Posted on: Tuesday 14th February 2017Nicky Marr is a freelance writer, editor and event and conference host, based in Inverness but working all over Scotland. She is a regular contributor on BBC Radio Scotland, and is in demand for voiceover work across the UK. Nicky is also a respected media and presentation skills trainer, has a number of PR clients, and is a qualified coach.
Nicky writes and edits Connect, the magazine for Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, and writes a weekly column for the SPP newspaper group, for titles including The Inverness Courier, Ross-shire Journal and The Northern Scot. Away from work you'll find Nicky out on her bike, struggling with yoga or curled up with a good book and a (large) glass of wine. www.nickymarr.co.uk
Tell us a little bit about yourself ?
I'm Nicky Marr, and three years ago, after 13 years co-hosting MFR Breakfast, I left to launch my own freelance media and communications career.
The variety of my roles keeps me on my toes; I write a weekly column which is syndicated around six Scottish Provincial Press newspapers in the north of Scotland, and I write and edit Connect, the airport magazine for customers of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. I also pop up in Radio Scotland on a fairly regular basis, either on the Kaye Adams Show, with John Beattie, or reviewing for Janice Forsyth; I've also hosted the foodie Kitchen Café. In between times I host numerous events around Scotland; awards ceremonies, business conferences, industry dinners and food and drink, book or film festival events, and I am a voiceover artist too. And when I'm not doing any of that I get involved with training - I run media training courses to help individuals and organisations cope with TV and radio interviews, and I teach presentation skills, mainly 1-2-1, but with groups too. It's busy, but I have no regrets!
I grew up in Stonehaven and at 17 I went to Edinburgh University to study law. I was quite well behaved at school - I had to be, my Dad was head of biology there - but I didn't work nearly as hard as I could have. I watched how hard my own daughters worked for their Highers and felt quite ashamed. My first job was picking tatties at Barclays Farm near Laurencekirk - I was 10 and we were paid £6 per day - riches! I worked all though school; as a Cream Boy (!), in a hotel, and as a carer in a Children's Home. After my degree I took a year out between my Diploma in Legal Practice and my Traineeship to work a ski season, and after qualifying as a solicitor I spent five years as a Court of Session Civil Litigator. The highlight of my career was an adoption and custody case which ended up being appealed to the House of Lords; sitting in a court in the Palace of Westminster while some of the best legal brains in the country decided your client's fate was unforgettable. We won, but they changed the law on custody to close the loophole we had exploited. A move to the Highlands for my husband's job pretty well coincided with our children arriving, so I took a break from law for what I expected would be a couple of years. A chance meeting with another mum in the park led to the offer to stand in on MFR Breakfast for a week while one of the co-presenters was on holiday; that week on air lasted for 13 years.
Over the years at MFR I began to build up my other portfolio of work; the columns started because I was bursting to write about my experienced broadcasting for MFR from a Royal Navy warship in the Caribbean, and the event hosting started when I was asked to host a conference for Women in Business. As our daughters grew up and started primary, then secondary school, I expanded my workload to fill the available hours...I had a policy of saying 'yes' to anything that excited me, which led to some amazing opportunities. By autumn of 2013 I was getting too busy; I would be still hosting a dinner in posh frock and heels at 1am, but my alarm for MFR Breakfast was set to go at 4.30am. Something had to give, so I took the decision to go solo. Since then I have never worked harder, but I have never been happier, professionally. I am a strong believer in following my gut instinct - if a client or project feels right, it's likely to develop into a great working experience.
What are you passionate about?
I'm passionate about my bike; getting up into the hills above South Loch Ness or over to The Black Isle is one of the best ways to de-stress - and it makes me appreciate all the more the beautiful part of the world that I am proud to call home. I'm also passionate about good food and great wine, gins and whiskies. We are blessed with such a fantastic natural larder here in the Highlands; the fish, meat, vegetables, cheese and eggs we can source - without stepping foot in a supermarket - are second to none. I'm not a massive drinker, but sitting round the table to enjoy a well-prepared dinner and a few glasses with close friends and family is as good as life gets. And I'm passionate about my family. Our daughters have now both left home and are at Glasgow University. They couldn't be more different in personality and interests, but they are great friends and have regular sleepovers at each other's places. Receiving a photo of the pair of them tucked in together and grinning like fools is a sight that makes my heart glad.
Who inspires you?
My mum. She was a head teacher of a wee rural school in Aberdeenshire until she retired, and was regularly praised for the transformative way she communicated with pupils, parents and her staff. Latterly was asked to work with less successful schools in the region to help them raise their standards. She didn't just do her job well, she did it brilliantly. I was brought up to believe that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well. Mum is the embodiment of that. Even in retirement she's still going; running hill-walking groups, and out in all weathers checking and re-checking routes. Our fridge is covered in postcards from her adventurous holidays - to China, Mongolia, Peru, Antarctica, St Kilda and more. I hope I have half her energy at her age!
What advice would you give to the younger you?
To tell someone -anyone - I wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter. I grew up with a passion for TV and radio, but assumed everyone else did too. It didn't occur to me that an ordinary girl from an ordinary Scottish town could ever work in the media, so I didn't mention it. Because I was clever at school I was pushed towards law - if I hadn't been squeamish it might have been medicine or dentistry - those are the routes my brother and sister followed. The BBC were running apprenticeships then, but they didn't come with a degree, so that was off the table. I'd also tell myself to start a pension plan, and to stick with singing. And not to worry about being chucked - he wasn't right for me anyway.
What advice do you have for women who might want to get into broadcasting?
Volunteer for hospital radio and (and I hate to say this) move to Glasgow, Manchester or London. If you see a job you fancy that you are qualified for, go for it. Be keen, be tenacious. Turn up early for everything, volunteer for everything, and make yourself indispensable. There are fewer roles than ever before in radio; networking some shows among groups of commercial radio stations is cutting down the number of opportunities for new broadcasters to get on air, and even BBC opportunities are fewer with cutbacks. If broadcasting really is your passion, then go for it, but be prepared to work hard for little reward in order to get your breaks.
A woman that you admire and why?
Dame Sue Black, Professor of Forensic Anthropology and Anatomy at Dundee University. Sue was brought up in the Highlands and has become one of the foremost forensic anthropologists in the world. I interviewed her last spring for Connect Magazine and was struck by her drive and professionalism in a very difficult and sensitive area. She also has a wicked sense of humour, and is immensely good company. I got as far as checking out the necessary qualifications to apply to study under her, but I don't have Higher Biology.
Do you have any goals yet to be achieved?
I'd love to present Woman's Hour on Radio 4, and to take over from Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs. Beyond that a column in The Guardian would be nice, and then there's my novel...the one I haven't started yet!
And to finish......................
• Favourite film? Love Actually. I watch it and cry, even when it's not Christmas.
• Favourite book? The Book Thief; Markus Zusak
• Favourite song? Gladys Knight and the Pips: Midnight Train to Georgia
• Favourite place? Achmelvich Beach.