Style & Substance: Arielle Free
Ahead of her hosting the main stage at Bestival, XWHY grabs a chat with DJ, Presenter and professional chatterbox Arielle Free.
Arielle Free is a woman with many talents and boundless energy. Whether it be rising early in the morning to keep the nations children entertained with singing dancing and funny face making, or introducing the likes of Nile Rodgers on the main stage of festivals, the Scottish fire cracker is never short of energy or something to say.
Having started her career as a ballet dancer, her natural love of music has since shaped her career. There aren’t many artist she hasn’t interviewed and not much that she doesn’t know about music, which is why she has recently been given an afternoon (3-6pm) DJ slot on the Ministry of Sound during the week to play out some of the finest Dance tracks around.
Having already hosted the West Holts stage at the glorious Glastonbury earlier this year, this weekend she will be heading down to the Isle of Wight to host the main stage of Bestival for Mr Rob Da Bank for the 6th time!
Name: Arielle Free
Location: London via Glasgow.
Occupation: Presenter/ DJ
Is it true that you starred in Harry Potter when you were younger?
Yep, I saw a poster looking for dancers to play the ‘Beauxbaton’s’ in the fourth film ‘Goblet of Fire.’ I crashed the audition nearly got cut in the first round but I had really loud red trousers on and as I walked out the door they shouted “Oi red trousers you can stay.” Got the job, filmed for nearly a year and still count some of my closest friends from that job over a decade later. (I was also the biggest Harry Potter fan at the time so I properly geeked out throughout filming)!
So you started off as a dancer, what was your favourite part of being a professional dancer?
I first trained in ballet and moved on to street and commercial dancing, I loved being a part of ‘ZooNation’ dance company and surprising people when I performed as they didn’t expect a short ginger ballet girl to be so good at street. I was also part of a dance troupe called ‘The Pleasurettes’ which was based on the old cheesy dance moves of ‘Pans People.’ We got to do some pretty amazing gigs and festivals and I can still do all the moves to our version of Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ without fault!
Dancing on Top of the Pops was a dream come true.
How did you make the move from dancer to presenter?
I had started to choreograph music videos for a lot of indie bands and one year went to Reading Festival, I was hanging out backstage and someone shoved a mic in my face and asked me to interview a band and the rest they say is history! It was a revelation! I’d accomplished pretty much everything I’d wanted to do as a dancer and becoming a presenter was the perfect job for me as I’m a huge music geek, broadcasting and talking about music all day, every day couldn’t be more suitable for me.
How old were you when you made the move down to London?
I was always quite impatient so I pretty much moved the minute I finished school. I got on a degree course at a Dance College in London, moved down at 18 and loved it!
I do remember the first few months being really hard, I’d been so blinded by the bright lights of London that the reality of leaving my mum, brother and sister in Scotland hadn’t quite crossed my mind. We are all really close and a tight unit, I remember trying to hide my tears from my mum as she got on the train back to Scotland. My grandma then passed away two months after I’d moved down and I was devastated at being so far away and being the only one in my family who wasn’t by her side to say goodbye. However I’ve been here for twelve years now and it was the best decision. I got a degree, have a achieved a lot of my goals, have made so many amazing friends and I wouldn’t be working as much as I am now if I’d stayed in Glasgow. There are very few broadcasting opportunities there although I do get to go back and work for BBC Scotland like I did this summer for the T in the Park coverage. My family loved it they were all having parties whilst watching the live show! They’re all crazy, especially my niece Poppy, I like to think she gets that from me!
Working on a kids programme like Scrambled do you find random kids start to follow you around the supermarket ?
Ha ha! I’ve had a few situations. Lots of kids squeal then go silent like they don’t know what to do and usually the parents have no idea so they usually think I’ve just been horrible to their kids.
Once I was on the tube and a little girl squealed and screamed “You’re in scrambled! Can I get your autograph!” the whole tube turned to look at me, I instantly turned lobster red, signed her napkin as that’s all we could find then ran off the tube!
Who were your heroes growing up?
Annie, Kate Bush, Lorraine Kelly.
