Jimi is joined by presenter and BBC Radio 1 DJ Rickie Haywood-Williams for an entertaining journey from his proud South London roots through to his BBC One primetime turn on 'Strictly Come Dancing', via his Jamaican ancestry.
Rickie shares why he has an eternal love for Croydon, his mum’s Caribbean take on the Sunday roast dinner, and using a radio studio as his classroom. Plus, discover which reality TV series making a big comeback he’d love to do…
Jimi Famurewa: Welcome to Where's Home Really? With me, Jimi Famurewa. A podcast where I get to ask guests from the worlds of food, comedy, TV, and entertainment about the culture that has created them. I want to know about their heritage and how it has influenced them, how their family background and environment has shaped their outlook, and of course, I want to know where they consider home.
We'll be finding out about that sense of home by asking them about four key elements. Those are a person, a place, a phrase, and a plate. Now for me, one of these, and if I lock in on a plate or a taste, would be carnation condensed milk. It's such a weird thing, but it really is just a weird part of my childhood.
I think that Nigerian side, like we were used to coming from a climate where you do not have fresh milk. And so carnation condensed milk with its kind of almost, tooth judderingly sweet taste in a cup of tea is complete nostalgia to me. And if I ever encounter it, I'm immediately back in my youth and in the eighties when we didn't mind how sweet things were, but that's me and enough about me.
Let's find out a little bit more about today's guest.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: My best friend at school supported Liverpool as most kids did in the eighties because they were absolutely phenomenal. And the overriding factor that kind of drew me in was John Barnes of Jamaican heritage. My dad's Jamaican and he was just an absolute phenomenal player at the time and somebody that looks like me.
Jimi Famurewa: Today's guest is a DJ and presenter. You might recognize him from your TV most recently from his turn on the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special, but most probably you've heard him on the radio for Kiss initially, but these days almost certainly on BBC Radio 1. where he can be found most mid mornings during the week or on the Footballer's Football Podcast where he gets to talk about his other main love, football, with Premier League players Callum Wilson and Michail Antonio.
Born in Croydon and of Jamaican heritage, he is very much a Londoner, although his choice of football team might suggest otherwise. We'll come to that on shore, but let me start by welcoming him to the show, Rickie Haywood-Williams.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Hello. Jimi, how are you, my friend?
Jimi Famurewa: How you doing? Listen. It's always an experience when you're doing an intro about somebody who is adept at introing people.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Feeling the pressure.
No, listen, Jimi, have you listened to any of my shows? Trust me, that was absolutely phenomenal. Levels that I can only dream about reaching, my friend.
You did it exquisitely.
Jimi Famurewa: Thank you. He can stay already. He's already my favorite guest. Thank you for joining me, man. I always start straight away by almost throwing the show title back to the guest.
What is your first response when I say where's home really to you?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: When I think of that question, initially, the first thing that comes to mind is the area that I was born and raised in. It was the area in South East London. It's Croydon. My grandmother and my grandfather came here as part of the Windrush generation in the sixties.
I've got so many. Amazing memories of listening to my gran specifically talk about, when she first came over, not so much my granddad, I think my granddad wanted to come to the UK, make as much money as possible and go back to the Caribbean. My dad's side, they were from Jamaica, but I think the bigger part of my story is more on my mom's side, they were from St. Vincent and my grandmother was just an amazing woman. She had. completely different ideas to my grandfather that she didn't tell him about when they were deciding what they were going to do with the rest of their life. They already had a lot of children when they came to the UK, they were married for, 10, 15 years and they had I think at the time, I think they had seven children. My mum is one of four sisters and I have six uncles. So my family is absolutely huge. So my grandfather was like let's go to the UK. Let's make as much money as possible. And then let's go back to the Caribbean, buy some land, make a bigger house and live happily ever after.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was of the disposition that she wanted to come to the UK and stay. and set up home here. She kept it really quiet, Jimi. She didn't let him know. And when it was time to go back, they had this conversation and she said, look, I don't want to go back. What I want to do is bring all of the children to the UK.
