Clara Amfo

Broadcaster, DJ, and all-round creative powerhouse, Clara Amfo, is one of the entertainment industry’s most revered personalities.

In most situations, you wouldn’t attribute the word ‘revered’ to just anyone, but in the case of London’s Clara Amfo, she’s certainly earned it. From humble beginnings as a marketing intern at Kiss FM to earning a spot at BBC Radio 1Xtra; Amfo has paved her way in the industry without any nepotistic ties. Just an excellent work ethic instilled by her Ghanaian parents. It’s this authentic attitude, genuinely kind demeanour, and burning passion for music which cemented her name in the broadcast industry throughout the 2010s. With spots on Radio 1’s Official Charts, the coveted Live Lounge, and then as captain of the flagship Future Sounds show until March of this year, the creative has built her audience and honed her craft.

Clara also found the time to start the This City podcast, host numerous film premieres, appear on Strictly Come Dancing, and dazzle audiences with presenting roles from annual Glastonbury Festival coverage to The BRITS in March. No matter what she does or who she speaks to, Amfo has consistently displayed an unwavering sense of positivity and energy when approaching her work. It’s a joy to see this on display when interviewing the biggest entertainers in the world such as Kendrick Lemar, Billie Eilish, Paul McCartney, Doja Cat, and Elton John to name a few. Yet even when interviewing new emerging talent, she always brings that same high level of feel-good energy. So Ms Amfo is revered because it’s abundantly clear that fire, that spark, was already there years prior when working behind the scenes, not just when the creative finally got a space in front of the cameras.

Now, Amfo is back with her latest presenting effort – ITV Studio Sessions – a brand-new six-part music show in partnership with Priority from O2 and Lifted Entertainment. The broadcaster gets up close with some of the most notable contemporary artists in the UK music industry such as Becky Hill, Cat Burns, Jess Glynne, Tom Walker, and YUNGBLUD.

1883 Magazine’s Cameron Poole sits down with Clara Amfo to discuss hosting ITV Studio Sessions, the art of presenting, her work ethic, DJ’ing at events before Radio 1, and meeting Beyoncé.

Hi Clara, thanks for speaking with 1883 Magazine. ITV Studio Sessions is airing now, could you tell me about what it was like hosting the six-part series and reuniting with the likes of Cat Burns, Becky Hill, Yungblud and more?

It was great, we filmed it all in one block and it was intense because I did my last Future Sounds show on the 28th of March, and then we started filming on April 2nd or 3rd. It was back-to-back. I really enjoyed it. Every chat we had probably lasted about…. I had a timer on the stage with me, so I only chat for about 15-20 minutes because the show is a TV half-hour. So that’s 27 minutes minus ads. Every chat we had was about 40 or 45 minutes. They’ve been ruthlessly cut down because that’s just the nature of the beast [laughs], but obviously, we’ve got to let the performance be the centre of it as well the conversation because that’s what the artists are coming on to do, but it was fun.

It’s really nice to be on the sofa, that close with somebody, just chatting on a level. It just feels like you’re in a corner of a party with your friend, when there’s a big party happening and you find that moment where you and your mate find a spare bit of floor or sofa or whatever, and you get into it. That’s what it felt like, just with extra singing.

No matter if it’s hosting the BRITS, filming Glastonbury coverage, or most recently now the ITV Studio Sessions, presenting is an art form and takes skill, how do you prepare yourself when you’re about to film something and is it constant adrenaline – what goes through your mind?

That’s a great question. I think presenting is an art and skill. I take it really seriously. I have fun; I don’t take myself seriously. I’d say I take doing my job properly seriously, for sure, because ultimately, you’ve got to be that trusted communicator between someone sitting at home and the thing they’ve tuned in to see, whether it’s a big music event, their favourite sporting event, or their favourite cultural event. With the BRITs, I rehearsed a lot. I was there rehearsing on the day. It was optional, but I was like, ‘No, I’m going be there at 10 a.m., getting ready with all my notes.’ I hate being underprepared for things because with live TV especially, anything can happen. 

You can be the most prepared on paper, but that can all go out the window if someone runs across the screen or someone falls over during a performance. You have to be able to think on your feet but having the knowledge and preparation in your back pocket gives you the confidence to do things better, in my personal opinion, I’ve always found that for myself.

I think, for me, it’s just that cliche: ‘If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail,’ as they say. I like to have all my notes read, know as much as I can about a person, about an event, but also just really enjoy it and be in it as well. You can have ten questions prepared and realistically sometimes you only get through two of them because you go off on a tangent and that’s half the fun in an interview situation. Mixing that with the literal presentation, whether it’s like, ‘Welcome to the BRITs’ or ‘You’re watching Studio Sessions’ or ‘You’re watching Glastonbury,’ you really have to surrender yourself to the liveness of it all.

