Louise Hulland is a Sony Award winning journalist, presenter and documentary maker. Her role as a top journalist has taken her across the UK and abroad but she always looks forward to coming back home to her hometown of Burnley.
Louise can be seen reporting for Watchdog (BBC One), Inside Out (BBC One) and is a regular presenter on BBC London 94.9, BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Previously Louise has reported for Watchdog Daily on BBC One, ITV London News for ITV1, and Live with Gabby on Channel 5. She also regularly hosts FYI bulletins for ITV2.
Louise kindly agreed to be interviewed for the Burnley Magazine about her home town and her life growing up here.
What are your fondest memories of living and growing up in Burnley?
I am so proud to come from Burnley – it’s a lovely town with brilliant people. In fact I’m so passionate about it, my old flatmate Rachael always referred to me as Audrey Hepburnley, which has stuck ever since.
My earliest memory is of my first home in Ightenhill on Wellfield Drive – which back then was a very new development. Our house was near fields which had horses in, and my dad would take me every morning to feed them carrots and apples. I became somewhat obsessed, I’m told, and I’ve had a love of horses ever since.
One memory that always brings a lump to my throat is actually quite odd for a 6-year-old!! Playing in the empty corridors of the Girls’ High School on Kiddrow Lane, before and after it became part of Habergham High where my dad was a teacher! My mum would take me to see him after the last bell rang and I would “help him work” in his little office crammed full of history books and papers. My brother and I would race each other in the corridors, and it had a very distinctive smell which I can recall to this day.
I was quite an accident prone kid, and my parents joked they had their own parking space at Burnley General, but in all seriousness, a lot of my early childhood was spent there, at Kiddrow Lane Health Centre and getting my eyes “mended” with Mrs Walker at the St Nicholas Health Centre on Saunder Bank and I am very grateful for the NHS workers in Burnley!
Our house was near fields which had horses in, and my dad would take me every morning to feed them carrots and apples.
As I got older my memories of Burnley centre around weekend shopping trips with my mum – I remember Tammy Girl and Top Shop opening!! – and for some reason I never forget the pigeons at the fountain in the square! I remember the smell of the market like it was yesterday – the fish stall especially – and I remember my mum getting all her sewing supplies from a little stall in there. Going to the Mechanics was always a massive treat, and when Pizza Hut opened it was the most exciting thing ever!
I always loved visiting Gawthorpe Hall, I actually became friends with a lad at University who was part of the Kaye-Shuttleworth family -it was hilarious to share our very different experiences of that lovely estate!
By the time I was a teenager, I had a Saturday job at Dorothy Perkins and had almost nightly classes at the wonderful Burnley Dance Centre run by Paula Scales who I’m still in touch with, and I was also in a few productions with Burnley Youth Theatre which was a very special time.
When I moved back home after uni I did Hospital Radio at Burnley General and that was great fun – though I remember being terrified every time I had to go to the bathroom, as the studio was tucked away in an old part of the building and my imagination would run wild…..
I’m very lucky to have had such a safe and happy childhood.
Where are your favourite places in and around Burnley?
This is going to sound pretty daft, but I’ve always loved Manchester Road Station!! Not so much when I’m leaving, but trundling across from York on my way home from Durham University made me so happy – and even now whenever my train pulls into the platform I feel completely settled and like all is right with the world. I’ve spent my entire life wondering why the station was just a little platform and why it never had its own proper station building….. now it does, and one of my Burnley Twitter friends actually sent me a picture of the new site the day it was opened. It is tragic how excited I was.
As I went to school in Clitheroe I’m a big fan of Pendle Hill and the Pendle Witches story, so I love the drive from the Burnley side into the Ribble Valley.
No trip home is complete without a visit to Boundary Mill. I used to moan SO MUCH when we were dragged around as kids, and now the second I get home, my mum knows she has to take me.
I love the walk down Manchester Road – down past the Mechanics – but especially past the Burnley Express! I managed to get work experience there as a teenager, which was a huge stepping stone in allowing me to follow my dream.
I have always been enthralled with the Weavers’ Triangle, and when I see it now it genuinely blows my mind. Just incredible.
Did you go to school and college in Burnley?
I didn’t go to school in Burnley, but all my hobbies were based in the town – like my classes at Burnley Dance Centre, and being in shows at Burnley Youth Theatre. Those experiences were SO important in terms of building my confidence and making me step outside my comfort zone – and are interests I’ve carried with me my whole life.
Your career has meant a move away from Burnley, but could you see yourself moving back at some point in the future?
I have this debate with myself every time I come home to Lancashire!! I think it’s really healthy to move away from where you grew up and experience other things as it makes you love what you leave behind so much more. At the moment, visits back to East Lancs is how I escape from the pressures of London and a very busy career. It’s where I come when I need to de-stress and clear my head and get grounded again, so regular visits are crucial. In terms of moving back, never say never!! With so much of the national media on our doorstep in Salford, it’s a brilliant place to be based. I’m very jealous of the next generation of broadcasters who don’t need to leave the area – I wish it had been an option 15 years ago!
