“Local radio is so important because it’s unique. Local radio is unique to anywhere else.”
Hailing from Mullingar, Peter was never one of those people obsessed with radio, that happened later in life! He went the safe route and studied engineering in Athlone IT and ventured into road design. Then after a bit of soul searching he ditched his career and discovered his passion for radio.
Starting out as a volunteer in community radio, Peter was then given an opportunity to shine on-air by Midlands 103 almost 12 years ago. “I’m not your conventional radio jock, I like to be expressive, have some fun and don’t take myself too seriously. I fell in love with radio working with Midlands 103 and I’ve always clicked with the listeners because for me radio is about connecting with people and keeping them entertained, they give you their precious time and it’s my job to not waste it.
You might have also heard Peter on Nova, LMFM and RTE 2xm, he has also picked up three national radio awards along the way.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Peter Dunne and the breakfast show presenter here on Midlands 103 and I’m just your stereotypical dad. I’m useless at DIY and fixing stuff around the house. I’m a brilliant chef. I’m really underappreciated in my house. Also, I love sport. I’m a big Man United fan. I’ve suffered. For the last 10 years, as a result, and I coached the kids at the weekend, we coached them in hurling in GAA, Gaelic football as well. I crack a lot of jokes around the house that also go under appreciated as well.
I’m one of these dads where weird things happen to me. I end up in really funny, awkward situations, but it makes for great content for the listeners, so I’m able to share with them and they share with me, you know, so it’s, it’s great crack, but that’s it. That’s where I get some of my content from. It’s just being your standard typical underappreciated, stereotypical awkward dad.
How did you get into radio?
How I got into radio.. I never wanted to get into radio. It was never my intention. You often hear people saying I’ve always wanted to be a DJ. I’ve always wanted to be on air and not. That was never me. I’m a qualified design engineer and I’ve done that for years and during the crash between 2007 plus. I managed to hold on to my job as a design engineer for a while and then when the country went further belly up, I was made redundant back in 2010 and it was a really, really low time because had a deposit down on a mortgage. We were planning a wedding and we had to pull the plug and all that, and we had to move back in with our parents basically to try and save up our money.
It was a tough time, but at the same time, it’s funny. Because I felt this weight off my shoulders where I could say right now what I want to do, I get a start over because I’ve been made redundant from my job and I thought I’m going to do something I’ve never done before and I’m going to give up engineering. I’m going to give up design and radio popped into my head. So, when you’ve got a blank canvas and you say right, what are we going to do it? It’s a huge relief the.
Job was OK, it was grand, it was fine. I mean but are you going to look back in 40 years’ time and go, ah, I did an OK job, prayed for the weekend. The usual for 40 years. Or are you going to do a job where you’re going to go? I love that. And I did not feel like work for one day. So, I came to the conclusion of radio.
When? I was working with the consultancy. My escapism was radio and I never really realised it, but I just used to have the headphones in. Listen to my favourite presenters and I’d often think I think I could do that. I might be able to do that. And maybe someday I will. But the grown up in you goes. Nah, don’t. No, stick with your job. The money’s coming in. It’s fine. But I decided that was my escapism. So why not escape into my escapism full time? And I did. I did that. I took the plunge.
I told my girlfriend at the time, my now wife, that I want to get into radio and she said go for it. She was feeling sorry for me. She told me afterwards. She thought I’d never make it in radio, but she thought the poor thing just lost his job, you know? Complicate him for a while. So I worked hard. I volunteered. I worked full time. I worked three jobs. Actually, at one stage I’ve volunteered in radio. I just took every opportunity that was going. I was 28 at the time. So, it was a little bit further on than most people getting into the radio and I just took every opportunity and I absorbed everything from presenters, uh, producers, researchers, everybody involved in, in radio. I took it all in and I took my chance. And I thought that, OK, if I go for this, there may be a chance I won’t like it, as in, I’m going to go for this. I’m going to do a full time. I’m going to hate it now. I love it more than ever. It’s such a brilliant job. And I absolutely love it. Thankfully, I did take the plunge. But I needed to be made redundant to do that.
How does a general day as a radio presenter look like?
