Gay Radio 1 DJ reveals childhood bullies were among the first to congratulate him for joining the BBC

Dean McCullough presenting on BBC Radio 1

When Gaydio DJ Dean McCullough revealed he was to join BBC Radio 1 over the Christmas and New Year’s period, he was showered with love and support from family and friends – but one reaction in particular was “bittersweet”.

McCullough will be known to many radio listeners as the presenter of Gaydio’s breakfast show – but this year, he finally achieved one of his biggest dreams when he won a slot on BBC Radio 1 as part of the station’s Christmas line-up.

The 28-year-old, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, applied to host a slot on BBC Radio 1 along with thousands of others, he tells PinkNews.

“I didn’t think I’d get it because I listened to my demo so much after I sent it that I hated it. So I couldn’t believe it when I got shortlisted, even getting that far was an achievement for me,” McCullough says.

One day, while watching Homes Under the Hammer, McCullough received a call from Aled Jones, the head of BBC Radio 1, telling him that he had been successful in his application. He burst into tears when he got the news.

After sharing the news on Instagram he received a flood of supportive messages, and was surprised to see his childhood bullies, who targeted him because of his sexuality, commenting and offering their congratulations.

“I’m glad they reached out,” McCullough says. “We go through life reliving trauma until we set it free and I was able to set a lot of that bullying free because of this. I had closure from boys who really did make my life hell for being gay. It’s one of those things you think you’re never going to make quiet in your head, but because of this I feel a lot lighter”.

Dean McCullough BBC Radio 1

Dean McCullough was selected to present on BBC Radio 1 this Christmas season. (BBC/Provided)

McCullough will be covering for Clara Amfo on 30 and 31 December, blasting tunes from 10am until 2pm.

He is determined to make sure his slot can help bring people through what will undoubtedly be a difficult holiday season. McCullough has spent Christmases alone in the past while on the panto circuit, and he knows it can be tough.

“This year, I’m fully aware of how important radio is, more than ever,” he says. “If you need company and a good laugh, come and listen to me scramble about trying to push the right buttons and talk in between songs. Pour your favourite drink and escape in the music for a while. I promise, I’m here for you if you’re alone this Christmas. I’ve got you.”

On his Gaydio show, LGBT+ pride permeates every minute of airtime – and he hopes to bring a flavour of that to BBC Radio 1 this Christmas season.

“Coming from hosting Gaydio Breakfast, everyday is Pride for me. We get to talk about LGBT+ stuff that you won’t necessarily hear about in mainstream news. I hope I can inject a bit of that into all the work that I do as I’ve been very lucky to champion our community and really understand it – visibility is important in the fight for equality.”

He is proud to be bringing LGBT+ representation to BBC Radio 1 this Christmas, and says he is excited to serve alongside a diverse group of people.

“It’s important to have reflections of all parts of society on the radio and as you can see, Radio 1 have nailed it with this Christmas line-up,” he says. “It’s important to have a relatable voice on the radio. A friend who understands you.”

Like most people, McCullough is looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020 and welcoming in a new year – and he is excited to do so on the airwaves.

“We’re going out strong. We don’t need to look back on 2020, we aren’t going that way. I’m on from 10am-2pm on New Year’s Eve and it’s the perfect time to get the good vibes flowing with incredible Radio 1 anthems. We are going to celebrate the small wins we’ve achieved this year. Set our goals for the new year and have plenty of craic. I’ve got some amazing tunes to play you!”