He was saying, you're crazy. That's going to cost an absolute fortune. It's going to take so much time to get everybody over. They're expecting us back. We can't do this. But she did it anyway. She she overruled him and she did it anyway. She actually got a mortgage in, in process behind his back up until the moment that she had to sign his signature.
Cause in those days, I think you needed the man of the house's signature to actually get a house. And my grandmother, God rest her soul, she died like last year. She actually forged his signature to get a mortgage. Can you believe that Jimi? She forged his signature and when he found out he hit the absolute roof as you can imagine.
But then it was done, then it was done. And she started the process.
Jimi Famurewa: A woman of vision and a woman that saw boldness. She knew what she wanted. She knew what needed to happen. And I love that right away. You've clearly got such an understanding of where you come from. I mentioned in the intro that you are a proud Londoner, so I think I know what your choice of place is going to be, but why don't you tell me?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Jimi, unequivocally, 100% my place has to be the South East London Borough of Croydon. I was lucky enough to live in lots of different parts of Croydon as I was growing up. So we started out in West side of Croydon, then we moved to Central Croydon. Then we ended up in South Croydon, which is where I went to secondary school.
And my college was there as well. I feel like Croydon is completely my home because I've got experiences in every different part of it. I remember going to church, like with my grandmother and my uncles and aunties, when I was like really young and they would all. be members of different churches.
So we would go to one in Norwood Junction, which is towards like the top end of Croydon, North Croydon, and then some in South Croydon with my gran. And so I had all of these different experiences and I went to school in different areas as well in Croydon. When I think of South London and I think about myself solely.
Croydon is home. It's home. It's where I've experienced so many different things. School, growing up, playing for my local football team, then going out with your friends in central Croydon. It's really funny because obviously Croydon now is a very different place to what Croydon was when I was growing up in the eighties and nineties. When my grandmother first came, and she told me stories about Croydon when she first came to the UK, it was a very conservative, very white, working class slash middle class to the back end towards more towards Surrey. And then as time has gone on it's changed a lot. There was a lot of different cultures that kind of came to Croydon and made their way in Croydon, which I absolutely loved when I was growing up.
I used to love the melting pot, especially musically, the melting pot of people that used to go out and all the different people that I used to see. I remember once when I was, I must've been about, I was quite old, must've been about 25, and I took my dad to the opening of a new bar. I think I was working at Choice FM at the time, and the old Choice FM, and they gave me this this VIP pass to this new bar.
So I was like, Dad, I've got my brothers to go with me. And my dad has come along, and he was just like, I'm so blown away by all the different cultures that are just here in this bar that are all partying together and getting along. And it's just, it's absolutely normal. And I was like, dad, what do you mean?
This is just what it's like when we go out. And he was like, when I was younger going out in Croydon or surrounding areas, it was very different. Like we would go out and even amongst the black community. There was very different factions. You were either into reggae and you would hang out with the reggae people or you go out with the soul people and the rare groove people.
So it was very different. And mixing wasn't so commonplace. He was not jealous, but he was blown away by how much integration and diversity that there was. And I took that for granted up until quite an old age.
Jimi Famurewa: Yeah, that's fantastic to have that opportunity to see it through other people's eyes because I think there is a lot of that we take for granted if we live in cities like London.
I touched on it in the intro, but obviously, and this is really fascinating to me, you mentioned playing football and football as we'll come on to is clearly a real passion of yours as it is of mine. Who did you end up supporting and why?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: I have a vivid memory of driving past Selhurst Park with my uncle Jerry.
I must have been about three driving past the park end towards the Holmesdale Road. And I said, Uncle, what's that? And he said to me, Oh, that's Crystal Palace football team, but don't support them. They're rubbish. And that was the team in our community, like Crystal Palace, Selhurst Park is literally a stone's throw away from so many of places that I've lived or frequented or gone to school at.
