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The monthly Tea Break is a series of short, fun items in What's New Magazine that also gives jazz musicians and others an opportunity to update us with what they are doing.


Helen Mayhew - February 2017


Helen Mayhew


Those who listen to jazz on the radio will have different memories of Helen Mayhew's programmes. For many, her voice will always be associated with Dinner Jazz on Jazz FM. In 2016, still broadcasting with Jazz FM, Helen moved on to host True Brit each Thursday at 6.00 p.m. whilst also creating a new Friday night programme – Late Night Jazz from 10.00 p.m. to 2.00 a.m. Jazz FM Content Director Nick Pitts said: “Our new schedule gives our audience more of what they want. It’s great to be able to give Helen and Sarah Ward the opportunity to freely select the greatest music from their substantial collections with their new programmes.”

Helen’s broadcasting career began on pirate radio while at Exeter University and then with BBC Radio Devon and BBC Radio Kent, presenting and producing a wide range of programmes. She was one of the original presenters on Jazz FM when it began Helen Mayhew and Chris Barberbroadcasting in 1990, where she devised and presented the Dinner Jazz programme. It was broadcast on weekday evenings from 7.00 to 9.00 p.m. In 2004 she hosted programmes at BBC Radio 2 and 3 for Big Band Special and Jazz Line Up, and that September in 2004, she took over her own weekly show, which she described as "A chill-out zone with a difference featuring music perfect for dreaming away the small hours". This aired every Saturday night/Sunday morning from 1.00 to 4.00 a.m. Her time with Radio 2 ended in April 2006, and she made her final appearance on Radio 3 in February 2007.

Helen with bandleader Chris Barber



Helen joined ‘theJazz’ in April 2007 and was heard on Classic FM every Monday to Friday from 12 midnight to 2.00 a.m. presenting the now defunct Classic FM Jazz programme. Helen came back to the re-launched Jazz FM station in 2009 to co-present the Dinner Jazz programme once again with Sarah Ward.

Aside from her radio programmes, Helen is a familiar figure at jazz events and is a Vice President of the National Youth Jazz Collective, an organisation which provides top class mentoring and teaching for the country’s most outstanding young jazz musicians.

We caught up with her for a Tea Break.


Hi Helen, tea or coffee?

Double espresso please.


Milk and sugar?

No thank you.


Unheard Bird album

If you could interview any jazz musician, past or present, on one of your programmes, who would you invite?

Charlie Parker.

What would you ask him?

What’s the true story of what happened to those unreleased tracks that sat in the vaults for 64 years before coming to light last year on the album Unheard Bird?

[Click here for Marc Myers discussion of the album. Click on the picture for details].



Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?

All of them, thanks!


How do you find working until 2.00 am on a Friday evening / Saturday morning? It must be tiring?

Not really, the music is such a tonic, it’s a real buzz, so I don’t notice the time.


NYJC summer school


How are things going with the National Youth Jazz Collective?

The National Youth Jazz Collective is going from strength to strength, thanks largely to the tireless work of its founder Issie Barratt, and under the wise guidance of its president and figurehead, the great bassist Dave Holland. It’s providing top quality jazz teaching at workshops and events throughout the UK, and giving young jazz musicians the chance to meet and exchange ideas, and of course play jazz together. Auditions for the NYJC August 2017 summer school at Purcell School will be taking place soon, so if you know of any talented young jazz musicians who’d like to take part, send them to the NYJC website to apply and for more information [click here and click on the picture for a brief introductory video].



What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Well, apart from the NYJC summer school, things are shaping up nicely for the Cheltenham, Gateshead and Swanage jazz festivals, while the Love Supreme Festival has already got George Benson and Herbie Hancock in the lineup, so plenty of summer jazz fun to look forward to.


Is there anyone you heard recently that we should listen out for in the coming year?

There’s a host of great young musicians around at the moment, and there’s plenty of opportunities to hear them in action if you head to the free recitals given by most of the jazz conservatoires around the UK, and of course make sure you support their gigs in small venues around town. For example watch out for the Royal Academy of music’s student nights at London’s 606 Jazz Club. 


Another biscuit?

Two please.


[Click on the picture below to listen to Helen's My Jazz podcasts for 'theJazz' programme where she talks to personalities about their interest in jazz].


Helen Mayhew



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