After nine years on the airwaves presenting pop tunes, Accalia Hipwood finally has the chance to indulge her passion for classical music, as the new voice of Abu Dhabi Classic FM.
The 10am to 1pm weekday slot on the UAE’s only classical-music station seems like the perfect fit for the British DJ.
“Although I’ve been presenting pop for the past 15 years, what I was listening to when I was driving home from work was classical, as well as rare groove, funk and jazz,” she says.
“I love anything a little more complex and interesting, music you can explore over and over again and keep hearing something different that captivates you. It was my dream to work somewhere where I could actually play music that I was personally passionate about.”
Hipwood’s career has taken her to great heights – starting with one of her first jobs, which was as an airborne traffic reporter on a “flying eye” plane for London’s Capital Radio.
“Every morning, I had the privilege of watching the sun rise over the capital from 2,000 feet up,” she says.
In 2005, Hipwood moved to the Cayman Islands, where she once broadcast live for 24 hours without a break during a hurricane.
She moved to the UAE to co-host the breakfast show on Gulf News Broadcasting’s Radio2 with Kenny Young, a DJ she had worked with in the Caymans. One perk of the job was the chance to interview big music and film stars when they came to the Emirates.
“A favourite was Tom Jones, who attempted to teach me to speak Welsh,” she says, adding that her photographer husband was delighted because he is also from Wales. “Over the years I’ve interviewed lots of interesting people, including Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore and Clive Owen to name but a few,” she adds.
Hipwood developed a loyal following during her eight years on Radio 2, which ended when it stopped broadcasting in June.
Hipwood spent the summer in Aragon, Spain, and was offered the new job at Abu Dhabi Classic FM in August.
As a so-called “third-culture kid” who grew up in multiple countries, Hipwood says she’s not afraid of change.
“I’m always ready for a new adventure,” she says. “I had an unconventional childhood, as my father was captain of the English polo team for about 20 years and we travelled all over the world. That’s how I wanted my life to be, and I’m gripped by wanderlust. It’s hard to stay in one place for long when you’ve had a childhood of travelling.”
Hipwood says not a day goes by without encouraging messages and calls from Abu Dhabi Classic listeners, and her own loyal fan-base in the UAE.
“My previous listeners are so pleased that they can still tune in and we can still set the music together,” she says.
“It’s been very touching, actually.”
With the opening of Dubai Opera on August 31, and the latest edition of Abu Dhabi Classics starting next month, plus the Abu Dhabi Festival in the spring, Hipwood hopes she can help persuade more residents to develop the taste.
“There are increasing opportunities for people here to experience the classical-music genre, and it’s great,” she says. “Sometimes people think classical music is very niche and assume it’s not for them but actually, if you sit down and give it a chance, it will suck you in. Hopefully I will take a lot of people with me.
“It’s a great gig. My job as a presenter is also to do the research on the composers and the artists, and I love that as much as I enjoy listening to them.”
• Abu Dhabi Classic FM broadcasts in Abu Dhabi on 91.6FM, Al Ain 105.2 and Dubai on 87.9FM