It was the hub of our community. And growing up, a lot of my friends who are much better at football than me were at the Crystal Palace Academy. So we would go there. So Crystal Palace football team has always been this bit has held a close place to my heart, but when I got into football, I had that memory of my uncle saying, don't support them.
They're rubbish. And my best friend at school supported Liverpool as most, a lot of kids did in the eighties because they were absolutely phenomenal, but my best mate supported them. And the overriding factor that kind of, Drew me in was John Barnes of Jamaican heritage. My dad's Jamaican, and he was just an absolute phenomenal player at the time and somebody that looks like me.
Jimi Famurewa: We're talking about football and upbringing and the things that have made you who you were, that surrounding environment. And I want to get on to phrases and like words and things that might have shaped you and might for you just really encapsulate what have you gone for as your phrase?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: So I've gone for...
The phrase "you smashed it". We used to use this phrase all the time during secondary school. And it was a term of endearment. It was a term of you absolutely have exceeded expectation with wherever you were using it for. And I remember it was just part of our vernacular. And then years later, I saw Cheryl Cole use the same phrase on the X Factor for one of the acts, and then I feel like now it's become completely mainstream. And whenever I hear it, I'm like, I used to say that like back in the nineties with a small group of friends. And now I hear my producers at work saying it, who are from like, middle England and Oxfordshire and, and Wales. And it's so crazy to hear people say that now, because that is a phrase that was so close to our hearts and felt like we were the only ones using it at the time.
Jimi Famurewa: Clearly for you, it's a phrase that is nostalgic and affirming and reminds you of the people that you grew up with and in your friendship.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Yeah, absolutely. I hold it really dear to my heart because it was around the time when you're creating bonds for life as it were and trends that you're going to use for the rest of your life as well.
Jimi Famurewa: You wanted to entertain, you wanted to be a communicator, you wanted to be a broadcaster, and I think that can be a world in which you almost need to be this blank slate. In the traditional interpretation of it, you need to be this neutral, we have received pronunciation and ways of speaking and, it's quite vulnerable and exposing.
So how did that translate in terms of code switching? And what was the kind of early move into broadcasting and wanting that career like?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: So I initially thought about from quite early on, I think my mom, I had, my mom used to have conversations with me quite early, like from eight, nine years old. What do you want to be when you get older?
What would you like to do? What do you love at school? What are you most interested in? And I used to always say, okay, I'm terrible at maths, mom. I don't like maths. I, she was like, okay. So she was like, okay, that's fine. She said, you're going to need maths, but. It's fine if you don't want to do anything to do with maths.
What do you enjoy? And my thing was English. I used to really enjoy English and I used to really enjoy sports. So I had a natural ability at sport that came quite easy to me, but I didn't want to do something that was easy. I wanted to do something that I was It's just really passionate about, and it started out with English.
I used to really love writing stories, like short stories and poems. And I, as I got a bit older, I dabbled with, with lyricism and rapping and emceeing on garage music. I dabbled with all of that. I loved words and just, the connection that we can have with words. And that led me towards journalism.
And then when I got to the BRIT School, I did a course called Broadcast Journalism and A Level Media. And within the A Level Media course, we had a radio studio and we were, the radio studio was basically our hub. That was our form class. So every morning, every lunchtime after school, that's where we were.
It just came naturally. It wasn't something that I went, I want to be on the radio, but we were around it so much. So that's how the radio thing happened. And then when I left BRITs, I went to university in Luton. That's where I met Melvin. One of my best friends and one of my co presenters and when we met, everything just exploded.
It just snowballed from there. And it wasn't like we were trying to make it happen. It just flowed and it just happened so organically, which is why I love our story so much.
Jimi Famurewa: It's an amazing thing, amazing journey that you've both been on as a duo. I've seen you call him the Ant to your Dec or the other way around, but it was like that.
