This issue is about those unsung heroes of Leeds that mean something to us, whether it be personally or through knowing about them in the media.
My personal unsung hero was around the Leeds music scene of the 90s and is now still very well known in her career. She inspired me to listen to house music, to dress up and experience the vibrant music scene in the city, and to be passionate about life, work and friendships.
This hero of mine is JoJo, she trained as an actress at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) and between 1993 and 1996 she ran the door of Vague, a house music night (handbag house). Vague challenged people’s preconceptions and opened folk’s eyes to our differences and encouraged everyone to be more tolerant of one another. Every week was an event at Vague not only inside the club, but also outside, as thousands would queue to get into a 600 capacity club. JoJo ran the door for just over 2 years and was known as both ‘Madame JoJo’ and ‘Lady JoJo Queen of the GoGo’. It was almost unheard of to have a door person who wasn’t a bouncer. She had to be creative with way she turned people away.
JoJo said: “I wouldn’t knock someone back ‘cos I didn’t like their shoes, but I would tell a group of guys (who came to check out the club and ogle at scantily clad girls) to go and put a dress on and then I’d think about letting them in!”
JoJo went on to say; “The dress code was ‘Be Yourself’ so we’d have people dressing in nothing but gold pants or cling film, to a suit or t-shirt and jeans. The best thing I ever saw anyone wear was a girl dressed as a pineapple and someone in a ball gown made out of Netto carrier bags!”
In 1995 JoJo was also part of Trannies With Attitude (TWA) the Vague resident DJ’s, and in September 1995 they had a record released (which reached No. 51), but being a pop star wasn’t a road that JoJo wanted to pursue. She walked away from a record deal with Mercury Records. However, the track ‘Nasty Girls’ is still available to watch on YouTube and it’s well worth a view.
JoJo went on to work at Roots and Fruit Veggie Café for a year and got a chance to audition for a Kiss radio station, and the rest is actually radio history. She got into radio as Kiss 105 launched on 14th Feb 1997 where she was on the breakfast show ‘Wake up and GoGo with Bam Bam and JoJo’, she had absolutely no live on air experience to do this job! This radio station is where I met JoJo and was fortunate to work with her for 8 years in radio. In September 1997 Kiss became Galaxy and she was part of the breakfast show ‘Antony and JoJo’. In January 2003 ‘Hirsty’s Daily Dose’ began, then in January 2011 Capital took over. In June 2014 Hirsty left the breakfast show and new line up ‘Adam, Danny and JoJo’ took to the helm where she still co-presents to this day.
In February this year JoJo will have completed 19 years doing radio breakfast shows, which is no mean feat. JoJo occasionally dabbles in the late night scene around Leeds and can be found supporting her husband of over 10 years, Jacob Kelly at his bar The 212. She is Mum to Rudi who is nearly 10 years old, and she says; “Rudi is the best thing ever, he gave my life better structure.”
So, just for the record, I’m still in awe of JoJo, she is and always will be one of my unsung heroes of Leeds.