Margate Meets: Gemma Cairney

Gemma Cairney is a BBC broadcaster who has made award-winning documentaries and presents The Surgery Show on Radio 1. 

Since coming down to the coast, she has made metaphorical waves in Margate's nightlife with the introduction of her club night, Gem's Jams. She's one busy lady and has even found the time to write a book, 'Open, A Toolkit For How Magic & Messed Up Life Can Be'. I caught up with Gem to find out how she does it all!

What first brought you to Margate? 
My mate Amy moved here and I was seduced by it’s uniqueness instantly. I’ve never been to anywhere like Margate, it made me giddy and excited. I spend lots of time here, I also bop into London sometimes and if I’m really lucky, I run away to even further flung places sometimes too. I love to travel.

Your own experiences in life seem to have inspired the content for your book. Is writing something that you always planned on doing? 

Weirdly, I have always been writing ‘my book', it’s been a secret ambition forever. Although, I never thought I’d find the confidence to do it or that I would give myself the time to map out what it really was. I also never imagined I would find a team and publishers that would help make the dream a reality but once it did start to become reality, the idea and the momentum spiralled. 'Open' became clearer and clearer. After nearly a decade in broadcasting and working on specialist and diverse projects like documentaries about young abusive relationships, or travelling to the West Coast of Africa just after the Ebola crisis, or going around the country visiting schools to speak to young people about all the things that affect their every day lives, and having experienced heartbreak and low times in my own personal life, I felt like I had a lot to write about. I’m proud of the result. 

A lot of work must go into writing about life - that's a pretty big subject area! What kind of things have you written about in the book and how did you find the writing process? 

It’s important to point out that the book isn't just about my life; some of my life is in there, but so are excerpts from other people. There is expert advice and overviews from specific organisations on certain things that I needed to bolster my own understanding or experience of. I did find it a massive project, and at this point, just a few weeks before the book is out there and launched, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bit nervous about some of the personal stuff. There are sections where my heart is just out there, pulsating on a plate in literature form. 'Open' is divided into sections: Your Heart, Your Mind, Your Body & Soul, Your World & Your Future. It’s fair to say, it covers lots. From self-harm to OCD, infatuation to joyous love, friendship, family and periods - it’s a jam packed hardback with a ribbon in it, and it has a detailed index so that you don’t feel like you need to devour it from cover to cover straight away - so you can dip in and dip out in times of intrigue or need. 

What do you hope to get across to young people who read it? 

That it’s ok to be you, that we all make mistakes, and that life can be so many things. I also secretly believe it’s for everyone. I learnt so much from writing this book and I’m 31. I hope it acts as a friend and a resource on your bedside table to jump into and look something specific up. 

How are you launching the book? Will Margate see any of the action? 

I’ve got 3 book launches, gulp! One of them is part of Thanet POW! Festival; we’ll be doing a free panel chat at Turner Contemporary with some incredible published writers: Louise ‘O Neill, Emma Gannon, Hannah Whitton plus pioneer DJ and BBC Broadcaster Jamilla Walters. You can register for a free ticket here. We’ll be opening up about growing up and trying our damndest to achieve our dreams. Then, I’m holding a super exciting all ages gig, as a one off Gem’s Jams at Olby’s, with amazing singer Andreya Triana headlining and some local live acts that I found through the music charity Pie Factory Music. There'll be an indie rock band called Renegade and a rap and vocals duo called Poppy & Elijah. I'm so excited that younger people will be able to come to Gem’s Jams! There'll also be an afterparty with DJ’s from 11.30pm. There's so much going on! But plenty to appeal to different tastes I hope. 

What are you listening to at the moment? 

My listening habits are always all over the place - it’s never one genre or new or old, it’s always a bit of everything. I recently made documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of Erykah Badu’s debut album (Baduizm) for BBC 6 Music which took me right back to listening to all of her albums obsessively. 

What are your favourite things about Margate? 

The psychedelic skies, the tidal pool, the feral nights out dancing, the ideas, the sense of community and the endless tales of it’s fantastical past. 

You can preorder 'Open, A Toolkit For How Magic & Messed Up Life Can Be' here

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