And I just wonder what has that been like as you're clearly so close working as a duo and also you know, being two black men, he's African heritage, you're Caribbean heritage. Moving through that together what was it like initially being this kind of duo and being this kind of package?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: So the funny thing about myself and Melvin is people, we're a bit like an iceberg. So people see the top of the iceberg, but they never see the bottom. And the bottom, the reality is that we are two of six. So when we went to university, We formed this friendship group and there were six of us in total.
And so there's myself, there's Damian, we're both of Caribbean heritage and the other four are of West African heritage. So you've got Russell who's from Ghana, Charles who's from Ghana and Senegal, and then you've got Leroy who's from Nigeria. So Leroy, who I was really close with, he was from Manchester.
So just hearing his experience and seeing a black guy of the same age as you that speaks in a Mancunian accent that's from Hume in Manchester and talks about Moss Side and it was absolutely crazy, but such a great experience to have. But knowing that even though we were from completely different parts of the UK, we still had really similar experiences.
And I was really grateful for the fact that. I met those guys because it helped me to understand them as West Africans and their heritage and learning about the things that my parents didn't know about. Cause I think there was a period of time where being West Indian and being. African, there was a little bit of a divide at some point where it wasn't as unified as it is now.
I never really questioned it, but I didn't really understand it. And then when I went to university and I got to experience, I call them my brothers from another mothers, but when I got to experience them and I was like, we are the same.
Jimi Famurewa: Welcome back to Where's Home Really? With me, Jimi Famurewa and my guest, Rickie Haywood-Williams.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Hey, Jimi, how you doing, man?
Jimi Famurewa: In terms of your person, just on the family and friends there's a lot of candidates already. But I'm wondering who you're going to go for. You've got a lot of people to choose from, a lot of people that have clearly shaped you and molded you in different ways.
And but who are you going to go for as your person?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: I would say my mum, simply because when I think of home and I think of everything that encapsulates, my mum is central to that. Closely followed by my grandmother. I spent a lot of time with my gran like most black children do. And I loved her to death.
She was so influential on, especially my early years of life, whether that was spiritually or in, with regards to discipline, ambition. She was very central to a lot of those. of my core beliefs. My mum carried that on and my mum was the link between, I call it the Old Testament and the New Testament. So my gran is the Old Testament and the link back to the Caribbean, but my mum is the link to the New Testament and my life here as a black person from the Caribbean and trying to navigate that landscape.
In the UK, she would let me know the pitfalls that could happen in life. And she would let me know about, the prejudices and, racism that you, that we might encounter. She would let me know about the hardships that we might. A lot of the trauma that the family are experienced.
Jimi Famurewa: These matriarchs, like Caribbean and West African families, all immigrant parents of all types. They do not soft soap it, do they?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: They don't. And I've heard it called in recent times, I watch a show with my daughter, it's called Blackish.
I don't know if you're aware of it. There's about eight seasons worth of it. And it's based in America. It's based around a black family. They're all of the different complexions and different personalities, but they cover so many lessons that we can take as, as people, as black people, as white people, as non black people from that show.
And I, I took a lot of time to watch with my daughter quite a lot because of all the lessons that are packed within it.
Jimi Famurewa: I think it's perfect that you picked your mum and I think also that you mentioned your grandma as well because I think having that link to the Old Testament as you so amazingly put it and what, what your life was like, what you come from, the culture that shaped you in terms of the Caribbean and life there is so important but I think it's also really important, the realities of all that we know, which is life in, in, in the UK and life in diaspora and life in our adoptive countries.
And I think having both those sides is so vitally important. So for you, what kind of things are the things that you're looking to uphold? And what things are you looking to maybe let go?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Discipline is one of them. I feel like you need it, but not necessarily administered in the same way. So I still have the values that my parents instilled in me, respect and manners and all of those things, which they always taught me, manners are free.
There's no cost to be polite. There's no cost to treat others the way that you would expect to be treated yourself. So these are things that I try to be kind. These are things that I try to instill because. that they're so easy to do. And it makes such a difference. And being the eldest of four boys, I feel like I had to, I was always praised when I was polite.
