Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur, Harpz Kaur! What a household name this presenter has become. Broadcasting from the heart of London, Harpz reaches over half a million listeners nationwide on the BBC Asian Network and is a proven example that with hard work and dedication you can achieve what you want, even if your path doesn’t seem as linear as others. With both of us conversing from the comforts of our loungewear the talented presenter, revealed to me that her successes today weren’t always plain sailing.
Born and bred in Huddersfield, Harpz was always an energetic personality and revealed that throughout school she “wasn’t the strongest when it comes to being academic”. Although she wasn’t theory orientated Harpz was “hyped up all the time” which allowed her to excel in more practical subjects. Coming from a South Asian background, this practical skill set didn’t necessarily align with what her family expected from her, which caused initial confusion for future Harpz. This is something that is often echoed for many young South Asian creatives. As she progressed through school her strength continued to lie in the arts and when she got to college was still unsure about what career path she wanted to pursue.
Outside of school and education she was always a “confident child when it came to home videos, filming myself, dancing around, being really loud”. Participating in dance performances and involvements in home town events allowed her to recognise that she was talented on stage. As the eldest the pressure was felt to advance more theory-based subjects in school, such as business studies, whilst working part time within the family business. It was actually Harpz’s Dad (Founder of the local Punjabi school) that reminded Harpz of Punjabi GCSE that was the final gateway to her desired college.
“My Punjabi GCSE saved my life in education; I would not have got into college”
Uncertainty about what to pursue remained with Harpz until her final year of school where she was drawn to Media Studies in TV and Radio Broadcast. Fighting against the grain, Harpz convinced her parents that this was what she wanted to do.
Throughout our conversation Harpz uncovered more about her frustration with what is considered the norm with regards to education. After graduating with a 2:2 from Leeds Trinity in 2011, Harpz is passionate about people recognising their own talent and skill set in their own way. There were many times that the hardships throughout university nearly catapulted her into quitting
“I never thought I would ever have that picture on the wall that every family had!”
Following conversations with her mentor, Harpz decided to go on to do a post-grad with the opportunities to “get out into the real world” and be a lot more practical. “It was really hard…but at the same time the best thing I did”. Harpz’s journalistic repertoire continued to widen and allowed her to encounter a variety of situations
Developing her resume and work experiences, Harpz delved into the world of news reporting.
She “hated it”.
With the cons of freelancing shifts claiming the forefront of Harpz’s experiences, she began to doubt her career choice. Showcasing her resilience, Harpz navigated a freelancer lifestyle from the ages of 21 to 24. She returned to Huddersfield with an extensive resume from her experience all around the UK.
A self-titled turning point for the presenter as she started volunteering for Fever radio (a Leeds community radio station). After being offered her own show, Harpz gained positivity and realised “how much I love radio”. Being offered her own show allowed creative direction on her own platform and Fever became the gateway to Harpz having her “light bulb moment” as a presenter. After cementing herself at Fever, the breakfast show presenter in the making began to utilise social media to create content.
“Now I’m going to hammer the hell out of social media. Why? Because it’s free, we’ve all got access to it”
When talking about her 6 years at Fever Harpz’s conversation become animated and joyous. A saving grace for her at the time, Harpz networked and connected with the likes of Jay Sean and Jazzy B and got herself into a range of press conferences and event.
“If you don’t use your initiative, it’s hard”
Her love for music fuelled her next move. Learning how to DJ.
Recognising the lack of Asian female DJ’s in the North Harpz put herself out there and “got booked left right and centre” for a range of events, including sangeets and birthdays. Another milestone for Harpz uplifted her once more and as a bonus was “making money from it”.
Beginning to release mixes and more content, Harpz got noticed by Nihal Arthanayake who was a radio DJ on Radio 1 at the time. Wanting to play her mix on his final show on the station, had Harpz questioning the legitimacy of his Twitter DM. It was the real Nihal…
A national broadcaster was playing Harpz’s mix! It became a catalyst to getting her noticed by even more people in the industry. Approached by the team for the Asian Media Awards for Outstanding Young Journalist of the Year, Harpz’s support network encouraged her to enter. Getting her entry in 15 minutes before the deadline (after much persuading) she got shortlisted to the final 4.
“It blew my mind that they considered someone like me to be in the final four”
The Asian Media Awards, was a magnet for the creative community and top tier talent. Taking her family along for the ceremony, had her soaking in who she was sin the same room at. Although she didn’t win the award, this award ceremony was about to become the biggest turning point of her career.
“You won’t know where your name is being bought up in certain conversations!”
With Nihal being a prominent media name in the room, he instigated an introduction. Having no idea of who she was speaking to Harpz received a card from the introduction and left with the knowledge that Nihal had put in more than just a good word for her. After returning to her family from this conversation, Harpz looked down at the card to see who she had just spoken to.
The Head of Programmes for the BBC Asian Network.
Even I felt the frenzy of emotion when Harpz revealed who this perfect stranger was. Admitting she still got goose bumps from reminiscing that moment, Harpz went on to reveal that he didn’t get into contact for months after their meeting. She reverted back to feelings of uncertainty and revealed her relapse into a “dark space”. The following March, the Asian Network offered her the opportunity to come to the New Broadcasting House in London for a meeting. Getting to know 26-year-old Harpz, she wowed enough to bag herself a demo recording in the studio.
Returning to the BBC to record her pilot, Harpz was consumed with illness and couldn’t deliver to her highest standard. Little did she know she had done more than enough. She left thinking that was the end of that.
August 2015, Harpz got a call whilst on holiday in Morocco from the network. There were offering her the Sunday Breakfast show on the Asian Network! Rendered speechless, it hit Harpz that all this hard work has finally paid off. Making her debut in December 2015, Harpz went on to progress to get Saturday and Sunday breakfast shows. Bliss.
Building her weekend breakfast presence, Harpz took over the weekday breakfast show. Her multi-tasking was pushed to the ultimate limit as the time slot came paired with her new life in London. It took just under a year for Harpz to adjust to being one of the main faces at the BBC Asian Network, but it has become what she is known for today. It is apparent how passionate Harpz is in her slot and how much pride she takes in putting “a smile on the nation’s face” first thing in the morning.
I am still baffled by Harpz’s energy source. From waking up at 4am to host her show in the week to committing to her content outside of the studio to hosting a morning Saturday show on CBBC, Harpz’s growth is admirable. She dances, she presents, she DJ’s and yet remains such a relatable soul. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the opportunities that are coming her way and the support she shows for other upcoming creatives is just commendable.