“I think 2020 showed us how important radio is. It’s that human connection and companionship,” says Jaguar Bingham, who sounds just as warm and friendly as she does when presenting for the BBC. “We’ve all felt disconnected for nearly 12 months now, and knowing there’s someone out there broadcasting to you, sharing music or knowledge with you, is extremely comforting.”
For almost a year now, the effervescent Jaguar has been one of those people beaming musical positivity, escapism and good vibes down the airwaves and into people’s homes. Her BBC Introducing Dance show has a specific focus on new music, and she’s managed to make a real mark in the last 12 months, despite difficult circumstances. “I’ve recorded every show from my bedroom, with my producer down the line on Zoom, with a Radio 1 mic muff I had from my time as an intern when I was 19 back in 2014!” she tells DJ Mag.
Although she admits January “really dragged”, Jaguar says knowing she has a platform for emerging artists on national radio has given her real motivation this last year. Musically, she says progressive and emotive stuff from people like Tibasko and Tommy Farrow, atmospheric vibes from TSHA, Kilig and Jasper Tygner, plus breaks and “a solid UKG/hardcore resurgence from people like Bailey Ibbs, Anz and Denham Audio” have all been big in the last 12 months.
As we speak, Jaguar is in the middle of packing and unpacking boxes for a move from North to East London. In the meantime, she spent much of 2020 at her girlfriend’s family’s house in Gloucestershire. “I was so grateful to be able to take time out from London and have a more wholesome life in the countryside,” she says. She also spent time back where she grew up, on the tiny island of Alderney in the Channel Islands. With a population of around 2,000 people, it’s famously safe and “has some of the best beaches in the UK”. Her parents moved there when Jaguar was nine months old, and she talks fondly of her childhood years spent exploring the island and visiting the beaches before being sent to boarding school in Hampshire aged 10.
By then, she was already interested in music and would download her older brother’s music — Timbaland, Chemical Brothers, Kanye West, but also pop like Destiny’s Child, Gwen Stefani and Black Eyed Peas. Around this time, radio was mainly background music or a fun but “cherished” soundtrack to car trips with her mum. Once at school and trying to bed down at night in lonely dorms, music became a solace and an escape. “I was glued to my iPod and was always the one introducing my mates at school to new artists, making playlists and collecting music. I loved the companionship of radio, like listening to a friend who has all this cool music to share with you. You really feel like you know the hosts of these shows, and they provide so much comfort. I really hope that’s what people get out of my shows, too.”
Back home on Alderney between school terms, Jaguar spent much of her teenage years at raves in the old German war bunkers that are dotted around the island. It was here that she heard more electronic sounds and fell in love with loud soundsystems. “I would always be searching on the internet as a teenager,” she says, before revealing that discovering Grimes’ ‘Visions’ album “was kinda a gateway into electronic music”. University then took Jaguar to Leeds, where the city’s bustling underground scene fully subsumed her.
It was also in Leeds where she first got properly involved with radio by hosting a show on the local student station before getting an internship at BBC Radio 1 in 2014. She spent two months working on Annie Mac’s show and at 1Xtra, picking up all the skills she would one day need to host her own show. She also threw her own club-nights in Leeds and won two Student Radio Awards in 2016 for her work on the mic. “It was an amazing night and felt like I’d won an Oscar,” she beams. “And the Radio 1 internship was a huge turning-point in my life and made me realise I had to pursue radio and that I wanted to go back to the BBC one day as a presenter.”