Simon Mayo

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Simon Mayo
Simon mayo wittertainment.jpg
Birth name Simon Andrew Hicks Mayo[1]
Born (1958-09-21) 21 September 1958 (age 58)
Southgate, London, England, United Kingdom[2]
Show Simon Mayo Drivetime
Station(s) BBC Radio 2
Time slot 17:05–19:00 weekdays
Show Kermode and Mayo's Film Review
Station(s) BBC Radio 5 Live
Time slot 14:00–16:00 Fridays
Country United Kingdom
Website Simon Mayo Drivetime
Kermode and Mayo's Film Review

Simon Andrew Hicks Mayo (born 21 September 1958, Southgate, London) is an English radio presenter who has worked for BBC Radio since 1981. Mayo is the presenter of Simon Mayo Drivetime on BBC Radio 2 which he has done since 2010 and with Mark Kermode, presenter of Kermode and Mayo's Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live.

In 2008, Mayo was recognised as the "Radio Broadcaster of the Year" at the 34th annual Broadcasting Press Guild Awards[3] and the "Speech Broadcaster of the Year" at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, receiving the latter for his "ability to paint colourful pictures of location and event and his ability to bring the very best out of his guests, encouraging conversation and interaction between them while skilfully nudging and controlling them" and for being "a master of light and shade, handling serious and lighter issues with aplomb."[4]

Mayo is the author of several books, including the acclaimed "Itch" trilogy of thrillers for younger readers.[5]

Early life[edit]

Mayo's parents, Derek and Jill, were both school teachers. He attended St John's Primary School in Croydon, Surrey, the Arden School in Knowle (for one term), Solihull School,[6] an historic independent school in the West Midlands and Worthing High School in West Sussex which was then a state Grammar School for boys.[7] He graduated from the University of Warwick in 1980, with a degree in History and Politics.[8]

Early career[edit]

His mother had undertaken part-time work in radio, and having occasionally experienced it with her, Mayo had wanted to work as a studio manager. But as a result of a frequency deficiency in his left ear, he failed the required hearing test, and refocused his career on presenting.[9] Mayo spent some time honing his skills at Southlands Hospital Radio,[10] and then worked for five years as a presenter with BBC Radio Nottingham from 10.45am to 2pm, followed by Dennis McCarthy (radio presenter). With a Radio Nottingham colleague he developed a programme format called Globe Phone and sent it to Johnny Beerling, Head of Radio 1, who offered him a job.[11]

He joined BBC Radio 1 in 1986, presenting a two-hour Saturday evening show from 7.30–9.30pm. In October 1987 he progressed to the weekend early slots from 6.00am-8.00am and then became presenter of the weekday evening show in January 1988, which went out from 7.30pm-10.00pm. Five months later he was offered the Radio 1 breakfast show, regarded as the most prestigious presentation job in UK radio.[12][13]

The Radio 1 Breakfast Show[edit]

Mayo spent five years presenting The Radio 1 Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 1. Throughout his tenure on the breakfast show, Mayo was joined by news anchor Rod McKenzie and went through a series of sidekick weather girls, including Carol Dooley, Sybil Ruscoe, Jakki Brambles and Dianne Oxberry. The show's producer was Ric Blaxill who also made regular speaking contributions.

He started his first breakfast show by playing "Somewhere in My Heart" by Aztec Camera, which was preceded by a montage of previous breakfast show hosts and then Mayo himself saying 'It's me, Simon Mayo, good morning.'

The programme became known for various features, including On This Day In History, soundtracked by a looped version of George Michael's "I Want Your Sex", and the long-running cryptic game The Identik-Hit Quiz, where Mayo and his cohorts would 'act' a short scene which cryptically led listeners to the title of a hit song.

He also ran his Confessions feature where members of the public sought absolution for their (often frivolous or humorous) "sins", and it moved to a television series in later years. Mayo had already presented the dilemma show Scruples for BBC television, and had joined his BBC Radio 1 colleagues on the host roster for Top of the Pops.

