Ngunan Adamu is a well-known scouse voice across the city, and across Europe, as one of the co-hosts of Eurovisioncast, a popular BBC podcast which celebrated everything about the Eurovision Song Contest 2023 being hosted in Liverpool.
She also hosts a weekly show on BBC Radio Merseyside, having learnt her craft during her journalism studies with LJMU from 2001 to 2004.
Not only is she a successful broadcaster, presenter and producer, Ngunan is the CEO and Founder of iWoman, a programme which helps women in the region develop the skills and confidence to get into media. She's also been involved in training other journalists for the BBC World Service.
She is a passionate equality, diversity and inclusion champion, and a specialist in driving forwards cultural change. She works closely with LJMU to support our own initiatives that are driving forwards positive change in higher education, both with our student-led reciprocal mentoring scheme and as the partner of Tim Nichol, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Business and Law, in our leadership-focused mentoring programme.
As a close friend of LJMU, Ngunan also supports many of our events as a proud alumnus, most recently hosting the return of our Roscoe Lecture Series in which she quizzed astrophysicist Professor Andy Newsam about the universe.
She features in our ‘Humans of LJMU’ series in collaboration with the ‘Humans of Liverpool’ social media account, sharing the stories of the people who make our city, communities and university the vibrant, inclusive place it is in celebration of our bicentenary year.
In her interview she reflects on personal challenges and professional triumphs. She embodies the vision and values that LJMU is proud to follow of being inclusive, community and student-focused and courageous in our actions.
“There’re times I’ve been so nervous, thinking, what am I doing? Especially as a single mum, I’ve got to be careful about what I can and can’t do. But everything has happened the way it was supposed to.”
– Ngunan Adamu
Ngunan’s ‘Humans of LJMU’ interview
“Me and my friends were sitting on the train when a man in his late forties kept staring right at me. We noticed him looking and were all commenting on how odd it was. Eventually, he came and sat opposite us and he said you’ve got strong energy. Being a teenager, I was very sceptical, I said ‘Have I now?’ Then he said you’ve got 12 guardian angels, I’ve never seen that before. Turns out this man was a spiritualist.
“At the time I wasn’t talking to my dad. He said talk to your dad. But don’t talk to him as your dad, talk to him as a friend. Because you’ve got all these expectations of him as your dad and that’s where the relationship is breaking down. If it wasn’t for that man, I wouldn’t have called my dad, and we probably wouldn’t have spoken much again.
“My dad passed away when I was 21 and in the second year of my degree. Luckily by then, I had spent more time with him and we’d built a strong relationship. I was talking to him every day at that point. When my dad passed, I went to live in Nigeria to be back with my family for a few months. A lot happened whilst I was there, it was a painful time. When I returned, LJMU were really empathetic and supportive and they didn’t want me to feel too much pressure. They asked me to defer for a year, but I just wanted to push on. Looking back, I didn’t take the time to grieve, my coping mechanism was ‘I’ve got work to do. Just keep going’.
“After that something just switched in me, I thought ‘Okay it’s time to work hard’. I believe everything happens for a reason. If my dad didn’t pass away and I didn’t go to Nigeria and deal with the headaches and pain of being there, I wouldn’t have come back with the same fighting spirit. Afterwards, I thought if I can handle that, I can handle anything.
“I became a lot more spiritual after that. There’s different shifts in the universe for a reason. You go through adversity because you have to change how you think. I now always listen to my gut. If I don’t get a job, that’s the universe protecting me. A saying that I really believe in is ‘Man’s rejection is god’s protection’.
“I lived with my nan in Nigeria for the first three years of my life. I was quite shy when I was little, my nickname was mouse. My nan was so strong, a fierce woman. Her belief was, ‘No man is gonna take advantage of my baby girl’. So she trained me from a young age, like Rocky. She never did baby talk with me, she’d always talk to me like I was an adult. She was so kind, very sharing, she would give you her final pound. But she was also no-nonsense, you wouldn’t want to mess with her. Seeing all of that helped me build my own confidence.
“I remember asking my mum, where does this all come from? She said you just come from a long line of feminists. My great auntie back in Nigeria would ride around on a horse, smoking a pipe and she would help women in abusive relationships to pack their bags and escape. She was very ahead of her time. She was passionate about women's rights and most men were scared of her. So I think that is just genetic, wanting to support other women and vulnerable people.
“I always wanted to support the voices of underserved communities, but I didn’t know how until eventually I sat down with my mum and said I want to create an academy to teach women journalism and podcasting. It felt like a big risk at the time because I was earning a good wage at the BBC and I chose to go part-time to do my PGCE so that I could start the academy.
“A year later I was offered my own show on BBC Radio Merseyside. I’m glad that I followed my gut, because after I opened the first course, a year later I got a call from the world service saying they had heard that I had a media training academy and would I do that for the BBC, training BBC staff internationally. Everything just started to click into place perfectly. And now I’m involved in helping Liverpool host Eurovision on behalf of Ukraine, presenting the official podcast and on stage, which I’m so so proud of. It can feel like such hard graft, but you just have to keep going and it will come.
“The iWomen Academy has been so inspirational. I’m now working with refugees and when you hear their story and what they’ve been through - every session we have someone crying because they’re exploring their lived trauma. There’re times I’ve been so nervous, thinking, what am I doing? Especially as a single mum, I’ve got to be careful about what I can and can’t do. But everything has happened the way it was supposed to.”