Pitching In: A conversation with Monki

 

Not everyone is lucky enough to make their passion a vocation, let alone two…

But it’s true when they say that hard work and dedication pay off — DJ, broadcaster and football ambassador Monki is proof of that. 

Many know Lucy Monkman, better known as Monki, for her long and fruitful DJ and radio career, but some might not know about her avid involvement in football, both as a player and as a voice for other women in the game.

While she’s built a career behind the decks and on the waves for BBC Radio 1, where she held a residency for six years, as well as launching her &Friends label as a space for rising talent and her own productions, she’s also made her mark on the sport industry over the last few years.

Alongside playing for Dulwich Hamlet FC, she stepped up as an ambassador for BT Sport and the Women’s Super League after the women’s world cup, while on the broadcasting side she’s hosted programmes with Peter Crouch and won the Best British Sports Podcast Awards this year. 

Following the release of her latest EP Queen Of Hearts on her own label, we spoke to her about balancing music and football, the similarities between opportunities for women in music and football and her hopes of helping to improve access to the game.

Hey Lucy, how’s the last year been for you? Personally and creatively? Seems like you’ve been keeping busy!

Yeah it’s been a really interesting one for sure. I think for a bunch of people it’s given us time for a lot of personal growth. I’ve always been so busy on the road for probably the last 8-10 years and that all suddenly came to a halt in March for everyone. So I’ve had to find other things to fill my time, which I’ve been really open to. I found it a great opportunity to give my mind and body an extended MOT. Concentrate on other things I enjoy like football. Get creative with new business ideas / potential opportunities. Done some online learning, spent time strengthening, took up running/cycling and read more. 2020 has been a massive learning experience, which at first was downplayed, then scary and now I see the challenges this year throws up as new opportunities.

You’ve been balancing your work in football and playing for Dulwich Hamlet FC with your work as a broadcaster and DJ, how has lockdown affected each of these vocations? Has it been easy managing both?

DJing has all but come to a firm stop at this stage, but with the odd socially distanced gig sportandically scheduled through the year and some online streams. Half way through the first lock down I realised that things were not going to come back as quick as we first thought. So to see your schedule disappear was a hard pill to swallow but luckily I had other avenues I could channel my energy into. Doing a radio show and live streams for Defected was one of them, it felt rewarding to pick up people’s spirits in these times. Another was football, I’ve always wanted to put more time into training outside of our team sessions; and the lockdowns put me in a position where I could. It’s been good managing both, almost better. I think I’ve learnt that maybe at times I was spinning so many plates at once, I almost didn’t stop to enjoy them as much as I should have. I thought it was my nature to always be on the go, but slowing down has been really enjoyable. It doesn’t mean I achieve less, I’m just more present in the now.

As well as playing for Dulwich, you’ve also stepped up as an ambassador for BT Sport and the Women’s Super League, how has the role been so far and what are you hoping to achieve within it?

Yeah I did that last year after the Women’s World Cup. It’s about spreading awareness of the women’s game, I was more than happy to spread the word. It’s something I’m passionate about. The Women’s Super League here in the UK is the most exciting place to play as a professional (I think!). I’ve always loved football since I was a little girl, but all my role models were men; because the womens game got no exposure, I didn’t even know women played football for premier league clubs at that age. So for me it’s all about putting these fantastic athletes in the spotlight and giving them the backing they deserve, to inspire future generations and to normalise women playing football so we can change some people’s bigoted and sexist views on the game.

You’re advocating for better opportunities for women entering the world of football, do you think there’s been more positive change since you first started playing? How would you like to see the landscape change in the future?

100%, there has been so much positive change. And the positive change reflects in the quality of football being played, you can see that clear as day with the influx of international players coming into the WSL and the Lionesses competing and winning in high stakes competitions. I’m really happy that Fifa have granted maternity protection for footballers now, I think there is still a lot to learn in terms of treating women and men footballers bodies differently. Our coach at DHFC is very open and wary of how training and playing may change around menstrual cycles, which is less common in lower leagues of the pyramid. So more awareness of women’s anatomy to prevent injuries and train/play better and safer I think is still really important. Also just as important is to create environments where players feel comfortable talking about these things!

Do you think there are similarities between the opportunities afforded to women in both music and football? 

Yeah I really do. I think there are lots of similarities you can draw between the two. When I was a teenager I used to ask myself why there weren’t many other young women in the music industry and I did actually naively come to the conclusion that… Maybe most girls just aren’t into flicking through records, they’d rather be out shopping or something and I was just a bit different… Obviously not the case. But that kind of stereotype is drilled into people at such a young age that we believe it to be true. And the same went for football at a young age too. Opportunities will never get given out equally if we’re putting people into boxes like that.

Congratulations on winning the Best British Sports Podcast Awards 2020, that’s amazing news. How did the idea for the podcast come about and what are your plans for it next year?

Thank you! Copa90 asked last year if I would be up for living in France for 5 weeks during the Women’s World Cup to host a daily podcast. It was a big project, a podcast every day for 32 days, reacting to what had happened in the tournament that day and the stories around the competition. I was of course up for it. It was their first podcast so I introduced them to Grape who are an amazing production team I’ve worked with in the past. And we got to work. Heath Pearce (Ex US national player) was the other host; and honestly, we just had so much fun. It was an experience I’ll never forget. The plan originally was to carry on the pod, but unfortunately a few things changed so we were unable too. Heath and I ended up being a great duo though, I hope to work with him again, he’s a top guy.

An amazing way to merge your passion for broadcasting and for football. Are there any projects in the works that will serve both football and music? We’re hearing talks of football punditry…

Haha people have asked me If I’d try going down this route. I think punditry is mainly for the ex professionals but I’m not against it if the right opportunity arises. I’m working on a project which I can’t really reveal yet but that I’m hoping will merge the two. So yeah, lot’s more exciting stuff to come from both worlds. 

What does 2021 hold? Anything in the pipeline that you’re excited about in both music and sport?

Yeah so a new podcast launching at the beginning of the year that takes a look at Electronic music culture and history, with a great team and brand behind it, more news on that soon. I have a few releases on the way in 2021 and who knows, maybe there might be a festival or two! That project I mentioned which I’m hoping to announce next year as well. Looking forward to it!

Follow Monki. Buy Monki’s latest release Queen Of Hearts.