Alan Regan graduated from the BA in Journalism in 2011, and served as DCUfm’s Deputy Station Manager in 2009/10 and 2010/11. After college, he spent over three years working for Newstalk 106-108 as a producer, researcher and sound engineer. He now lives in Vancouver, Canada.
The studio. The goldfish bowl. The dream factory. We had a lot of names we’d lovingly call the place – except when the computers had one of their regular crashes, then there was mainly shouting.
But there was a benefit in that too. I joined Newstalk as a sound engineer while doing my thesis, and a couple of months into my new job, a fault suddenly developed with the software on the on-air computer during a live show. Thankfully, the DCUfm PCs crashed so often that I knew how to fix it. That evening was the first time I used the word ‘thankfully’ in that context.
It’s hard to overstate this: DCUfm was the defining element of my college experience and it was the springboard for the career I’d always dreamed of.
It all began on week 11 of semester one in first year, when I read the station’s first live bulletin of the year at nine o’clock that Monday morning. I made my way through a script which was quite clunky in hindsight, tripping over my words once during a run-down of the results from the weekend’s provincial club finals. I haven’t been fond of “Rhode from Offaly” since.
From there, I got involved with the News Crew programme and the Current Affairs Show, where I quickly learned what ‘Marantz’ meant. But general interest in the station had waned by the end of the year, and only a handful of us were still involved.
I ran for election at the MPS AGM, and the management team of Denis McEvoy and me was born. One of our earliest acts was to brand our news shows under a unified banner, and we liked the sound of ‘Newswire’.
Alan presents the launch of the new DCUfm on September 30, 2009. Photo: Rudi Corcoran.
It was crucial to stir up interest, so we went on-air in week one with a limited schedule. A new logo, with its FM bubble, and a new website were designed by Steve Conlon. Promos rolled out across the speakers all over campus, flagging the launch schedule and the information meeting in CG12.
Around 150 people showed up that night, and I’m still close friends with many of them. By reading week, a full schedule was in place every week for the first time in the station’s history. By year end, around 100 people or so were still involved.
I remember daydreaming early on what the station would look like with daily programming – and that we might even win an award. There was a cynicism (some of it unfairly harsh) that a station which ended the previous year with fewer than ten people involved could achieve such things.
But in 2010, the station’s volunteers won two Smedias, kick-starting a four-in-a-row for DCUfm in the news programme of the year category. Over at the all-island BICS Awards, DCUfm.com won best website and MPS was crowned as the most improved society.
Another four Smedias followed in 2011, and MPS brought home the biggest prize at the BICS that year, when we officially became Ireland’s best college society. That night in the Galway Bay Hotel remains one of the happiest of my life so far.
Listen here as Stephen Long introduces DCUfm’s live coverage on the night MPS became Ireland’s best college society. Broadcast: April 21, 2011.
The MPS committee, including chairperson, Diarmuid Hayes (centre), as the BICS win in 2011 is announced. Photo: Conor Mulhern.
It’s sometimes hard to explain to non-FMers how much the station means to me. FMers tend to get it, though. It nurtured my love for radio, the most personal and intimate medium of them all. It taught me that producing it is hard work, but it can be still fun and satisfying. And most importantly, it taught me that a blank slate can become a beautiful canvas if you see it the whole way through.
Communicorp’s radio stations use the same RCS software that’s used in DCUfm. This meant I quickly got a job operating the mixing desks in professional radio, first in Spin 1038, and later in Today FM. But Newstalk was the place that gave me my first full-time job, as a sound engineer across a range of live programmes.
In October 2011, DCUfm released extracts of an interview with Bertie Ahern by Barry Lenihan and Séamus Conwell. Dubbed by Broadsheet.ie as ‘the greatest Bertie Ahern interview ever’, I got to hit the play button on the clips on The Right Hook that evening. During my break, I heard a competition being announced by Matt Cooper on Today FM’s The Last Word.
“Which college’s radio station aired that interview with Bertie Ahern that everybody’s talking about? Was it A: UCC, B: NUI Galway, or C: DCU?”
I beamed with pride sitting in the top floor of Marconi House.
Later, I put the rest of the skills that DCUfm nurtured into researching and producing, working most frequently on Newstalk Breakfast, Newstalk Lunchtime, and Talking Point with Sarah Carey. The most memorable items were the ones where people publicly shared their most harrowing stories for the first time on our shows. It’s a privilege to build relationships with such people off-air, and guide them through their moment on national radio.
Alan (far right) producing an outside broadcast for Newstalk in April 2014. Photo: Phil Prendergast.
All the while, I’ve continued watching and listening to DCUfm from the sidelines. The station, and MPS as a whole, have kept growing since I left and they’re now better than ever. It’s been a joy to watch the continued development since.
For many years I’ve had ambitions to go travelling, so last month I moved to Vancouver on a two-year visa. There’s so much to do in this gorgeous city, and places like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Las Vegas are all short trips away. Life is pretty good.
DCUfm helped me get a job, and the earnings from that job are now funding my time here. It’s a studio. It’s a goldfish bowl. And it is most definitely a dream factory.
Alan is on Twitter: @alan_regan. Main photo: Rudi Corcoran.