Lynette Fay: The magic of radio is unbeatable

As she prepares to pass two significant milestones this week, Lynette Fay is in reflective mood - and even after two decades in broadcasting, she says there's still no better buzz than radio

Lynette Fay

This week marks Lynette Fay's 20th anniversary of working at the BBC and the first anniversary of her weekday Radio Ulster programme. Picture by Ann McManus

MILESTONES are times in our lives when we take stock of everything that we have done so far, aren't they? Sometimes we panic about them, worry that we haven't ticked enough boxes.

This week, I mark two professional milestones. Tomorrow is the first anniversary of my weekday programme, The Lynette Fay Show. And this Friday marks my twentieth year working on Radio Ulster.

Yes, twenty years. I am as shocked as some of you might be to read that.

Sometimes I think that so much has been done, tried, tested - successfully and not - during those two decades of radio.

Other times, it feels like I walked into Broadcasting House for the first time yesterday.

I have said it before, I really should keep a diary.

This column sometimes acts like one though - somewhere to document what is happening and to reflect on the past.

This time twenty years ago, I was definitely in shock that I had got the job I applied for, which was as a producer in the Irish language unit, BBC Gaeilge as it is now known.

I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do it all. I started on the Monday, and was on air on Wednesday evening. I will never forget my editor at the time pacing up and down outside the studio while I presented my first show. I will not be listening back to that...

Starting work on Radio Ulster was as intimidating as it was exciting.

Lynette nearly fainted the first time she met the late, great Gerry Anderson in BBC Broadcasting House

Many of the presenters were household names, big personalities. A visit to the canteen would have frequently left me star-struck.

I remember the first time I saw Gerry Anderson in person. He smiled and said hello. I nearly fainted.

I never wanted or aspired to be involved in the world of celebrity. I always found it intimidating and false. Still do.

Put me in a crowd of everyday people and I will find the stories, and I will also find the musicians. I hope that I encourage them.

I remember the first time I saw Gerry Anderson in person. He smiled and said hello. I nearly fainted 

I found myself frequently in awe of long-serving producers who seemed to know exactly the right person to talk to about a particular subject.

I think that the best radio happens outside the studio. Outside broadcasts take a lot of hard work to put together, but there is no better feeling than knowing that your radio show has filled a venue with the best of musicians and punters who want to be part of it.

Bringing radio to the people definitely gets the best out of them. It is a privilege to have the chance to do this and I can't wait to get out and about again.

There have been so many fantastic outside broadcasts over the years, from every corner of the country and further afield.

The highlight though, was presenting a live show from the Croke Park Hotel in 2008, minutes after Tyrone had won the All Ireland football final for the third time. I had a post-match guest list to make sure that contributors got in to the hotel. Magic.

Presenting a live show from the Croke Park Hotel in 2008, minutes after Tyrone had beaten Kerry to win the All Ireland football final for the third time, is one of Lynette's career highlights. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

There have been plenty of disasters too, but I'll save those for my memoir.

The great thing about working in Radio Ulster for two decades is that I haven't been doing exactly the same thing every day for all that time.

I have worked on many different shows in different roles. That makes the job challenging, exciting, daunting at times - but never boring.

The other milestone this week is The Lynette Fay Show's first birthday. I started the afternoon show properly when I returned to work after maternity leave... during a global pandemic. No pressure.

It's a different proposition. I still play good music (I think so anyway) but I was also keen to have different, sometimes difficult and challenging conversations, and to get the audience involved.

I enjoy learning something new every day. I don't think anyone knows it all when it comes to radio, or any profession for that matter.

Impostor syndrome remains and I know that when you put yourself into the public arena, you remind yourself and try to learn to accept that not everyone will like you.

That is always a work in progress, and is true in all ways of life, isn't it?

Twenty years has brought much change both professionally and personally. One thing will never change though, when you have a good day at the office, the magic of radio is unbeatable. There is no better buzz.

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