"Working at Radio 1 didn't mean I had the perfect life. I didn't have a happy teenage experience and had to deal with abusive relationships and mental health issues, so all the stories I hear really resonate with me."

Gemma Cairney, former Radio 1 DJ, free spirit, feminist, producer, campaigner, Oxfam ambassador, and all round do-er, is en route to Oxford, with a flash of lace, flourish of neon and a cloud of glitter.

Bringing My Beautiful Black Dog with her, the latest offering from her production company Boom Shakalaka, she will be pitching up at North Wall with Brigitte Aphrodite 's acclaimed musical about depression.

Part gig, part theatre; the punk musical promises a love story, that explores the complexities of mental health and the language used around it, through lyricism, poetry, hope and feelings.

Funded initially by a Kickstart campaign, it took Edinburgh Fringe by storm, sold out at the South Bank and has been touring ever since.

"It's amazing to see how it affects people. It's like a guide to life when things are messed up so it's about heartache, grief and body image, but it's also fun, honest, frenetic and filled with hope, which is why is resonates so many people. It's very powerful."

So why did Gemma leave the sanctity and lofty heights of Radio 1 to drive round the country on a tour bus, highlighting the issues facing our young people?

"I felt there was something missing and I needed to have more creative control. I was exasperated. I was exasperated by other people being in charge of the creative output. So I decided to do it myself in a more nuanced way and to put my money where my mouth is.

"I wanted to galvanise people, and having had experience of radio, fashion and drama I was very aware of what was under represented, particularly anything to do with diversity. And I wanted to put work out there that redressed the balance, so that the right people experienced it."

To start with Gemma used video and podcasts to spread the word but as the interest spread, it accumulated in a live show now touring the country and taking in schools.

"It's about being able to have that conversation, to stop people feeling isolated, low or worried, to let them know it's OK to feel that way and that we are all being sold the prefect dream.

I feel a responsibility to talk about these things so getting this out to an audience was important and I knew that I could do that because I'm not afraid to talk to people and address the grit of life."

Radio 1 had set her up, leaving in March after eight years there, two years as resident agony aunt on The Surgery slot, addressing issues such as domestic violence, self harming and eating disorders:

"Working on Radio One was a massive part of a my narrative because I produced specialist documentaries highlighting specialist subjects such as acne, drugs, women.

"I suppose I'm an activist in my heart which sounds so worthy," she laughs,"but I also wanted a change and decided to come and live by the sea instead. I felt like I needed to try some different things and projects and had the energy to tackle that. "

Moving to Margate, she wrote a book 'Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be' which sold hugely well among a predominantly teenage audience. "It was an ode to all of those amazing conversations I've been having over the past few years."

So do young people today have it worse, or are we just more aware? "It's never been easy. The world is a really scary place, particularly from a female perspective and they are overloaded with information without understanding how it makes them feel. Plus our society is weirdly more segmented than ever and the most vulnerable people are the younger generation.

"But look; I'm no expert or a guru. I make mistakes like everyone else. But I have had some amazing experiences which I have dipped in and out of. And while these stories are really sad, they are the reality and dealing with them through the arts is a good start. It works for me."

So has life slowed down? She laughs. "I feel more free, but I don't know what relaxing is. But I swim every day. Even on Christmas Day you'll find me out there in my cossie with all the old ladies. I love it. I'm addicted."

My Beautiful Black Dog

North Wall

Monday October 9

01865 319450