RELOCATION Ed Smith has been broadcasting his evening show on Today FM from the spare room in his girlfriend’s house in Castlebar since the Covid-19 restrictions began in March.
Name: Ed Smith
Living: Castlebar (temporarily), Stoneybatter, Dublin (permanently)
Occupation: Radio Presenter.
I wish I could say that my mornings, since I moved down to Mayo, start with a 5am yoga session on top of Croagh Patrick! But alas, they don’t, and my days begins much the same as they did pre-Covid.
I sleepily lurch for my phone most mornings to check Twitter, my work mails and then Twitter again before I let my first cup of Barry’s wash the scowl out of my soul and fully loosen my eyelids. I’m a willing slave to routine. Normally I would potter about, go to the gym to burn off some guilt and make the 30 minute walk to the Today FM studio in Dublin for about 1pm, but broadcasting from the house here in Castlebar has forced me to switch things up a bit. I will head into ‘Studio 31’ (the spare room) and get a start on organising the music for the show, listen to any new music that’s cropped up and reply to any work mails that need tending to. Once I’ve some semblance of shape on it, I’ll head for my daily walk up the Glenisland Road towards Tawnyculawee and Derrymaunish. Since my heart attack last September, I need to get some solid cardio in each day so this gently hilly walk is good for the heart and the scenery is good for the soul! Then it’s back to the house for more flustering with the show.
With the onset of the Covid crisis, my underlying health issues made me feel particularly vulnerable. Today FM management have been remarkably understanding and supportive and they insisted I was under no pressure to come to the building to broadcast. The density and close proximity of Dublin living was beginning to weigh on me as the panic really started to set in, so thanks to the willingness of the bosses and the wizardry of the technology, I was able to pack up my car on Paddy’s Day and set myself up in my girlfriend Michelle’s house in Castlebar, which she shares with her sister Dervilla. Saints, both!
Having studied Communications in DIT, it was by actual chance that I got my break in Today FM. A pal was working as a producer there and she mentioned in passing that they were looking for part-time market researchers in the evening. It was essentially cold calling people about their listening habits at the most inopportune time of the day and despite being mostly and rightly told to ‘feck off’, I was in and I’ve annoyed and hustled myself up and across the ladder in the 22 years since.
I have been extremely lucky to have been lingering around the right place and time as a new position opened up and having worked as the assistant to the Head of Music, I went into production on shows with Ray D’Arcy, Tom Dunne, Premier League Live and Paul McLoone. Our CEO at the time, Willie O’Reilly, caught me off guard one day and demanded I tell him what else I could bring to the station. With a Hugh Grantesque stutter, I said I’d love my own show and thankfully I was able to grab at a mantlepiece as he said “Ok so, get back to me with one and we’ll get it sorted.”
I started Ed’s Indie Disco on the Saturday night of August 6, 2011 and a terrible broadcasting beauty was born! I moved to Sunday nights with Ed’s Songs Of Praise in 2014 and I’m now on five nights a week along with my weeknight show, Ed’s National Anthems which started last July.
Mayo is magic
My sabbatical here in Mayo has been wonderful. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more beautifully manicured garden hedges! That’s just another indication as to how proud Mayo people are of where they live and to rob the great John Mullane’s words, ‘They loves their county’. I mean when you go out with a Mayo native you can’t help but get a sense of their passion for their county, especially when it comes to the football, but the sense of loyalty and community really is something special. Oh, and Cafolla’s chips should be in an art gallery!
Covid has changed everything and every industry is facing challenges. Stations with the size and resources of Today FM are undoubtedly in a stronger position to weather this storm and whilst we have taken a huge financial hit, my thoughts go out to the local stations who are really having a very tough time. The frustrating irony is that more and more people are listening to the radio since the crisis hit, but advertisers are too wary to spend in these uncertain times. Today FM digital listening is up by 50 percent which is incredible but also a real testament as to how much Irish people love and rely on radio. If we can all hold the course and when the time is right, advertisers start loosen the purse strings, we can emerge stronger and more robust than ever.
It’s no secret that I love my job, knowing that you’re soundtracking people’s lives for those few hours, be they ironing their shirts, waiting for their kids to finish hurling training or footing turf, to know that you’re with them in the background is just gorgeous.
I also adore being able to shine whatever little bit of radio light I have on up-and-coming Irish bands. It’s been a particularly rough time for the Irish music scene so anything I can do to get their wares out to an audience is a real honour.
In conversation with Michael Duffy
If money was no object what would you do all day?
Don’t tell my bosses but listening to tunes and playing them on the radio. Sickening but true
First thing you’ll do when the Covid-19 shutdown ends?
Squeeze the life out of my daughter Zoe and then take her for a burrito
Most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
I’m an embarrassingly conservative eater but I once ate kangaroo stir-fry in Australia. It was chewy
Favourite place in the world?
My local pub Walsh’s in Stoneybatter. Pint and chat perfection
What makes you angry?
Needless rudeness. Also cucumbers. They are the devil’s fruit
Who was your first hero?
What makes you nervous?
I make myself nervous. I am consistently one stupid thought away from disaster
Which three celebrity guests would you invite to your Zoom party?
Dolly Parton, Martin Scorcese and Brian Kerr
What’s the best advice you ever got?
“Just shut up and play the hits”
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I can’t poach an egg
Name three things in your fridge?
Apart from my head 11 hours a day! Eggs, sausages and a bottle of awful tasting craft beer
What’s your most prized possession?
A recording of my daughter saying her prayers when she was 3
What three songs would definitely be on your Desert Island Disc?
REM - Half A World Away
Dolly Parton - Jolene
Seán Ó Ríada - Mise Éire
Sum up coronavirus in three words?
Relentless, blind, beatable