So, the general day is my day. Starts the day before, you know, preparation for the show, for the breakfast show always starts on the day before or for a Monday. It’ll start of a Friday for Tuesday, it’ll start of a Monday. So, you always have to have your stuff prepped, ready to go know what you’re going to do. About 75% of the show was prep. The other 25% is kind of open for things that will happen in the meantime or if you get a good idea, something is something breaks in in the news or you get some good surveying or a good news report or something like that, or a good story from somebody and you look at it and you go right, how can I make this local? How can I put my twist on it?
Breakfast is all about having a bit of fun, having a bit of crack, getting people off to the best possible start. Good upbeat music and telling people what happened since they went to sleep the night before. And putting that all together in a 2 and a 1/2 hour show. And so that’s what it’s all about. But you know you’re at the advantage and breakfast where something will break an item will come through and you get to do your take on it before everybody else. Anyone else in another local station, regional, national, whatever you can, you can make it local. And that’s what I love to do. I love to be able to turn around content very, very quickly. And just be the first out there to put it out on social, to put it down on air as well. And that’s the key – you’re always looking for the next thing, the next item, the next link. So, if we can do something creative. Absolutely brilliant. Let’s do it. That’s it. That’s very much the job. And then as soon as 9:00 comes, the show finishes, Tuesday starts. Or else you could be working towards something for Friday. Always on the go.
And speaking of which, I mean, as a presenter, you’re always on anyways. You never turn off because you know your content comes from your life. You’re always on. So, if something happens outside work hours, you know you go right. OK, this could be content. This could be a story for tomorrow. We can do something. With this it could be something we can use to generate listener content and interaction with listeners. And I just quickly take out my phone and I go make a note of it as soon as I get home or as soon as I get into the station the following day, we can work on it. But you’re always on your you never, ever turn off. That’s the thing, and funny situations will happen to you, awkward situations and your next thought is this is content. How can we use this on air? So, you’re always on, you’re always going.
But my second role in the station is as a System Programme Director and I’d be dealing with the PD a lot when it comes to content. When it comes to presenters, promotions, ideas. Are ideas for the station looking for new talent as well? Our station sound is a big thing as well. The sound of Midlands 103 is just crisp, it’s incredible and we need to keep it at that high standard. So, you know that’s part of my role as well.
What do you like the most about your job?
And what I like most about my job is, creativity. I’m a creative person. I love creativity. I love to be able to do something different. From a different angle, look at things from a different perspective, and I love to create content, but I also love encouraging other people to be creative and sitting with people. And, you know, dishing out ideas with them. How can we do this? How can we work on this? How can we make it better? I’ve got an idea for you. Brilliant. You have an idea for me? OK, let’s work on it. And just encouraging people in general. That’s one thing I love to do. I’ll let see talent coming through and see people who have never been on radio before. Who you sit down with and you coach and you go through a few items with them. We listen back to a few things, and you listen to them. And you just go. Wow. Brilliant. Excellent. I love this job. It’s one of the greatest jobs in the world. And it’s, it’s an honour. It’s an honour to be brought into people’s homes. Into people’s workplaces, into people’s cars, into people’s lives, into people’s families lives as well. It’s an absolute honour.
What’s your hosting style?
As a host, I’m just myself, that’s all I can be. It’s too exhausting trying to be somebody else, you know? Like if you’re going to be somebody else, you’re going to be an actor. Imagine having to be an actor 2 1/2 hours a day on air. Monday to Friday. Thinking about it now is exhausting, so the best thing you can do is just be yourself. It’s easy to be yourself, you know, and when you’re yourself, you connect with the listeners. The listeners hear it in your voice when you’re genuine. So don’t try and be anything else, just be you. Be interactive and that’s the thing about people. People will connect with you because they will hear when you’re genuine. They will hear when you’re being honest with them. Never, ever lie to a listener. Be honest with them and appreciate them because they’re giving you their time and their time is the most precious thing, they can give you. So, appreciate that and do not waste it. And that’s what I like about my style is I’m just me. That’s it. I’m me. And I love connecting with the audience and I get a great response from the Midlands.
