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Ian Dempsey: 'Was I really asleep in that picture? But I was standing up. Did Matt Cooper really say that?'

The atmosphere of trying out new ideas was addictive and the fearless nature of all the staff allowed us to go on a kind of radio crusade, writes Ian Dempsey.

Ian Dempsey

OKAY, SO STICKING washing machines, bikes and other metal objects to a billboard under the slogan “Radio Ireland – Magnetic Listening” wasn’t the greatest idea of all time, but sitting out in RTÉ it still seemed to me that exciting times were ahead and something special was about to happen on the national radio spectrum in Ireland.

Radio Ireland, which became Today FM began broadcasting 20 years ago this week and celebrated by converting The Jervis Centre into a massive Disco Bar, throwing an awesome party to which even the competition, like me, was invited.

I accepted (the polite thing to do) and had the eye opening hazy night of nights. The next morning wasn’t as pleasant but I did realise that this golden ticket wasn’t the only invitation I would accept from them. Or my last hangover.

At the request of John McColgan, I moved in one year later in 1998 to host the Breakfast Show.

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The atmosphere was fearless and addictive

After initially trying to please all of the people all of the time, Radio Ireland changed its name to Today FM, sharpened its tools and got busy.

The atmosphere of trying out new ideas was addictive and the fearless nature of all the staff allowed us to make a complete balls of something and then just move on with enthusiasm to our next attempt. Some would call it naivety but it felt more like a radio crusade to all of us.

Today FM is an enigma to most seasoned radio professionals because, on paper at least, it shouldn’t really work. A mix of my fluffy breakfast show, mid morning banter, music with chat, more music, hard news with a little human interest, more serious music, a business show and a five hour soccer show.

This would give most programmers the ultimate migraine but Today FM has succeeded because of one vital ingredient: the listener. They celebrate, criticise, share and surprise us every hour of every day.

The can do attitude makes it all work

From day one the Today FM listener has felt ownership of the station and their views and opinions were always taken on board. With social media it’s now even easier for them to be heard and none of the shows get away with any slack for too long.

In Today FM there’s a can do attitude in the air where we always say “why not? rather than “let’s not” and through the last 20 years we have always tried to bring the wow factor to our shows.

Memorable highlights include our coverage of several World Cups including Gift Grub predicting Roy’s exit 24 hours before he headed for the airport, The Euros, Shave Or Dye, You Do The Maps, Whole Lotta Live, The Ski Trip, Dare To Care, The Jumbo Jet In Transit to Enniscrone, Blow Me (a rude sounding but innocent cash giveaway), A Minute With A Million and many more.

Work hard play hard approach

There was always a work hard play hard approach in the radio station and our Christmas parties (and summer, Easter, nearly autumn and any excuse parties) were the stuff of legend.

Recently recovered photographs will never be seen by the general public, a decision everybody in Today FM agrees is the right thing to do.

I mean, was I really asleep in that picture? But I was standing up. Did Matt Cooper really say that? What was he thinking? Is that not Louise Duffy? And is that not also illegal?

There are so many great moments from all the shows and many more still to be conjured up in our bizarre little radio heads.

Along with the current line up we have had fine broadcasters like Eamon Dunphy, Ray D’Arcy, Anton Savage and the late Tony Fenton transmitting to the nation. I miss them all personally but Today FM is now fully revved up and ready to take on another 20 years, connecting directly with listeners as only we can and continuing to be a vital part of every day. That means Today.

Ian Dempsey hosts the Breakfast Show on Today FM. 

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Ian Dempsey

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