Both On This Day In History and Confessions spawned spin-off books.

Due to frequent plays from Mayo[citation needed], several unlikely hit singles reached the UK charts, including "Kinky Boots" by Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman; "Donald Where's Yer Troosers?" by Andy Stewart; and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", sung and written by Eric Idle. For helping Monty Python have a hit with the latter 13 years after it first appeared on the soundtrack to The Life of Brian, Idle presented Mayo with a model bare foot, in the style of the animated version which used to end the opening titles to the TV show.

Mayo, like all of Radio 1's high-profile presenters of the time,[citation needed] would take his turn to spend a week in a coastal area of the UK during the Radio 1 Roadshows which occurred for three months of the summer. For a short while, he also presented an additional weekend show for the station on a Sunday afternoon and provisionally titled O Solomon Mayo – to cover for the absent Phillip Schofield, who was working in the West End.

Radio 1 mid-mornings[edit]

Mayo officially gave up the breakfast show in 1993, though he had been on an extended period of paternity leave when the announcement was made. His stand-in Mark Goodier was his replacement.

In addition to his mid-morning show, from April 1994 to October 1995, Mayo also presented Simon Mayo's Classic Years, where he got to play two hours of classic pop tunes. The show originally went out on a Sunday lunchtime from noon till 2pm, but in November 1994 went out from 10.00am till noon on Sundays.

In January 1997, Mayo made a brief return to the breakfast show for three weeks when Chris Evans was dismissed, but both Mayo and Radio 1 ruled out the possibilities of a permanent return to the programme. On his first morning as breakfast stand-in, Mayo read out an email from a man who had emigrated to New Zealand four years earlier and had arrived back in the UK that morning, and was "delighted to hear you're still doing the breakfast show".

In 1999 Simon Mayo broke a world record by broadcasting for 37 hours in aid of that year's Comic Relief.[14] This record was broken by Chris Moyles and Dave Vitty on 17 March 2011.[15][16]

Mayo remained on the mid-morning slot until he left Radio 1 in 2001, seeing breakfast-show presenters Mark Goodier, Steve Wright, Chris Evans, Mark and Lard, Kevin Greening, Zoë Ball and Sara Cox, come and go from the slot.

His final show was on Friday, 16 February 2001, and before signing off, he said: "One of the reasons I'm not going to do a DLT is that I've nothing to complain about at all – though as I'll still be employed by the BBC it'd be a stupid thing to do. I always thought as a kid working at Radio 1 would be the most fun and the best place for any presenter to work and I still think that's true."[17] His final track played on BBC Radio 1 was Ace of Spades by Motörhead.

Five Live[edit]

In May 2001, after 15 years with Radio 1, Mayo joined and moved on to another national BBC station, Radio Five Live to present an afternoon programme.

Mayo began broadcasting on Five Live every weekday from 1.00pm to 4.00pm, where he remained until 18 December 2009. He was on air in 2001 when the 9/11 attacks took place in the United States, broadcasting live as the events unfolded.

The programme generally combined topical debates, interviews and reviews. It came live from Westminster each Wednesday for live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions, with discussion and debate afterwards with political correspondents and MPs. The programme also featured Mayo's old Radio 1 sidekick Mark Kermode reviewing the new movie releases each Friday afternoon. The banter between Mayo and Kermode in this section of the programme was described by both men as "wittertainment at its most wittertaining." (The neologism wittertainment is a portmanteau of witter and entertainment, and was coined in a – now deleted – Wikipedia entry.[19] However, Kermode and Mayo took note of the article before its deletion and have since been using the term regularly to refer to their show.[20][21][22])

In a May 2008 interview with The Guardian, Mayo mentioned he "signed a contract for the next two years" and was uncertain whether he would still be at Five Live when it moves to City of Salford.[23] It was later confirmed that Mayo was to move to the Radio 2 drivetime slot, though he will also continue to host a weekly two-hour film review show on Radio 5 Live with Mark Kermode.[24]

