Up at 5am after a restless night with my new-born baby, I got dressed in the dark as I packed the car with baby supplies and my university books and a breast pump. 5.30am and I was in the car setting off for my daily commute from Wakefield to MediaCity in Salford. It was a quick drop off at the nursery inside MediaCity where I would pass other working parents as we dashed off to our day job or for me it was to my university lectures. I could have studied my post-graduate diploma in Journalism as one of the other incredible institutions closer to home, but I was determined to go to University of Salford to ‘make it in the media’ and be as close as possible to the northern home of ITV and BBC. 

When MediaCityUK opened in 2012 I saw this as my opportunity to have a career in the media and staying up north whilst also raising a young family. Whilst I do love Manchester United, MediaCityUK was my theatre of dreams. As soon as I got funding from Journalism Diversity Fund to study in the heart of MediaCity, I was determined that I would travel daily with my new-born and find a job there too so I could move and live inside the purpose-built media world. Except, with a long commute, a young baby and being in a different building to BBC and ITV, meant that I was simply quickly dipping my toe in the water and then running backwards and forwards between home and study. I tried to network when and where I could but I also had to work on the side too at the Daily Mirror which is also based on the outskirts of Manchester. I did eventually get on a brilliant scheme at BBC called Journalism Trainee Scheme and I began my year contract in Leeds where I found out I was pregnant again so I couldn’t move for my next placement at BBC Radio 4 and The One Show in Salford which had been a dream of mine. They deferred my place but with two young children and being a distance away, I no longer felt like I could commute or move. I was devastated. But then I started making vlogs and mini documentaries at home online with the likes of BBC, ITV and Channel 4. After begrudging my location and chosen home to raise my children, I found that I could get the same kick out of working in the media but from home and on local newspapers.

STEPH’S PACKED LUNCH: CHANNEL 4 IN LEEDS DOCK

My opportunities weren’t as vast and I couldn’t even watch or listen to some of my favourite TV and radio shows without a pang of envy. But actually, I would have been even more exhausted had I tried to continue. Over the years I have continued to freelance and sometimes I work for editors I have never met, but I can do all of this from home around childcare and my own health. Then my heart leaped with joy when I heard Channel 4 were moving its headquarters up north… more chances of national TV work.. And better still in Leeds.  

 I continued to work online through blogging, vlogging, documentary making with editors all over the country and then lockdown happened. Initially, it was a scary time work wise but luckily with the online world there are so many opportunities to build several revenue streams so you just diversify when things change. I went from teaching film-making and dance to coaching social media online and launching online dance classes whilst still writing and making vlogs from home. Better still, I was able to do so much online training with the likes of BBC Talentworks, Youtube, Channel 4 and the TV Collective… I could chat directly to commissioners over zoom who I’ve never met and attend courses I would struggle to attend due to location and childcare commitments.

Sophie Mei Lan and Comedian Shappi Khorsandi

I felt more in touch than ever before. I was also able to do TV interviews via skype on issues close to my heart which I blog and vlog about such as mental illness and feel-good fitness and dance. 

Last week alone I filmed an interview for BBC Two’s Newsnight over Skype, I was interviewed by local newspapers at home and I had the most fantastic time being invited on to Channel 4 Steph’s Packed Lunch show which is filmed inside Leeds Dock. 


I finally feel more in touch than ever before with the range of opportunities online and close to home. These days my commute involves waltzing between rooms in my house, school runs or a quick 15-minute train journey into Leeds City Centre. And as a result, I am happy and healthier than ever. 


Sophie talks about getting all families active in Yorkshire regardless of any barriers at yorkshirefamilies.co.uk