RADIO DJ Stewart Nicholson, whose voice will be familiar to many from his time with Rother FM, has been riding the airwaves for more than 20 years. He started DJing at events and clubs when he was just 15 but first ventured onto the radio in 1999. Now 44 and living in the Dearne Valley with his fiancée and their sausage dog Mash, Stewart is the now one of the presenters on new station RB1.
Q: How and why did you first get into radio? Were you a keen listener as a child?
A: I loved radio as a youngster as I always had my radio cassette player switched on. It was a Christmas present from my mum and dad, and from being eight years old I would record the charts every Sunday. The music was great - but I was always more interested in what the DJ was saying!
Q: Did you join a local or university radio station? How did you land your first job?
A: I wish I was clever enough to have gone to uni! You couldn't get me out of the radio studio at my college, though. Although I never got a chance to broadcast live whist I was there, I did record lots of demo tapes — and, yes, they were tapes back then!
Back in 1999, I was reading my local newspaper and there was an article looking for wannabe radio presenters for a new local radio station that was starting up. I applied and, luckily enough, those demo tapes must have sounded alright – I got my first weekday evening show on there.
Q: What were your highlights of working for Rother FM?
A: I suppose my whole time at Rother FM was a highlight, but I particularly looked forward to getting out and meeting my listeners with events like the Rotherham Show, the Christmas lights switch on in All Saints’ Square and the Rotherham Toy Appeal - which we are still very involved with to this day with RB1 Radio.
Q: How have your listeners changed over time? And do you feel your listeners really know you?
A: My listeners have been with me from day one. They took me under their wings when I took over the breakfast show and for that I'm very grateful.
I've shared things with them over my time broadcasting that you perhaps would only share with your family or best friends.
With radio, your listener is your best friend — so there is nothing that I wouldn't share with them! I like to think they know me pretty well.
Q: What's the best - and worst - thing about working in Rotherham and South Yorkshire?
A: The best thing about working here is that people across South Yorkshire are the friendliest bunch you will ever meet. They will go above and beyond to help you out. I suppose the worst thing is when it snows the roads are a nightmare...especially as Rotherham is hilly!
Q: Chris Evans tells in his memoirs how he started off helping out at a local station but once wiped the only recording of the star DJ's show. Have you had any similar mishaps?
A: Oh yes! There a couple that spring to mind - the first where I was answering phone calls on a BBC radio station's sports show and accidentally kept saying the name of the community station I was doing shows on at the time, every time I picked up a call. I had to correct myself very quickly!
I was once getting some work experience as a broadcast assistant for a commercial radio station and I had to load presenters’ specialist shows onto the playout computer. I ended up getting two shows mixed up and putting the wrong show on the wrong night. Oops!
Q: Have you ever had any memorably disastrous phone-in calls?
A: I can remember doing a competition where I answered the calls straight to air...which we should never do! I definitely learned the hard way. I answered the phone and said: “Good afternoon, you're live on the radio.” Their reply? “You're f****** kidding me?!”
Needless to say, I will never do that again...
Q: What can you do on commercial radio that the BBC wouldn't be allowed to do?
A: Commercial radio is great as it really allows you to be yourself on air, you can put your personality into it and talk about stuff the listeners can relate to. Another thing is you have time to nip to the loo or go and make yourself a good cup of Yorkshire tea whilst the ads are on!
Q: If you had to stop the show tomorrow, what would you miss the most?
A: Believe it or not, I would seriously miss getting up at a ridiculously early time. More than that though, I would miss the interaction I have with my listeners. I truly do have the best job in the world.
Q: Why is local radio important? And which is more important, the music or the chat?
A: Local radio is massively important because listeners want to hear what is happening where they live. They want to hear local traffic, news that affects them, what’s on in their town (when we aren't in the middle of a pandemic, anyway!). I think the beauty of local radio is that you can switch on and hear a local place name or even a name of someone you might know. It makes you feel at home and part of your community.
I would say the music is just as important in local radio as the chat, the two should complement each other. And there's nothing better than singing along to a belter of a tune in the car, is there!
Q: Away from the airwaves, what kind of music do you play when you have completely free choice?
A: I grew up in the 90s, so in my spare time – on the rare occasion I'm not listening to the radio - I tend to listen to dance and pop from the Nineties.
Q: On the flip side, is there a song you just can't bear to hear ever again?
A: I could quite easily go through the rest of my life without ever hearing Aqua's Barbie Girl again. I used to have to play it quite a lot in the fun bars and clubs I had DJ'd in.
Q: And finally, what does 2021 hold for you and RB1?
A: Apart from hopefully coming out of lockdown sometime this year, fingers crossed, my fiancée and I are getting married. It should have happened last year, but Covid-19 had other plans! Regarding RB1 Radio, we are so excited to be extending the way people can listen to their local commercial radio station. At the moment, you can hear us online, through smart speakers and by downloading our App. But at some point, early in 2021, you will be able to listen to us on DAB across Rotherham and South Yorkshire.
We are so proud to continue bringing truly local radio to Rotherham - always have been and always will be.