In May 2009 Mayo and Kermode won a Gold Sony Radio Award in the Speech Award category, due to continued good work and passion for radio[25]

Radio 2[edit]

In addition to his daily programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, from October 2001 – April 2007, Mayo hosted the Album Chart show each week for BBC Radio 2. Alongside this, on 2 January 2006, he presented The Ultimate Music Year for the station, where listeners got the chance to vote for their favourite year for music. He has also presented many Sold on Song projects, presented the Top 100 Albums and provided holiday cover for Johnnie Walker on Sundays. From April 2007 – April 2008 Mayo took over the Radio 2 Music Club every Monday night from 11.30pm-12.30am.

In January 2010, Mayo took over from Chris Evans on the Drivetime show,[26] noting he was "very lucky to be given a second chance in such a high-profile slot."[18] The programme includes a number of regular daily features including a "Nigel's Recipes", "Confessions", "Homework Sucks" and "The Showstopper". Every Friday he hosts "All Request Friday" where listeners ring the show and have their favourite song played on the radio after a short interview.

As his opening theme Mayo has used a 2003 recording by Jools Holland and Prince Buster of the 1948 song "Enjoy Yourself" by Carl Sigman and by Herb Magidson. Later editions of the show have also used the popular 1950 hit version by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Incidental music includes "Light My Fire" by Edmundo Ros.

In May 2011, Mayo won a Sony Award for "Best Music Show" for his work and that of his team on the BBC Radio 2 drive time slot.[27]

Other work[edit]

Radio 4[edit]

Mayo presents Act Your Age, a panel game for BBC Radio 4, first broadcast on Radio 4 on 27 November 2008.[28]

Television projects[edit]

Starting in 1999 he was the original presenter of National Lottery game show Winning Lines on BBC1 until 2001 when he was replaced by Phillip Schofield

In 2005 he presented a series "The Big Dig" on BBC TV about allotments in the Rhondda Valley contrasted with others in Highgate, London.[29]

Mayo hosted a revival of the classic quiz show Blockbusters, which began airing on Challenge on 14 May 2012 until 3 August 2012..[30]

He was the announcer for the concert celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee on 4 June 2012.


Confessions, based on the hit feature from his BBC Radio 2 drivetime show,[31] was released in October 2011. The book is a compilation of the best confessions sent to the show by listeners.

Mayo's debut novel, Itch, was released on 1 March 2012. The titular protagonist is a fourteen-year-old boy who discovers a previously unknown chemical element.[32]

His second novel Itch Rocks was released in February 2013 [33] and the third instalment, Itchcraft, came out in September 2014.[34]

His first young adult novel, Blame, was published in July 2016.[35]

Radio credits[edit]

  • BBC Radio NottinghamThe Simon Mayo Show 1981–86
  • BBC Radio 1:
    • Saturday evenings 7.30–9.30pm 1986–87
    • Weekend early mornings 6-8am Late 1987
    • Monday-Thursday evenings 7.30pm-10.00pm January–May 1988
    • Breakfast Show 6.00am-9.00am May 1988 – September 1993
    • Mid Morning Show 9.00am-12.00 noon October 1993 – February 2001
  • BBC Radio 5 Live:
  • BBC Radio 2:
    • Album Chart Show Monday evenings 7.00pm-8.00pm October 2001 – April 2007
    • Music Club Monday nights/Tuesday mornings 11.30pm-12.30am April 2007 – April 2008
    • Drivetime Mon – Fri 5.00pm-7.00pm January 2010 – present
  • BBC Radio 4Act Your Age 6.30pm November–December 2008

Personal life[edit]

Mayo was educated at Solihull School, a boys' Independent school in the English West Midlands, and Worthing Sixth-Form College, West Sussex. He subsequently graduated from the University of Warwick, Coventry, with a degree in history and politics.[36] While at university, he was a presenter on the student radio station, Radio Warwick.[37] In 2005 the university awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters.[37]

Mayo married Hilary Bird, who had worked at Radio Nottingham since 1984 on Action Line,[38] on Saturday 11 October 1986 at St Helen's Church in Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire. They have three children: two sons and a daughter. He is a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur.[2] He lives in London.


