“I see my job to be that of a listener and let the listener do the talking! It might sound strange for a talk-show presenter to keep as quiet as possible but the show is really all about our listeners and not about me”.
– Tommy Marren
We’re excited to be back with our #OtherSideOfTheMic series. #OtherSideOfTheMic is a must-listen series of interviews with our local radio presenters that allow us to learn more about the unique voices behind each station.
As our fourth guest guest, we have Tommy Marren from Midwest Radio. Tommy has hosted Midwest Radio’s main current-affairs programme for almost 34 years and despite the many changes in the media landscape he’s as passionate about his job today as he was when he started in 1989.
Click below to listen to the interview or scroll down to read.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Tommy Marren. I’ve hosted Midwest Radio’s current affairs programme, believe it or not, for 34 years now. I’m on air every Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 11:00. We broadcast to the County of Mayo, but we’ve got a huge listenership in neighbouring counties as well – Roscommon, Sligo and Galway. A great job. It’s a job where I see my job as being listening rather than talking, and that might in its own way sound a bit strange, but for me it’s all about what the listener has to say and very little about me, myself.
How did you end up working in the world of radio?
I’m from County Sligo. Began my career in banking, but from an early age I really realised that it was talk radio. That was my main ambition in life. I was lucky enough to get a job with Midwest Radio on a part time basis. I used to anchor the weekend sports programmes back in 1990 and 1991. And then Midwest radio, they got the franchise for the Sligo North Leitrim and South Donegal area, a new radio station called Northwest Radio. They asked me would I be interested in going on as station manager and also doing the main current affairs programme and obviously I grabbed it with both hands and I did that very successfully would have thought for many, many years until sadly, Northwest Radio closed in 2002. Thereafter, I continued working at Midwest and then in 2007 I became station manager. Uh, a bit challenging too I suppose. And doing a radio programme with management, but in many ways one compliments the other because I get to work with people who produce and present programmes within agriculture, the Irish language, religion, the promotion of local musical artists and, of course, the arts itself. So, it is a challenging but very rewarding job.
“We never underestimate the privilege it is to be able to broadcast to such a loyal audience and that is something we always instil in our staff. We have a responsibility to educate, inform and entertain our audience and I think that as long as we never lose that focus the future for Midwest is bright”.
Can you tell us a bit more about The Tommy Marren show? What do you usually talk about on your show?
As for my own radio programme. It really can be about anything from A-Z. We generally try to deal with national topics at a local level, getting local angles to national stories. But behind all of that, too, is the importance of being available for local and voluntary groups to promote the work that they do. We have book reviews. We have mental health slots, we have a weekly finance feature. It’s a real current affairs programme/magazine style programme and we always leave a little bit of room for playing birthday requests and a few musical memories as well. So all in all.. . I think the programme has done extremely well at 34 years on the radio. Uh, you know, I look back at it and I think where did those 34 years go?
We have dealt with everything. We’ve talked to many famous people, but as I say, it’s predominantly the local listeners, the issues around potholes, the closure of our post offices, the demise of our banking system in the West of Ireland, the Western Rail Corridor, Ireland West Airport in Knock, what’s its future? It can be anything. It can be somebody complaining about customs charges on parcels. It can be somebody complaining about the overrun of cats in an area. Even this morning, we talked, for example, to the CEO of Pieta house. Also, on the programme this morning, we spoke about a pilot scheme that’s taking place where electric bikes are going to be made available in towns for people to use on an ad hoc basis. So, the agenda is very wide, and we like to give as much variety as possible.
Will you continue to work in radio?
So, 34 years on, coming, I suppose, in many ways to the end of my career. And a lot of people say, well, will you continue to work in radio when you get to pension age? I guess that depends on the powers that be that are here, but I certainly would like to think that that there’s a few years of broadcasting left in me, yes.
Do you have any other hobbies than you like to pursue when you’re not broadcasting?
Away from radio, my other big passion in life is drama. And I’ve been fortunate enough to write a few what have turned out to be very successful Irish comedy plays. I’ve written plays called the “Banshee of Croaky Hill”, “It’s the Real McCoy”, “Nobody’s talking to me” and “Three Hail Marys”. And the last play, “Three Hail Marys” we toured, not just Ireland but we were also in America and in the UK. And we did an entire week at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, which was a great achievement for me as a playwright and indeed an actor.
“I never thought that any of my plays would have become as successful as they have but I know that people love to laugh and so when writing plays I make sure that the storyline is filled with humour. It’s a nice escape from radio and there’s great satisfaction when people tell you how much they have enjoyed a show and the fact that many people have come back to see the plays more than once is the greatest compliment of all”.
So that is my main hobby in life. I don’t golf. I don’t read books a lot, although we do a lot of book reviews, but overall, I’ve had a very, very wonderful career in broadcasting. I couldn’t have asked for a better job, so for however long more, the Tommy Marron remains in on the airwaves of the Midwest. Uh, I’ll be here, I suppose, until they say, well, we don’t need you anymore, but hopefully that won’t be for a long time to come.
Tommy Marren, The Tommy Marren Show, Midwest Radio.