When you come home to visit, do you notice the transformations which are underway in the town?
Seeing Burnley now – after living away and coming home with fresh eyes – is incredible. Sometimes I get a little nervous I will get lost, or lose precious memories as so much has changed – but to see the work of so many dedicated and passionate people determined to put Burnley on the map is inspiring.
With so much of the national media on our doorstep in Salford, it’s a brilliant place to be based.
What made you choose journalism as a career? And what tips would you give to anyone looking to pursue a career in journalism?
I always wanted to be a journalist, from the age of 8 years old. I remember being glued to the TV show Press Gang, and my mum explaining to me what a journalist did – and I was hooked. I wanted to be a journalist for so many reasons, and they all stand today. Giving people who have no voice a chance to be heard. Exposing wrong doing and injustice – and in terms of the radio side of my career, being the best company you can be to the many people who rely on radio presenters to get them through the day and night.
In terms of advice, the broadcasting industry has changed so much in the last decade thanks to YouTube, podcasts, blogs, vlogs and kids growing up with a camera and editing equipment on their phones means that there are many more ways to “be” a journalist or broadcaster now – but the fundamentals remain the same.
Don’t think you can do it on your own. Get experience, work hard, and have ideas. You need to get a very thick skin and learn the fine art of laughing off pointless rejection but also absorbing the constructive criticism.
Do it for love, and not the money.
I’ve always loved Manchester Road Station… trundling across from York on my way home from Durham University made me so happy
And, it should go without saying, you have to be 100% sure of your story. Remember that you can’t be “half-right”. You have a responsibility to your subject and reader to get your facts absolutely correct, which in this age of digital I fear can be overlooked. Alastair Campbell once said in an interview that there is a phrase that’s crept into journalism of late… “this story, if true…” It’s our job to find out if something is true or not, otherwise what’s the point?!
Most importantly, it’s crucial to be able to relate to people, and to communicate with everyone in all walks of life – and I 100% credit my Burnley roots with being able to do that.
If given the opportunity would you like to present a programme showcasing Burnley’s assets?
It’s hilarious you should ask this. I actually have a fully formed documentary about Burnley in my head which I am desperate to make! There is a very important man in the BBC called Peter Salmon, who is from Burnley and therefore a big inspiration for me. We have had a lovely email exchange, but my goal is to meet him and tell him about my idea face to face. I plan on tapping up Alastair Campbell who has always been very kind to me, mainly because I’m from Burnley I think…. I am also formulating a plan to see if I can get Prince Charles in it as well.
If the future King of England sees what is so special about our little town, then the rest of the nation should find out too.
You must have worked with quite a few well known celebs during your career so far and have some interesting stories. Our readers would love to hear about some of your most interesting encounters with the celebs along the way.
I’ve been so lucky being able to work with, meet and interview some amazing people.
Working as a young reporter and producer at Radio 1 and Radio 2 has meant I’ve been able to learn from some of the biggest names in broadcasting, like the late, great Sir Terry Wogan and Steve Wright. Steve in particular has been amazing to me – he still keeps in touch and is kind enough to give me feedback on my radio shows!! I do a lot of work at ITN and Alastair Stewart is a lovely man who I always have a giggle with!
As a showbiz reporter in commercial radio, I got to interview some truly massive names like Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Kylie Minogue, Dame Julie Andrews and Simon Cowell. That was an amazing job to have as a 24 year old, and I can’t quite believe I got to do that. It’s a fascinating experience, figuring out when you get about ten minutes with someone which of the stars are genuinely lovely, which ones are just having a bad day, and which ones I never want to meet again!. I think, as a generalisation, the bigger the star the more of a class act they are. Michael Douglas and Julie Andrews were beyond delightful – I think they know that most “kids” who are sent to interview them will be slightly overwhelmed and they really understand the gravitas they have, so are very quick to put you at ease.
I got to meet Don McLean when I was a producer at Radio 2, and that was quite emotional for me as his song, Vincent, was the funeral song for one of my close friends. I’d mentioned how important that song was to me to his manager whilst we were setting up his visit, and even that we had one of the lines engraved in my friend’s memorial bench. I was flabbergasted when I finally met Don at the Radio Theatre and he knew the whole story, told me how touched he was that the song was so important to our group of friends – and then sang it live on the show. Needless to say I was an utter wreck by the end of it.
The not-so-nice stars I shall keep quiet about!
I have a fully formed documentary about Burnley in my head… There is a very important man in the BBC called Peter Salmon, who is from Burnley… my goal is to meet him and tell him about my idea face to face. I plan on tapping up Alastair Campbell who has always been very kind to me, mainly because I’m from Burnley I think…. I am also formulating a plan to see if I can get Prince Charles in it as well