  1. ^ "Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews Podcast 17th May 2013". BBC. 4 April 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "Simon Mayo Biography". BBC Radio 2. Archived from the original on 2 November 2007. 
  3. ^ "Double win for Andrew Marr in broadcasting press awards". Press Gazette. 4 April 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  4. ^ "The Speech Broadcaster of the Year". Sony Radio Academy Awards. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008. 
  5. ^ "Simon Mayo - Author". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  6. ^ Jardine, Cassandra (23 May 2008). "Award-winning Simon Mayo – smooth, with a gentle bite". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  7. ^ Daily Mail Weekend Interview. 23 June 2012, p.6
  8. ^ "Simon Mayo". Daily Mail. London. 
  9. ^ "School Report – Simon Mayo: BBC Radio 2 star interviewed by School Reporters". School Report. 
  10. ^ "Seaside Hospital Radio – History". Archived from the original on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  11. ^ Nottingham Evening Post, Saturday 3 June 2000
  12. ^ "Chris Moyles: Radio 1 saviour?". BBC News. 7 October 2003. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  13. ^ Hanks, Robert (6 January 2004). "Chris Moyles, The Radio 1 Breakfast Show". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 7 August 2009. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  14. ^ "Entertainment Record Red Nose Day". BBC News. 13 March 1999. Retrieved 26 April 2007. 
  15. ^ "BBC Radio 1 – The Chris Moyles Show – Radio 1 boss Andy presents Chris with a congratulatory cake as he passes the 37 hour mark!". BBC. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  16. ^ "BBC Radio 1 – The Chris Moyles Show – Simon Mayo joins Chris & Dave for the moment they break his record for Radio 1's Longest Show Ever – 37 hours!". BBC. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  17. ^ "Mayo's Radio 1 farewell". BBC News. 16 February 2001. Retrieved 26 January 2010. 
  18. ^ a b Gerard, Jasper (9 January 2010). "Simon Mayo on the move to Radio 2 and his new Telegraph column". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 10 January 2010. 
  19. ^ Fitzgerald, Brian. "Wittertainment". University of Limerick. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  20. ^ McCabe, Gordon (9 February 2007). "Wittertainment". McCabism. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  21. ^ Braithwaite, David. "Blog entry: Wittertainment's rules of cinema conduct". BBC. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  22. ^ "The Show's Twitter Account: @wittertainment". Twitter. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  23. ^ Pool, Hannah (29 May 2008). "Question time: Simon Mayo on why Five Live is criminally underrated". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  24. ^ Plunkett, John (15 September 2009). "Simon Mayo confirmed as Chris Evans's successor on BBC Radio 2". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 15 September 2009. 
  25. ^ "The Sony Radio Academy Awards". Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  26. ^ "Sir Terry to leave breakfast show". BBC News. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  27. ^ "Sony Awards 2011". Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  28. ^ "Act Your Age, Series 1". BBC Radio 4 Extra. 2015. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  29. ^ "Details of The Big Dig". Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. 
  30. ^ "Simon Mayo named as new host of Blockbusters remake". Metro. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  31. ^ "Confessions". Random House. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  32. ^ "Itch". Random House. 1 March 2012. Archived from the original on 31 May 2012. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  33. ^ "Itch Rocks". Random House. 28 February 2013. Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  34. ^ "ItchCraft". Random House. 11 September 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2015. 
  35. ^ Mayo, Simon (9 May 2016). "Simon Mayo tells us about his YA debut: Blame". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  36. ^ "University of Warwick 'Notable Alumni'". Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  37. ^ a b "Mayo to be made honorary doctor". BBC News. London. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 18 September 2015. 
  38. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (26 May 2011). "My first home: Simon Mayo". The Telegraph. Retrieved 19 April 2011. 

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