How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 170.


I’ve mentioned before that when you leave the safety of a radio studio, things always go wrong.

People who organise live events make the mistake of booking radio presenters to ‘host’ them. Radio presenters work on the outskirts of showbusiness. That means they don’t have an ‘act’. All they can do is introduce things and run contests, just like they do on the radio. Event organisers don’t give them anything to introduce or any contests to run. Music radio presenters have been trained to only talk for very short periods of time, usually less than a minute but they’re often asked to go on stage and talk for up to half an hour at a time. The result is always horrible.

An actual entertainer will do something on stage that gets a genuine reaction from a crowd. Radio presenters don’t know how to do this so instead, they beg for a fake reaction by constantly walking up and down shouting “Make some noise!”

It doesn’t help that most live events they’re asked to ‘host’ are organised by local councils. These people know even less about live entertainment than radio presenters. They’ll book out of tune school bands, on badly lit outdoor stages and make the ‘hosts’ read out reams of badly written copy encouraging people to check out things going on in other parts of the town, nowhere near the stage and direct people to impossibly complicated web addresses to download discount vouchers for retailers that are closed that day.

The worst examples of these shambolic events are the annual “Switching on of the town’s Christmas Lights”. I have yet to go to one of these where the finale, the lights actually being switched on, is not greeted by bored, freezing cold families filled with disappointment and regret.

In case you can’t wait till the very end, the local councils plan these events so plenty of things can go badly wrong BEFORE the lights go on. Just before Christmas 2006, my 2CR FM Breakfast Show co-host, Richie Firth and I were booked to host the “Christmas Lights Switch-on” in Poole, Dorset. Booked acts didn’t show or did shorter sets than planned and we were left on stage to ‘pad’.

We weren’t allowed to start the big countdown ahead of the switch on until a lantern parade of about a hundred carol singing kids and Santa showed up. They were suppose to make their way up the street and onto the stage. I’m sure you could feel the relief in our voices when after more than an hour of running on fumes, we heard the sound of off-key Christmas carols coming up the street.

Just when we thought our nightmare was about to end, the singing was drowned out by two-tone sirens and the candle-lit atmosphere was shattered by red flashing lights.

If you don’t know Poole High Street, it has an interesting feature. The main railway line that connects Poole to London Waterloo runs right across it. That means there’s a level crossing about halfway up. The stage was set up right in front of that level crossing. We had to wait until a long goods train passed and the barriers re-opened before the parade could cross the tracks and make it to the stage.

Here’s what the level crossing looks like during the day in the summer.

On a cold winter’s night in the dark, it’s a death trap. Poole High Street has one of the most dangerous level crossings in Britain. Thankfully, that night the only train wreck was what happened on the stage.

Craic on!

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