Best known for being a DJ and Glastonbury aficionado, Jo Whiley also became a hero for completing her 26-hour treadmill challenge live on air in March. As her legs recover, she’s promoting the Let There Be Beer campaign. She reveals who she’s enjoyed a pint with, and why her kids are following in her showbiz footsteps
Who’s the most famous person you’ve had a beer with?
It’s probably Elbow. They did a show for us at Manchester Cathedral and it was one of the most wonderful concerts I’ve ever been to; they’ve got a really rock ‘n’ roll vicar there. At the end of it, we went to a pub and sat there until the wee small hours.
What’s the Let It Be Beer campaign all about?
It’s about encouraging people to drink beer, but also to look at the depth and variety of beers.
With the summer here, people are wanting a nice, cool, long drink, and we’re trying to get a message across that beer is a good option.
Why were you asked to get involved?
I think I’m well known for going to one or two festivals, and that’s a place where people drink a lot of beer.
It appealed to me because I’ve always had an association with pubs.
I grew up next to a pub, and I just really love the social aspect of pub life.
Do you think women are put off drinking beer because they think it looks unfeminine?
I don’t know... I think there are preconceptions that it’s a lads’ drink and that maybe puts them off. But I don’t think it matters what it looks like as long as you’re enjoying the drink, that’s the most important thing. Sometimes people think that beer is really calorific but it’s not, which is quite a revelation.
Which kind of beer would you suggest somebody should start with?
Being from a music background, I think they should look into the music-related beers out there.
Frank Turner has brought out his own, and Professor Green.
There’s a novelty factor in that – work out your musical tastes, and then drink accordingly.
Did you celebrate your treadmill challenge with a beer?
I had a whiskey at the end of it – two sips of it, and I thought, you know what, that’s not what I want.
What I really want is a nice, hot bath.
But I had to have a cold bath, which is the worst thing in the world. They’re absolutely awful.
Have your legs recovered yet?
No. I’m seeing a physiotherapist because my legs are not working properly.
Has that put you off doing more challenges in the future?
Nah, not at all. It was the most fantastic experience, and we raised a lot of money as well. I love sporting endeavours, so I’m looking for the next thing to do - once I’ve got my legs working properly.
You’re a keen swimmer aren’t you?
Yes, I’ve always been a swimmer. I’ve learnt to run over the past year and I really enjoy it, so the next thing I want to do is a half marathon and a sprint triathlon, which is a triathlon over a short distance. I want to incorporate some swimming and some running and I want to learn to cycle too.
Do you consider yourself to be an ambitious person?
No, I’m not ambitious. I just like life to be exciting, I like challenges and pushing myself.
And it’s sociable doing these challenges.
My family have got involved and I’ve met lots of new people who are doing similar sorts of things, and you get a wonderful sense of community and solidarity when you’re doing something like that.
Is there something career-wise that you have a burning desire to do?
I’m so lucky to be where I am now that I don’t have that desire - my only ambition is to still be on the radio in 20 years’ time. We’ve just celebrated 20 years of Britpop with Steve Lamacq and it’s been a lot of fun, and I’m doing the BBC’s Glastonbury coverage. If I can still do that 20 years down the line in a John Peel style, I will have had a great life and a great career.
Maybe we’ll speak again when you’re doing 40 years of Britpop...
Yeah, maybe! We’ll all be in a care home, with Liam to one side, Noel on the other and Damon just across the room!
Are any of your children interested in following in your footsteps?
It’s quite bizarre but your kids do gravitate to the same areas as you do. My daughter’s a photographer and she’s going out and shooting bands. One of my kids wants to be a drummer and has just won a competition, he’s really into music. Another one is obviously going to be working in films, maybe as an actor... They’re all interested in showbiz areas anyway, because it’s what they’ve grown up knowing.
What else do you have in the pipeline?
For the rest of the year, Radio 2 will be keeping me pretty busy and Glastonbury’s coming up. We’ve got a whole lot of fantastic In Concert gigs coming up for Radio 2.