stand-in for that show. I enjoying the challenge, getting great feedback from the bosses and talking to them about my career direction made me realise that, if I wanted a career with longevity, I needed to become a qualified journalist. So I quit my day job at Cadburys, where I was the Executive PA to the MD of the African, India and the Middle East, to go back to University and study Broadcast Journalism.”
With more formal journalism training, including a BA (Hons) in Business Studies, Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism from Birmingham City University as well as BBC training in TV News and Radio Presentation, under her belt, Marverine enjoyed more high profile roles. A career highlight for her was anchoring Sky News.
“It was such a game-changer for me. It was a culture, and location shift, (the start of an eight-year period of spending at least three days a week working in London), as well as a skills shift for me which I achieved, despite others querying my abilities. At the time, people thought I was mad to leave the comfort of the BBC, where I was a TV Reporter at BBC Midlands Today and occasionally reading Breakfast News bulletins. There’s no training for becoming a National and International News Anchor for a rolling news channel. You just need to be fearless, be experienced in live broadcasting with open talkback and know what’s going on in the world 24-7, 365. I went from reporting news from an autocue in the West Midlands to breaking news, unscripted and with no autocue, about the Mumbai terror attacks, the Lehman Brothers bank collapse, political riots in Kenya.”
We have no illusions that it would have been extremely tough getting to the positions that she reached. What are her thoughts on the media trying to introduce better representation and how much has diversity on our screens improved?
“Over the last few, there’s been a move to get more women into news, on screen as experts, and more representation of disabled people, those with mental health issues and also LGBTQ people via casting them as contributors in factual and fact/entertainment shows. But when it comes to BAME women, I still think we’re largely missing from conversations in the mainstream, particularly in news and current affairs and factual programming; shows like consumer shows on the BBC and Channel 4, History, Science, Technology; subjects where authority and expertise are crucial.”
Perhaps to tip the balance toward making BAME women more visible, Marverine launched her podcast, Quintessential Voices, earlier this year. With her early love of radio still very much on her mind, good production equipment: a microphone, a home PC with editing software and decent-ish editing skills, she found that she was pretty much good to go.
“I wanted to do something fresh and non-limiting. I was keen to produce my own content, which was shaped by me, was true to me and my identity as a 40-something black woman, and was funny, entertaining and hopefully, inspired others. I was also listening to a whole load of other funny and interesting podcasts (like Tea and Biscuits, Melanin Millenials from the Shout Out Network).”
“Plus, it would give me the perfect excuse to catch up with old friends, revisit some of the incredible women I’ve interviewed in the past, and meet others who wanted to share their stories with my audience.”
Quintessential Voices will highlight the stories of women who are passionate about a particular issue or campaign and who are trying to instigate change in some way. And also women who’ve had fascinating careers or life journeys.
“Some will be famous names, some not. It’s not all about talking to celebrities, but I also realise that star names are a gateway to draw new listeners in. I’m doing all this whilst juggling my main career working as a freelance reporter for ITN, being a visiting lecturer in Broadcast Journalism and also starting my second postgraduate course of study! Not many hours in the day!”
So far, Marverine has interviewed singer, Laura Mvula, actress, Tameka Empson who plays Kim in BBC’s EastEnders, former beauty editor of Marie-Claire, Anita Bhagwandas and stand-up comic, Annette Fagon.
She’s quite the busy lady, so how does Marverine relax?
“I like to go to Pilates and Zumba classes every week. I’ve effectively been a sloth for the last few years, and it’s not good for me. I realise I need to be healthier so I’m getting off my butt and trying. I also enjoy watching TV dramas – UK and US ones – Billions, How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal, Humans.”
“Good food and beer, a night out with hubby. Plus I have a core of four incredible girlfriends who keep me sane. I live for our monthly meet-ups. Our whatsapp group is a sight to behold!”
Having recently joined the Melanmag.com team as a contributor, we asked Marverine what she thought about the importance of creating platforms such as this, and Quintessential Voices, to be in control of our own narrative?
“It’s massively important, There’s room for a wider range of views and narratives, and perspectives. Also, there’s a huge appetite for it now. We don’t all buy magazines or newspapers off the shelf. We want speed, the inspiration, the motivation, and reflection and the comfort and ease of the read or the listen – Melanmag.com and Quintessential Voices offers all of that in equal measure.”