Newtownabbey man’s energy and chattiness have helped him land dream presenting role
He’s come a long way since his dance troupe high-kicked its way into the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2013, but Co Antrim man Dean McCullough was always set for stardom.
Bullied at school for daring to be different and teased as ‘the boy who likes to dance’, Dean’s dream was to perform in the West End.
The Newtownabbey man relocated to London at the age of 17 to study at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey.
He later joined dance act The Glambassadors, who narrowly missed out on a final spot in Simon Cowell’s BGT.
But his effervescence, energy and natural chattiness led him down a different path and he swapped the stage for the studio, working firstly on Wandsworth Radio and then Gaydio in Manchester.
This experience proved invaluable when it came to landing a dream guest presenting slot on BBC Radio 1 in December 2020.
Dean’s rise to success within Radio 1 has been nothing short of meteoric since then.
In an 18-month period, the 30-year-old has gone from providing seasonal cover for Clara Amfo’s daytime show as part of Radio 1’s Christmas Takeover initiative in 2020, to permanently joining the station in September 2021 to host weekends (Friday to Sunday, 10.30am to 1pm).
This latest step up will see him host a brand new daytime show (Monday to Thursday, 1pm to 3.30pm) with Vicky Hawkesworth.
The pair, who first met when they took part in the Christmas Takeover venture, will be replacing Scott Mills and Chris Stark, who announced their departure from Radio 1 last week.
They’ll also be making history as their new show will mark the first weekday one to move out of London and broadcast from Salford as part of the BBC’s Across the UK plans, unveiled last year.
Given the longstanding popularity of Scott and Chris with listeners, Dean and his co-host will have big shoes to fill.
But Dean, who attended Belfast’s Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts to study dance in his teens, isn’t one to shy away from challenges or let hurdles get in his way.
Back in 2013, when The Glambassadors decided to audition for BGT, a series of mishaps meant they nearly missed out on their big chance to shine.
Speaking at the time, Dean said: “We never thought for one moment we’d get as far as the semi-finals. To be honest, we nearly didn’t even make our first audition in Birmingham because so many things went wrong on the day.
“When we got up on the stage though we could feel the energy coming from the audience and the whole place was buzzing, which really helped us too.”
Performing was a passion for Dean in his teens and something which helped him put the school bullies to the back of his mind. But radio was also a distraction.
Growing up, he loved listening to Radio Ulster legends Gerry Anderson and Hugo Duncan and when the bullying got worse, he zoned out and tuned into the Chris Moyles show instead.
When the chance to guest present on Radio 1 came up in 2020, the Gaydio host applied and was thrilled to land the Clara Amfo slot.
Nine months later, having impressed BBC bosses, Dean was revealed as the new presenter of the weekend morning shows, going on to build up a strong following of fans.
Introducing himself to his listeners on his first day last year, he said: “I’m Dean McCullough from Belfast and I’m feeling iconic.
“This is the best day of my life.”
No doubt that ‘best day’ will be topped when he and Vicky launch their new daytime show. Taking over from Scott and Chris will be ‘bittersweet’, as he has long been a fan of both hosts. But he says he is more than ready for the next part of his remarkable radio journey.
“I literally don’t know what to say, this is wild,” said Dean, following Tuesday’s announcement of his new role.
“Being given the opportunity to launch a brand new daytime show on Radio 1 with the most talented production team and co-host is a full-on dream come true.
“I’m so grateful that this is happening. Thank you Radio 1 for believing in me.”