I was always praised when I was, good and things like that. So those things mean a lot to me. I just can't help it. I just can't help it.
Jimi Famurewa: Let's lock in on your plate. Then what have you gone for? What place does food have in, in terms of you really cementing what home means?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: You all know this, Jimi, but food, the food is so important. It can just transport you back to your happy place. Do you know what I mean? I remember going away, being away at university for three years.
I only went for three years, but I was there for three years. And those three years, if I ever went home, the best gift my mother could give me was a tupperware of Sunday dinner to take back to university to eat over the next few days. It was just the best feeling ever. And all of my friends had the same thing.
If we had food from home, we were happy. We were happy. The plate itself for me. So my mom's Sunday dinner would consist of rice and peas. It's rice, it's kidney beans, all done in a big pot. And she would normally do. Chicken, like roast chicken with like amazing gravy.
You would have vegetables, you'd have brussels sprouts, you'd have runner beans, and you'd have all of these amazing vegetables, but you'd also have the macaroni cheese there as well.
Jimi Famurewa: Macaroni cheese is, I don't know how many people realize that it is almost like its own religion within the Caribbean, especially like Jamaican culture and stuff.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Like it's its own thing, right? I grew up thinking mac and cheese was like from the Caribbean. I love that. When I realized that it was like, it's more of an Italian dish, I was like, what? What do you mean?
Jimi Famurewa: I love that. I love that so much. I love the choice of a Sunday roast, your mum's Sunday dinner, and I love the thought of you and your friends, Melvin and your sort of, your friendship group, bringing that piece of home with you to this kind of, to this new environment and all joining together and all bringing a part of yourselves is a beautiful thing.
I want to talk about work and your career, and we mentioned Strictly Come Dancing right at the top I watched that Christmas episode with my entire family. I loved that. I thought you did brilliantly. I could almost see the kind of the nerves or, that you were mentally trying to get hold of your agent, like midway through when you're all spandexed up.
How did you find it? And how has the aftermath been? Because it's such a hugely watched thing that it must be crazy, right?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: It's a phenomenal show and it's just an absolute monster of a machine. Funny enough, Jimi I always said. I'm not a dancer. Melvin is; he is the life and soul of the party.
He won the Christmas special. He actually, he did the main show and he was voted off first. He was robbed though. It was a controversial decision, right? So then he gets invited back to do the Christmas special and he wins the show. He never shuts up about it. He never shuts up about it. Rightly so I then said, look I'm not much of a dancer. I can dance. I've got rhythm. But I'm not known for being a dancer. So I would never do that show. However, when Strictly Come Dancing come knocking, it changes everything. You can't turn it down. You cannot turn it down. And I thought to myself, a couple of years ago, I just, I remember saying, I'm just going to stop.
I'm just going to start saying yes to everything. I think it was the COVID situation and just how everything shrunk so quickly and opportunities weren't there anymore. In our industry, it was how do we do TV shows now? Because obviously you can't go out and you've got to do a radio show on Zoom and you can't interact with people.
And there's a delay on the line and it was all just really weird. And then as we were coming out of that, I remember thinking, do you know, we're so lucky to be doing what we're doing. I'm so lucky to be doing what I'm doing. I'm just going to try my best to say yes to absolutely everything and just see what happens, just see what happens.
And I've done that. I've tried to do that. And it's a great way to live. Obviously you can't say yes to everything, obviously, for scheduling or for whatever the reason, but if you can live to that mantra and try your best, so many groups, so many good things happened. And I've had so many great things happen to me over the last couple of years.
Jimi Famurewa: Having done a reality show and having thought about it beforehand and had rules about which ones you would and wouldn't do, are there any others that you would do and that you'd consider?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Oh my gosh. Do you know what? I don't think I could ever do I'm A Celebrity. There's always a, there's always a conversation, there's always like a, you're always one phone call away from getting a meeting on that show.
