woman standing against wall facing camera

Layla Wright: In Pursuit of Truth

Documentary presenter Layla Wright is as passionate about storytelling as she is about Liverpool

With a BBC residency and her own Panorama already under her belt, Layla Wright’s career trajectory has been extraordinary. Currently being mentored by the inimitable Louis Theroux at his London production studio, Mindhouse, Layla’s come a long way since graduating from the University of Liverpool in 2018 with a BA in Politics with Law.

A born and bred Scouser, the young Layla had always imagined she’d study at a university far from home but a placement at a local radio station changed her mind. “I started work experience at Radio City, during my GCSEs, and I just never left,” she laughs. “I’d had a quiet childhood and suddenly, I’m following these professional reporters around, getting a front-row seat to all the big stories. I fell in love with the chaos.”

woman sitting on a stool

With a career in journalism firmly in her sights, Layla knew that studying at the University of Liverpool would bring her the best of both worlds; she could continue to learn the ropes at the radio station, while also getting a subject under her belt and learning from world-class lecturers.

Having that mix of academic and on-the-job learning was invaluable for an ambitious young student but managing both workloads was challenging. “I couldn’t have juggled it without the support of my lecturers,” says Layla. “They were great, particularly Professor Stuart Wilkes-Heeg, who was Head of Politics at the time, and Professor Jonathan Tonge. I’d be asking them to comment on a story on air, while saying ‘Oh and can I get back to you on that essay I haven’t submitted yet?!’ Some people might have found that frustrating but Stuart could see that I was applying what I was learning at the station in my coursework.”

More air time

One of the harder lessons Layla learnt was that reporting for radio news didn’t allow her the time she wanted to give to her stories. “People were pouring their hearts out to me. I’d leave their homes with so much fire in my belly, then all I could give them was a bulletin on the news,” she says. “So I started making my own radio documentaries - that no one actually asked for! One of the documentaries I did appeared on the Radio City YouTube channel then BBC Radio 4 spotted it and gave me an opportunity.”

After completing a residency with the BBC podcasts team, Layla was offered a similar role working on developing documentary film ideas at Mindhouse. It was intended to be a six-month residency, but she’s still there. “Part of the reason for it being extended was Panorama unexpectedly coming up,” explains Layla, referring to the programme she made for the BBC on the 2022 UEFA Champions League Final in Paris, where Liverpool fans were tear-gassed by police.

“I happened to be home in Liverpool that weekend and when I came back to the office, I said, ‘I really think we need to do something about this’. Suddenly, I was in front of the camera with a mic in my back pocket.

“The response I got from people back home afterwards was amazing. They were so thankful that we’d told their story. As a journalist and documentary maker, all you want to do is make people to feel heard.”

Bold & brave

While working with her mentor Louis, Layla has recognised that they have a similar approach: “A lot of what I’m excited about doing next is just meeting people and spending time in their crazy, unfamiliar worlds - in the same way Louis immerses himself in the unknown. I’ve never been scared of a story. I think it’s a lot to do with being a Scouser. People describe me as being fearless, hard working, and resilient - they’re all words you could use to describe Liverpool too. The city has shaped me and it’s a massive part of my identity.”

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So what advice would Layla give to Liverpool students seeking to pursue a career in journalism? “Dream big, have fun, and make it happen. You don’t need industry connections, you just have to work hard and put yourself out there. I did and it got me this far.” ●


People describe me as being fearless, hard working, and resilient - they’re all words you could use to describe Liverpool too

Layla Wright

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