The times of my life: ‘The radio station was a shed. I was like ‘for Christ’s sake!’
Alison Curtis… on a bus trip to Sandyford
Alison Curtis of Today FM: “Definitely getting on that bus is the moment that changed my career path.”
I moved to Ireland in February 1999... I’ll have to do something next year in celebration. I had never done any radio in Canada, where I had just graduated from university. I always wanted to be creative, as I’m not a very logical person. I met this guy who said he was looking for creative writers, and that’s what everyone dreams of doing. He knew a guy who was Canadian and who worked in Phantom [FM]. He put me in contact with him, and so I met [the DJ] Sinister Pete at a bus stop outside the old Screen cinema. He said, “We’ll go to the radio station and have a look.” He was looking for women to be on air, which was big problem back then. I remember really needing to go to the bathroom and think, “I’ll just wait.”
We get on the double-decker bus, and go all the way to to Sandyford. Then we went down a road, go into someone’s backyard. The radio station was a shed. I was like “for Christ’s sake!” He opened this door and I remember at the time on air was Cormac Battle. He looked kind of insane, stuck in a shed for three hours. I was thinking: “Oh man, I’ve made a big mistake here.” But the second I sat down and saw the equipment, that feeling of flipping up the mic, I though, “Wow, I do like this.” That led to getting my indie programme and then my more mainstream programme on Today FM. I wanted to be on mic.
I wanted it to be real, be authentic, be myself on air. It was like a golden age
I played in bands in university and high school. I loved my music and I knew my music. Back then, a lot of people were doing [radio] for the love to it, the creativity around it. We didn’t have Twitter, Instagram – we were the content creators. I did it for the love of that and the love of music. I didn’t want to change my name or have fancy bells and whistles. I wanted it to be real, be authentic, be myself on air. It was like a golden age.
The Irish mafia
I remember things like bringing back the Arcade Fire album, Funeral, from Canada and playing it for the first time. I remember playing a Brendan Benson track for the first time. And then there was the Irish mafia – The Frames, Turn, Bell X1 – Phantom had this network of personalities who were also great musicians, and we were the conduit for that. This is pre-Netflix pre-Netflix, so at nighttime we had really dedicated, loyal focused listeners.
I still love radio, obviously I do. I love connecting with people, talking to people, that’s why I stayed it in it as long as I have. Definitely getting on that bus is the moment that changed my career path.
Alison Curtis is an ambassador for the 2018 Team Hope Shoebox Appeal. The Shoebox Appeal asks people to donate gift-filled shoeboxes to children in some of the poor regions in the world by November 9th. For more information about the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal or to get involved, please visit www.teamhope.ie
The Time of my Life is a weekly column about a moment that changed someone’s life – for the better or the worse.