One or three listeners, we’ve great interaction and to the point that there’s people I know that I don’t know. Does that make sense? There are people who I would walk straight past on the street. I wouldn’t recognise them, but I know them. They’ve opened up to me, their lives, their family, their job, their routine, their likes, their dislikes, all that kind of stuff. It’s an absolute privilege.
Because it’s breakfast we have lots of fun with camera and our news reader, David, our news reader as well. And uh, any contributors to the show. It’s all just about fun. Having a bit of crack. Uh, there have been times where I’ve been in tears laughing. I’ve been laughing so much that I couldn’t go on. I just had to hit the button to play a song, you know?
There was a time recently where myself and Cameron, our news reader, decided to record our own song called “You Should Never Push Your Granny Off the Bus” and we had a bit of crack with it. And even recently we got the pop band Chasing Abbey on air to review the song for us and sing along. So, that was good fun. And what other job could you do that in, you know, uh, we get great response from the listeners as well as a result. There was a time I went missing on air for the crack and listeners had to track me down. There was another time where I was force fed pineapple on a pizza at half eight in the morning because I lost the bet thanks to the listeners. It’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant. The things you get to do and the content you produce and the great stories. I mean there’s loads, there’s loads you can go through, but that’s just a few for now.
What makes Midlands 103 different?
What makes Midlands 103 different from any other radio station is Midlands 103 are super encouraging when it comes to creativity. Creativity is priority, encouraging people to try something different. Different idea. Brilliant. Let’s go. Let’s, let’s have a look at it. Let’s flesh it out. Let’s do it. You know, with some stations, some stations are afraid to try something different. They keep it the same over and over again. That’s not for Midlands 103, that’s what I absolutely love about the station. And it’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to come and work for Midlands 103. Is that encouragement of creativity. I’m a creative person. If I can’t be creative then I’m going to do something else. You know that. That’s me. If I’m going to have to do the same thing over and over again, I’m going to have to do a link that’s the same over and over again. That that’s not me. I’m not having fun. And if I’m not having fun, the listeners are probably not having fun as well. So, the great thing about Midlands 103 is creativity. Let’s try it. You know, nothing’s off the table. Let’s do it. If it works, it works. Brilliant. If it doesn’t. OK, we’ve tried it. Let’s move on. Let’s learn from that, and let’s look for the next thing. But that’s what I absolutely love about Midlands 103. And what sets us apart from other stations.
Why do you think local radio is important?
Local radio is so important because it’s unique. Local radio is unique to anywhere else. I mean, you can listen to the nationals. You won’t hear about your local town or village where they’re now charging for people, for parking. Which doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but to you it’s important. You’ll hear about road closures nearby. You’ll hear about activities to do with your kids. You’ll hear about how to pass the weekend. You’ll hear about anything happening. You’ll hear about all the events that are happening locally and it it’s just wonderful for local radio when people can turn on their radio, they can look out their window. The presenters talking about just outside your window.
You know when you’re walking through town and presenter is talking about your town, you know that really embraces the listener into your conversation as well. You know, when you, when you mention a street name, when you mention a monument or a building or something in your area. You’re there. The picture is painted because this is theatre of the mind. So, I could tell somebody. Patrick St. in Tullamore, I could tell somebody Mary St. in Mullingar, I could tell somebody The Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise. And they’re there, you know, when we’re telling a story. When we’re talking about something. You’re there. You can picture it. It’s local, it’s unique, and we make it unique in Midlands 103. We make local as such a priority. Now local doesn’t mean we can’t talk about anything else. Of course, we talk about everything that’s going to affect local people. National, international or within the three counties of Laois, Offaly and Westmeath. So, we make it, we make it all relevant. But that’s what makes local radio so important. There is nothing that can compete with local radio.
Peter Dunne | Radio Presenter and System Programme Director at Midlands 103
“Working with Midlands 103 never feels like work, for me it’s home. Now more than ever we need good vibes, great music, a bit of a laugh, to keep you up to date with everything happening in the midlands and some good company. I’ve always been a morning person and I love having a bit of craic when everyone is getting ready to face the world whether it’s the kids or the big kids listening!”
What’s the secret behind what he brings every weekday morning?
“There’s no secret, you just have to be yourself, have fun with the listeners and enjoy what you’re doing, it’s as simple as that”.