For me, it’s those moments when you’re acutely aware that everyone’s watching. You’ve always got to put yourself in the viewer’s position as well. And it’s like, what excitement would I want to feel? If I’m in the middle of the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, I remember the Kendrick year,  I remember thinking ‘oh my god, if you’re a hip-hop fan, this is everything.’ Like, this is a man coming to the middle of a farm in the west country, from LA, to perform essentially like a hip-hop opera. It was dramatic, it was monumental, and I was very aware of that. So I wanted to give that to people at home because when I was watching, I was feeling good.

And I think it’s the same with Studio Sessions, all the people that we’ve had on for this series, they’ve all got very dedicated fanbases who I know are going to be watching. ‘Oh my god, can’t believe I’m getting to see my favourite in this particular intimate setting.’ But then at the same time, there will be people who are just about interested or someone who might not plan to watch the show, but it’s Friday night. They’re like, ‘Oh, hang on a minute. What’s this? I don’t even know who this person is. Who is Yungblud? Who is Cat Burns?’ But you know what, maybe I’m going to stick around and find out’. So I’m always very aware of the different tiers of people watching, and I try to inform and put that into what I’m saying.

The occasional WhatsApp messages you share on Instagram from your mum Grace are brilliant – apart from the fashion feedback, what is the best piece of advice she has given you in general?

It’s very much work hard, work hard, work hard. She’s a religious woman so her whole thing is pray, gratitude, work hard, and be gracious. I think has always been the consistent advice. We’ve always kind of been like this. I think people and my friends are now more openly keeping gratitude journals and saying their affirmations in the morning and all that type of thing. I think I’m definitely in a space of really being it, man. 

In the past two or three years, I’ve just been back-to-back. I try not to regret a lot of things, but I think one of my regrets, for want of a better phrase is, not taking time to enjoy things even more. But I think that’s the case for so many people when you’re in a fast-paced job, regardless of whether it’s in broadcast or you could be working in the medical field, in law or whatever. if you’re a career-focused person, I think you can sometimes miss moments of real interest because you’re thinking ‘okay, but what’s next’ and I’ve definitely made that error. 

So this year, I’m very going to savour and enjoy everything properly. It sounds corny, It’s a cliche but it’s honestly the truth.

That’s not corny at all, it’s really nice.

Let me walk that back because I even tell people off for saying the word corny, as we call things corny, we call things cheesy, because we still have a lot of shame attached to feeling joyful about things and that’s really silly.

When people say ‘so what’s your guilty pleasure?’ Well if it gives you pleasure, there shouldn’t be any guilt attached. Guilt is only from other people’s rejections and other people’s shame about you feeling unapologetically joyous about something, so who gives a fuck?

I love that. I think people are also just scared to be genuinely sincere about things and I actually want to be sincere right now. I want to take a moment to acknowledge the unwavering sense of positivity and energy you’ve constantly brought to radio, TV, and all the other projects you’ve been a part of. 

No matter who you interview or what you do, you always deliver the same high level of care. Not many people have that and it’s so lovely to see, especially as the music/creative/show-business world can be difficult. 

So with that in mind, What moments from your life do you think have instilled this specific work ethic in you and what drives you to deliver that same level of energy with every interview you carry out?

Oh, thank you very much, that’s very kind. The thing with me, I always want to meet people on a human level and I always meet people with respect, those are my two main things. I think that’s what essentially anybody wants. People often ask, do you ever get starstruck? And not really, on a rare occasion I have. But I think one thing I quickly learned, whether it’s presenting live television or sitting down intimately with people that we all know, when you see the bones of how something’s made, and you work with a TV crew intensively, or radio production crew intensively, or you sit in the middle of a whirlwind promo tour; you just really understand fundamentally that everybody is trying to do their job and everybody’s here because when they’re a little kid, they want to see something really badly, and they made it happen.

So my thing is, I respect that element in you so let’s have some fun with it. And if you meet me there, we’re going to have a nice time and we’re going to talk about some fun things, we’re going to talk about some serious things. I think that has come from….I don’t know, maybe because I’m not particularly from a rich family. So I sort of made my own rules, with how I react to the industry. Nothing’s ever been afforded to me, like no sort of leg up so to speak, and I thank my lucky stars.

I’ve done every kind of job in the industry, I’ve been a runner, I’ve been a researcher, I’ve been the person ordering people’s cabs. I’ve been the person coordinating street shoots. I’ve done all those jobs. I genuinely truly count my lucky stars every day that I have that foundation because you can’t unsee that and you can’t unlearn that. I think it gives you a different level of respect and gratitude for people doing stuff.

I always say this like a broken record, so I’m sorry If you see this in any other interviews, as I always say this because it’s true. I always judge people that I’m interviewing or senior people in positions of power, whether it’s an executive TV producer, radio people, or whatever, I always judge them on how they treat the ‘least important person’ on paper. It’s all well and good treating me nicely, but if you’re talking to the runner like a dickhead or the coordinator like they’re not shit, then that is who you really are in my personal opinion, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, we all have our off days and no one is perfect. I’m not trying to go on like I’m flipping Mother Teresa. But I think having that foundation and seeing the come up, it just makes you approach your work more honestly and more joyously.  Everyone’s just trying to get on with it whilst enjoying their teenage dreams [laughs].

