Welcome to an exceptionally inspirational Wonderful Women.
This week I’m speaking to Lliana Bird, who is a broadcaster, writer and co-founder of Help Refugees. She can currently be heard on Radio X on the weekends and regularly blogs for Huffington Post. Her first book “The Mice Who Sings For Sex, and other Weird Tales from the World of Science” is coming out in October, based on her longstanding podcast ‘Geek Chic’s Weird Science’.
Last year she co-founded Help Refugees, a humanitarian organisation which now provides aid in 27 refugee camps across Europe. Lliana recently spearheaded Help Refugees #Refugenes campaign, aiming to challenge the cookie cutter image of refugees, with Ben Elton, Rita Ora, Jamie Cullum and many other leading lights coming together on a film to declare their refugee heritage.
Over to Lliana…
Describe a typical day for you?
Every day is completely different – Help Refugees has so many incredible supporters that the work is so varied. One day I’ll be running around filming a celeb for our #refugenes campaign, the next day I’ll be walking around the refugee camp in Calais sitting and talking with an unaccompanied child, the next day we’ll be in parliament discussing how to make sure refugee children get the help they need.
It’s truly varied and I’m very lucky to be able to do something so fulfilling that also helps others. Then of course on the weekends I’m chatting away and playing music on Radio X.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
Starting Help Refugees with my friends was, without a doubt, my greatest achievement to date. In less than a year we’ve gone from totally inexperienced women hoping to raise £1,000, to one of the leading forces in the refugee aid sector.
Our recent #Refugenes film was also a real labour of love for me and took nearly 9 months of hard work to complete, but seeing it trending now on twitter and everyone joining the conversation makes it all worth it – we hope it creates a shift in attitudes towards refugees.
And then, of course, I wrote my first book this year, ‘The Mice Who Sing For Sex’, which I can’t wait to see on the shelves in October. I wrote it with my friend Dr Jack – we’ve been doing a weird science podcast together for some years now and a book felt like the natural next step. Luckily our publisher Little Brown agreed!
I wrote it with my friend Dr Jack – we’ve been doing a weird science podcast together for some years now and a book felt like the natural next step. Luckily our publisher Little Brown agreed!
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
Right now? Way too much stuff. Everything and anything.
A laptop, bills, parking tickets, underwear, a toothbrush, coins, nail polish, a prescription, the book I’m reading…. if you were being polite you’d call me “scrappy”, if you were being honest you’d call me insanely messy. My friends used to joke that they’d find chicken bones under my bed (even though I’m vegetarian!).
I like to think I’m like Columbo…just a bit disorganised, but then I keep everything ordered in my brain to make up for it.
What are your ambitions in life?
My biggest ambition right now is to start a family – I’m very maternal and I’d definitely love to have a very small person follow me around for a few years.
I’d also really like to see Help Refugees get to a place where I knew it would continue for decades to come with or without me – to know that the good work we’ve been doing will continue indefinitely. I’d also like to write more books – I’ve started several children’s stories which I’d love to see published. And I’ve never presented a series on TV, despite lots of guest appearances – so I’d like to present a really good series of intriguing documentaries. In fact I’d really like someone to turn our book & weird science podcast (Geek Chic’s Weird Science) into a TV show, which Dr Jack and I could present.
In fact, I’d really like someone to turn our book & weird science podcast (Geek Chic’s Weird Science) into a TV show, which Dr Jack and I could present.
I’ve also written a short film called ‘Snapshots’ which I’d love to make properly – I had to put that on hold when Help Refugees kicked off…..and I used to do a lot of acting when I was younger, I’d definitely like to return to that and do a film some day. I sound hateful don’t I….like Veruca Salt “I want the world, I want the whole world!” – but if you don’t dream big then it’s never going to happen.
What advice do you know now you wish you did at the start of your career?
That you don’t have to choose to be just “one thing” – everyone always asks you “what do you want to be?” and I always felt scared to choose just one profession as I wanted to explore so many different avenues. I think that can be quite crippling to a young person – the feeling you have to pick what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.
Well, I’ve already had about 4 different careers and I have no plans to stop now either. I may be a “Jack of all trades, master of none”, but who said that Jack wasn’t having more fun?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
With a couple of kids, a dog, and a few more grey hairs. I hope I’ll still be writing, talking on the radio and continuing my work with Help Refugees.
What advice would you give a budding broadcaster?
These days you can create your own content so easily and start putting it out there so start writing a blog, start recording your own podcast, and try to get work experience at a place you’d love to work for – from there just make yourself indispensable (being able to make a really good cup of tea goes a long way!) and then when a job does come up they may just offer it to you. In the meantime keep on practising your craft – you’ll never stop learning!
And never give up hope – if you set your sights on something you’ll get there in the end.
Finally, happiness is…
A plate of pasta and cheese.
To find out more about Help Refugees’ #Refugenes campaign visit their website or search for #refugenes on twitter. @helprefugeesuk.
You can pre-order Lliana’s book ‘The Mice Who Sing For Sex’ here .
You can hear Lliana on Radio X on Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm
Follow Lliana on twitter @LlianaBird.
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