Chiswick local Josephine Pembroke wanted to set up a platform that would give women a voice – and now the podcasting site is going from strength to strength
As I sit around the dinner table in Josephine Pembroke’s Chiswick home, the team at Radio Gorgeous tuck into some homemade soup ahead of their busy day. There’s an aura of earthiness and joy that oozes from both Pembroke and Donna Freed, one of the original ‘gorgeous’ women employed for the site.
Radio Gorgeous is the brainchild of Pembroke. Having created, styled and managed the eponymous 90s all-girl act club Pussies Galore, she is no stranger to putting her voice out there and championing what it means to be female. When she realised that women weren’t getting as much voice in the media, particularly in radio and TV, she started to think about ways in which she could change that.
Step in Radio Gorgeous, a podcasting site that was created for intelligent and vibrant women, where you will only hear the female voice – except when ‘man week’ comes around in November. It is focused on giving women a much-needed platform to talk. Now in its sixth year and with over 17,000 listens a month, they have over ten part-time staff creating podcasts for women by women.
It’s the glossy women’s magazine that you can listen to, and the one that holds no boundaries, telling you exactly what you want to hear. In this current climate, it’s perhaps no surprise that these are popular podcasts.
It’s exquisite, a cultural tsunami and it’s inspiring. It embodies the colour and vibrancy of what it means to be women
What is also not surprising is that the Radio Gorgeous headquarters on Chiswick High Road radiates everything they are about. With a full wall mural of Pembroke in Pussies Galore filling the space, a bright pink chaise longue and a resident cat, it screams glamour and female power. As Sarah Tucker, the wellbeing and travel podcaster, says: ‘It’s exquisite, a cultural tsunami and it’s inspiring. It embodies the colour and vibrancy of what it means to be women.’
It’s easy to be taken by the passion of Pembroke, Freed and Tucker as evidently it’s something they channel into all elements of their lives. As I arrive, they are infectiously excited by the latest development at Radio Gorgeous of a new podcasting app, and what strikes me immediately is the sense of normality and lack of rules. ‘It’s very organic how Radio Gorgeous happens, it’s not terribly planned,’ laughs Pembroke.
‘It is reflective of our audience. Our audience is ourselves, so whatever we are interested in, we can assume that they probably will be too. We are our own market.’ They go on to tell me that they want to remain different, original and not just become some big organisation owned by a man.
As I sit and chat with them, the constant growth of the project is clear. Having started its life as a radio station in Hammersmith, they later decided they didn’t need a studio. ‘When we started podcasts, no-one really knew what they were, but that has completely changed. It sort of exploded,’ says Freed. ‘I remember we were worried about not getting anyone to interview and now we have to turn people down because so many people want to be featured.’
A big development over the last year is that Radio Gorgeous now has sponsors, and they work with Sainsbury’s Magazine. ‘They contacted us and told us that they loved what we are doing, so asked us to do a recipe a month for them,’ says Pembroke. ‘They put a little mention for us on the page and it massively helps to promote the podcasts. We are also working with Henpicked, who are one of the top blogs in Britain.’
They’ve also started working with new erotica magazine, The Amorist by Rowan Pelling, as talking openly is important to them. ‘We do quite a few sexy podcasts, such as “How to use a vibrator” or “How to have a good orgasm”. We’re not shy about things like that,’ says Pembroke.
‘We want to make people feel relaxed about sex. We are confident about our sexuality and we want other women to feel comfortable about it too.’
It’s this idea of changing things up that is central. With a lot of radio stations focused on women finding a man or trying to fall pregnant, they wanted to discuss all entities of the identity of a woman.
‘We embrace women who don’t have children,’ says Pembroke. ‘There are so many channels for women to listen about their lives with children, and we’re an escape from that. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a part of our lives, but this is a means of escape.’ As Tucker adds: ‘It’s about regaining the individual sovereignty of the feminine.’
They insist they have nothing against men, and they talk about their husbands all the time, but this is very much a female thing. ‘We have that, but this is our escape. This changed my life,’ says Freed. ‘I only ever saw women like me at the school gate and then all of a sudden I started working here and I interviewed women doing all sorts of things – it’s a constant reminder of the diversity and brilliance of women. I’m always telling myself now that I can do anything. Success or failure is utterly irrelevant here.’
Aside from focusing on topics that women like to hear, the team also get inspiration from the local area. ‘Chiswick has been a massive inspiration for us and most of our guests on Radio Gorgeous are local. I often interview people on the river – I use the area for my interviews and to help inspire them,’ says Pembroke.
‘Donna has got a lot of her interviewees by going to the hairdresser here!’ It’s always inspiring to hear of people in the local area who are pushing the boundaries of the everyday, and this story is particularly heartening. The podcasts are hilarious, so if you need a bit of an escape today, give one a listen.