People remember kindness and it goes a long way in whatever industry you work in, especially when it’s authentic. 


Again – you’ve always been passionate about music, even DJ’ing at events, think back to 2013, Bounty, and that incredible poster which features young Clara. How informative was this period for you?

Ah, Bounty! What a throwback, what a time! 

Bounty was a very fun time. For me, clubbing experiences are so vital for people. I’ve met some of my best friends in the club. Post-COVID, don’t get me wrong, we’re back outside, back at festivals, but I’m sure you’ve seen it, it has  changed. So many venues suffered during the pandemic, and so many places got shut down. Luckily, the venue where Bounty happened is still open, The Old Blue Last. It’s a great pub and live music venue. I remember filming the discussion show for It’s A Sin there, it’s a flipping great venue. 

Those clubbing experiences, putting on club nights, and going out, hearing new music for the first time, or classic music you love, with strangers, not just your friends, you can’t put a price on that. It’s so important. I do wish more money was put into maintaining established performance spaces as well as building new ones.

it’s fun, making people dance is a great feeling. All my favourite DJs are all my mates, I’ve been quite spoilt in that way. Having community from going out to Working at Radio 1Xtra, working at Radio 1, luckily my black book is good if I ever need a party DJ. I know I’ve got people I can call thank god [laughs]. 

I was at Arielle Free’s wedding actually a couple of weeks ago and that was that was full of house DJs, can you imagine? It was a good good time [laughs].

Whether it’s through hosting a film premiere, the live lounge or future sounds, you have interviewed everyone. Alongside, Prince (who sadly isn’t here anymore), Oprah and Beyoncé (who you’ve met), who else remains on the list and do you think should meet your heroes? 

Great questions. I hosted the Lion King premiere and got to meet Beyoncé. She was everything you’d want her to be. She was fantastic and gracious, and that was a very surreal moment. I remember we were all in this holding area and it was like me, Beyoncé, Elton John, and Pharrell, we were back of the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square, in this tiny holding room. Obviously, I didn’t get my phone out that would have been really crass. I remember thinking like, ‘gosh, you’ve got to savour this because this won’t ever happen again in my life’ or maybe it will. Oprah, yeah, I got to meet her. She’s very wise and very lovely.

Who’s next on my list to sit down and have a long chat with…. Oh, damn, you stumped me you know, that’s a really good question. I’m going to think about that but I’m going to answer your second question.

Should you meet your heroes? I think you should actually. They say you shouldn’t but luckily, I’d say I’ve had like a 99.99% positive experience so far. Even with the people that weren’t so great, subsequently, things came out in the press and so I was like well, of course, you weren’t having a good time. So I won’t take it personally. 

I’d love to interview Lauryn Hill, I’d love to interview Lauryn Hill, just because she’s still so influential in so many of our current phases, whether it’s like a Cleo Sol, SZA, Dua Lipa, she is still so influential on people. I saw the Flo girls when they did Coachella, as YG Marley is having that big hit at the moment, she turned up with him on stage at Coachella and I saw the Flow girls met her. I’ve met Lauryn but haven’t interviewed her and I remember I cried on her and was like ‘I love you so much’. I wouldn’t call it embarrassing…  

It was human!

I was feeling very vulnerable and In my feelings, I’ll say that [laughs]. But I would love to do a long, great sit-down interview with her. I think that I think that would be really fun.

Why should viewers check out the ITV Studio Sessions when it drops?

I think they should check it out because performance TV just hasn’t really been here for a while. You know we’ve got Jules [Holland] but I think we’re providing an extra performance experience. With ticket prices being what they are, not everyone can afford to go to gigs. So to have one in the comfort of your own and to get a four-song gig and a chat, without having to spend any money is bit of a touch.

You’re going to get to see some of your favourite artists in an intimate way that you may not always get to and I think that’s cool.

Finally, after years of hard work, it truly feels like you can go anywhere and do anything, so what’s something you’re dying to try your hand at next?

I’m definitely going to get more into TV producing, definitely documentaries, for sure. You’ll be seeing more podcasts which I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a new project launching soon with a friend of mine who I’m pretty sure you’re familiar with. So you’ll be seeing that soon, we did our pilot the other day, we had a proper laugh, he’s great, so that’s happening. 

There will be some stuff outside of the UK. I’m feeling supercharged and very excited about life. I’m just feeling up for it, for want of a better phrase [laughs].

Fantastic, it’s really lovely to hear. It must be weird to be interviewed given your job is to interview people.

You know what, I’m not mad at it, I’m so use to sticking the mic in front of someone that it’s nice to sit back, I appreciate it.

Thanks for asking non-vapid questions and for respecting the graft, thank you!

I appreciate it, thanks for chatting, Clara.

You caught me at the best time Cameron but sincerely thank you for your positivity and for asking good questions.

Watch ITV Studio Sessions on ITV every Friday or via ITVX now.

Follow Clara Amfo by clicking here.

Interview Cameron Poole

Photography Rojal Myers

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