But I snore so loudly, right? Sometimes I snore so loud when I'm at home, I wake myself up and think I'm being burgled. I'm like, who's there? Who there? The camp would absolutely hate me, right? From keeping them awake all night. And I could never get any stars because I couldn't drink any of that madness.
I couldn't eat any of that madness. So not only would I keep everybody up, I wouldn't get any stars. They wouldn't get no food. Everyone would hate me. So I couldn't do that show. But I was a big fan of Big Brother back in the day. So I've heard they're bringing that back. So if there was ever an opportunity to do like a Big Brother, I'd jump at the opportunity to do that.
Jimi Famurewa: One of the things that I like to ask people is to flip it round to ask about the ways in which their culture or heritage has positively impacted Britain and like life and like what is a lot of people's adoptive homeland. I think for you, one of the things that I'm especially interested in is Caribbean footballers because you do the Footballers' Football Podcast, which is amazing.
And there's the John Barnes link. I wonder for you, is that something that you think of as being a lasting legacy of where you're from and how it's infiltrated and improved British life?
Rickie Haywood-Williams: I think so. I think sport in general has had a massive influence on the world, let alone the UK.
In our house, when I was growing up, when I was quite young, there used to be athletics on the TV on a Friday night. It used to come on, it used to start on ITV and then halfway through the content, halfway through the footage, it would jump over to Channel 4. Jim Rosenthal used to be the presenter. And we used to watch, Daley Thompson, Linford Christie, Colin Jackson, Tessa Sanderson.
They were the heroes in our house. My house was more, more geared towards athletics than it was to football. I was the one that kind of, flew the flag for football as I got a bit older, but our heroes when I was really young were athletes like track and field. Linford Christie, I remember watching the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the 100 meter final with Linford and my whole family just in the living room, silent as the gun was about to go.
And for those 10 seconds, the gun goes, we just all exploded. Jumping around, screaming, cheering. And then when he crossed the line and won that gold medal, we just absolutely erupted with elation. And it's a memory that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. And Linford Christie was one is still one of my heroes.
Another story. I tell you, like when I look at other countries. And it's changing now, but more so when I was growing up, if you look at the German national football team, or you look at the Italian national football team, or just football teams around the world, this one race, it's one color, it's one complexion.
And I always used to look at the England football team. And there'd always be a black player in there though. There'd always be a mixed race player in there, or, there'd always be something that I could go, okay that looks like me. It's okay if I support England because we're there as well.
That's changing now around the world. Black players pop up all over the place, which I absolutely love, but you're right. Sport is such a massive thing we've given to the UK. And I'm really proud of that.
Jimi Famurewa: That thought of you and your family in that living room and the pin drop silence, and then the eruption is something that I think we can all relate to and just speaks to this idea of being multiple things and of warmth and of collective kind of power and happiness. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you, man.
Rickie Haywood-Williams: Thanks Jimi. I've loved it. Thank you so much, man.
Jimi Famurewa: I am really just buzzing after that, to be honest, because Rickie was fantastic. He talked about right away his kind of, his understanding of his own family's history and how Caribbean culture fed into that. His passion for Croydon, unlikely as that sounds and just his insight into the power that kind of sports people can have in like all of our lives and talking about athletics I think it's a really specific thing that you know To be able to cheer loudly for Linford Christie with your whole family is such a powerful thing when you are second generation Caribbean immigrant living in the UK and that was just an absolutely beautiful moment that he relived with us.
He was great, he was an absolute gentleman. So that's it for another episode of Where's Home Really? Please join me next time for more stories about family, culture, food, and belonging. And we'd love you to follow Where's Home Really? on your favorite podcast platform. It's always great to hear your thoughts, so do leave us a comment or a review.
From Podimo and Listen, this has been Where's Home Really? hosted by me, Jimi Famurewa. The producers are Tayo Popoola and Aidan Judd. The executive producers for Podimo are Jake Chudnow and Matt White. And for Listen, it's Kellie Redmond. Until next time.