Lauren Laverne is buzzing with excitement. She woke up to the news that Lizzo had given her a shout-out from the stage at London’s O2 Arena.

“Lauren Laverne played my record on Radio 6 and just like that, I was flying to England every other weekend,” declared the singer, who had her first major radio exposure on Laverne’s BBC 6 Music show back in 2013.

“What an utter queen,” laughs Laverne, who has been helming the station’s flagship breakfast show since 2019. “For everybody at 6, it’s a dream come true to have a world-changing, game-changing artist standing up on stage and describing what we do. We’re this little greenhouse; we plant these seeds and what grows out of them, who knows?”

The BBC network will be out sowing again this weekend with the 6 Music Festival, which takes place in Greater Manchester – the new permanent home of the festival – from Friday (March 24) until Sunday. The event will be broadcast on BBC Radio 6 Music, BBC Sounds, BBC iPlayer and BBC4. It’s headlined by Christine and the Queens, Arlo Parks and Loyle Carner.

Former musician Laverne, meanwhile, has carved out a productive niche as TV, radio and the music industry’s favorite cultural ambassador, with presenting slots on BBC Radio 4’s “Desert Island Discs,” BBC One’s “The One Show” as well as coverage of Glastonbury Festival and the Mercury Prize.

“I just go around being enthusiastic and interested,” she says as she sits down with Variety. “If I see, hear or read something great, it’s a natural impulse to share it.”

The head of 6 Music, Samantha Moy, says all the festival performances “promise something you won’t have heard before.” That’s the opposite of most festivals…

Yes, normally it’s, ‘Play the hits!’ It’s very 6 Music: you’re hearing stuff you haven’t heard elsewhere. We’re the home of alternative culture, so it’s got to be an alternative to all those other things. There are so many festivals around these days, it’s great to be doing something different.

The 6 Music Festival has a diverse line-up at a time when other festivals, including Glastonbury, have been criticized for white male-dominated bills. What’s your view on that?

It’s so difficult to put a festival line-up together. I know several people who do it and I take my hat off to them, so I wouldn’t want to get into criticizing other people’s festivals. But because we play such a breadth of music, it almost feels like cheating. We’ve got this amazing musical sweetshop and, when it comes to something like the festival, we’re filling our boots. And maybe it doesn’t work like that in other places. It’s important to us that we’re representative of alternative music in its most broad and inclusive sense, and representative of our audience, too.

Why are there so few platforms for new music these days?

It’s the dichotomy of the digital age; we’ve got access to everything and yet it’s so hard for artists – there’s so much out there, they can’t cut through. The fact that 6 is a platform where we can play someone like Antony Szmierek, who was doing spoken word poetry and decided to put a beat to it – it’s been transformational for him.

How do you strike a balance between your role as a champion of alternative culture and more mainstream gigs like “The One Show”?

Well, in a funny way, “The One Show” is quite like 6 Music, in that it has that community element alongside interviewing whichever big TV/movie star or musician is on that sofa. [Both] make loads of space for the [audience] to be part of it, but we’ve also got our guests. So even though they’re different things, they pull in the same direction.

How do you feel about presenting the Ivor Novello Awards this year, taking over from Paul Gambaccini after his 34-year stint?

I went to last year’s ceremony to do the handover. I was walking on stage with Joan Armatrading and I said, “God, Joan, I’m nervous about this; they’re such big shoes to fill.” And she just said, “You wear shoes don’t you?” And I was like, “Yes, Joan Armatrading, I do!” – she made me feel so much better! Paul was so gracious about me taking over, so I’m looking forward to doing it. It’s an amazing celebration of talent supporting each other, and that’s priceless.

You took over another great institution, “Desert Island Discs,” in 2019. How are you finding being in charge of a national treasure?

It’s the greatest honor of my life. It’s like being given the crown jewels to look after and it’s just about keeping them sparkling and showing them off to as many people as you can. This past year or so, we’ve had Bono, Kate Moss and Adele as guests, but also unbelievably wonderful scientists and artists. Working on “Desert Island Discs” gives me hope: talking to people who’ve achieved so much every week, you learn a lot about what people are capable of. Radio is pure magic anyway – you speak into a microphone and it floats out into other people’s minds and lives and changes the way they think or feel. But “Desert Island Discs” is the most magical radio of all, and an amazing thing to be a part of.