So you’ve hosted stages at both Glastonbury and Bestival in the past so you can finally answer the question for us… what’s the best festival in the land?
Bestival. By a mile. They just manage to curate such an awesome, strong line up as well as perfectly create a magical world to escape for the entire weekend. They were the first to do a fancy dress day and each year seeing thousands of people raving away in a matching fancy dress theme is hilarious! The different areas, the hidden forest, the port stage which is actually an old ship, the random funny bookings like Mr Motivator and The Chuckle Brothers, the creative programming, the fact that it goes on until the sun rises and of course the world’s largest disco ball. I do love Glastonbury (apparently I was conceived there) but Bestival manages to smash it year on year, just look at this year’s line up. MISSY ELLIOT headlining. Enough said.
It’s always the last festival of the summer so it makes me nostalgic for all the amazing festivals and adventures I’ve had during the summer months.
You’re a busy bee. What’s it like balancing the different needs of being a children’s presenter, DJ and festival host?
I love it! If I’m not working I go crazy, and it all ties in together. On Scrambled I’m the music girl, with my Ministry of Sound radio show I get to geek out over new tracks releases, indulge with fellow music lovers and broadcast every single day. When I DJ I love figuring out which tracks really get people moving and raving and the live hosting is the closest thing I’ll ever get to being a rock star. There’s something quite magical about commanding the attention an audience of over 55,000 people.
You’ve met some pretty big stars in your time interviewing, but if you had to put together a gang, which ones would make the cut?
Lucy Rose is always a good laugh to interview, I’d team her with Friendly Fires, Fatboy Slim and David Bowie even though I’ve not interviewed him yet – that’s one for the bucket list.
You’re often complemented for the outfits you wear at awards shows. How would you describe your style?
My day to day style is rock inspired. I’m most comfortable in my leather biker and black skinny jeans and converse. I’ve always been on the grunge side of girlie but I do love getting dressed up and I have a rather large obsession with statement shoes especially high heels it comes from being a short arse. People have asked me in the past and the easiest way I’ve found to describe my style is “tailored grunge.”
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened during an interview/show?
An X factor winner (who shall remain nameless) made some comment about how we should breed to keep the ginger gene alive…I nearly vomited in his face. Safe to say his career didn’t last long.
Do you feel the opportunities for women in the media have changed for the better since your career began?
I feel like broadcasting stations and TV channels are more aware of being diverse which is brilliant. As a female in radio it is often thought that men are listened to more, I recently heard of a successful commercial station saying they wouldn’t hire any more women as they were the worst rated shows on the station. That made me rage, maybe it’s got nothing to do with being a women and everything to do with the time slot, or the playlist or the fact that someone with that attitude is running the whole show?
I look at radio now and what it used to be like and I do think it is much better. Also with online radio stations you have more freedom and more opportunities for woman to flourish and shine.
What would you like to say to the you from 10 years ago?
Stop caring about what other people think about you, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone.
If you could recommend one place in the world everyone should visit, where would it be?
Sicily, Italy, I’ve never been to such a beautiful part of the world which is steeped in old fashion values and manners. Even if it did harbour the Italian mafia! The steam train from Fort William to Mallaig in the Highlands is pretty breathtaking too, and that has nothing to with the fact the train journey is the one used in the Harry Potter films…
If you could design a man, what would your design entail?
Jim Morrison’s Hair, David Beckham’s face, the style and drinking skills of Don Draper and moves like Jagger.
What’s the best advice your parents ever gave you?
My mum is the best role model and inspiration. Every day she makes me want to work hard, succeed and live life to the max. She’s pretty badass.
Free the nipple or hide the nipple? Free by name Free by nature!
Kanye for President or Russell Brand for Prime Minister? Neither. I want Hilary Clinton for president.
Spots or Stripes ? Stripes always stripes.
Nike or Adidas? Argh! Nike for my running kit, Adidas for Superstars.
Picnic in the park or stroll along the beach? I like the sand between my toes.
Ariel or Sebastian ? Haha Ariel, being a mermaid is a life goal. Just NEVER pronounce my name as Ariel, it’s Arielle. AH-REE-ELLE. You’ve been warned.