“Travel blogging killed a radio star” – lyric alteration from the Buggles.
I’ve always loved radio. Background banter. Something you don’t need to watch while you listen to it. You can do other things and have the football, music or chat show on in the background. I love working on radio. During my teenage years I recorded a radio show for my family once a year at Christmas, compiling some banter and my personal top 10 songs of the year in the 1990s.
By 1997 I was studying media in Belfast and working as a student Radio DJ in Belvoir Training Centre. I did a 30 minute radio feature on the political situation in Northern Ireland. It was part of my NVQ in Journalism. I loved the radio aspect of the course and often spent 8 hours a day in the studio on my own, until the place burnt down and closed (yes that college no longer exists, but I got my qualification).
I’ll dig that Belfast radio feature out and share it some day. I have it on a cassette tape somewhere. I interviewed Grant Dillon and Jackie Beattie who were opposed to the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement at the time. I got the highest grade possible for that feature and loved being a radio DJ at Belvoir Tech in Belfast. Days I’ve yet to recount on Don’t Stop Living, they were more than half my life ago…
Belfast later became Bournemouth as I traded my home country of Northern Ireland for life in England. Tech turned into University too and by 2003 I was DJ-ing on Nerve Radio (also did a couple of live gigs at events for them). Nerve Radio is “the soundtrack to Bournemouth University”. It’s the Students Union radio station.
I ended up doing over 250 radio shows on Nerve Radio between 2003 and 2008! Every single one of them was broadcast live on the internet, and all over the campus, in student bars, shops etc. If you attended Bournemouth University at the time and you heard a Northern Irish accent on the radio – that was probably me, “Jonny Blair on the air”, that was my catchphrase. I did it for fun, the love of it and the passion. I’ll go into depth more on a “Working Wednesdays” feature at some point, in the meantime I present you with the day I…Did An FM Radio show naked in Bournemouth, England.
“It’s getting hot in here so take off all your clothes” – Nelly
Nerve Radio on FM (Frequency Modulation)
Nerve Radio are a student radio station broadcasting 24 hours a day on the internet. That’s right – 24 hours a day. The myriad automated system meant that the radio station carried on in the absence of a DJ. However once a year Nerve would be given a 2-3 week FM licence (which costs a fair amount), which required us to have advertisers like new voucher, Subway, the local Inferno and stick to the usual regulations, no swearing on air etc. But Nude DJs were exempt as I found out, so I grasped the challenge with both testicles back in March 2005 and planned a radio show without clothing. A trait I continued into my backpacking day – naked travel places.
Before that though, my first FM stint for Nerve was in January 2004 when I did the mid morning shows. It was so much fun. I’d give shout outs to my mates, play the songs I wanted, get interactive and promote stuff around the university, including some unashamed self promotion for myself getting into the Lock In (a University style big brother, which is a future story on here for sure!). By March 2005, I was one of the more experienced DJs on the team. Life was really good back then.
In 2004-2005, I was DJ-ing on Nerve a crazy amount of hours, often skipping lectures to sample new idents, add new songs and I just loved sitting in the studio. I’d concoct my own ideas for shows, interview people around the uni, get live bands in and generally ensure that Nerve Radio was the best station in the world. If you don’t aim high, you might as well not be there.
“If you are first, you are first. If you are second, you are nothing.” – Bill Shankly
Naked Nerve Planning 2005
So when the FM schedules were announced for early March 2005, I found myself with 12 of my own FM radio shows over a 2 week period and 2 guest appearances on other shows, including what was to be the first and only ever FM radio show I co-hosted with my flatmate Jody Casey at the time. I noticed that my Friday show coincided with a mega Comic Relief day in the University and all over the UK as well as being Friday the 13th. I would be on from 12 – 2pm. Time for me to stand out from the crowd again.
So I signed up for the Comic Relief website aiming to raise some money by doing an FM show NAKED. In the buff. Willy out. Balls out. Ass out. Skinny figure out. I loved the freedom of radio, the thought of doing a show in the buff was an extra incentive, a majorly exciting idea. Plus the chance to raise a bit of cash for kids in Africa (where I had never been before at the time) was a big bonus. I’m since glad I’ve backpacked in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Swaziland etc. to see where some of my cash raised “may have gone”.
I admit one thing – I was busy though. I had a full time university degree, I organised football meet ups, I worked in a shop and an ice cream kiosk. I had a full time girlfriend (which in fairness, takes up a lot of time when you’re 24). Lauren, my English girlfriend loved the radio show though. I didn’t have much time to promote the event, but fellow radio DJs knew about it and in particular the sparkling Abbie Love (that’s her real name) reminded listeners that they could catch me broadcasting naked live on the webcam.
The Naked FM Radio Show, Friday 13th March 2005
So it was the last day of our FM licence and I arrived in the studio about 15 minutes before my show. I was on 87.7 FM from 12 – 2pm that day. I did the lunchtime show. It was also Friday the 13th!! Fully clothed of course on arrival. Zoe Mack was on before me, Carly Warren would be on after me. Sandwiched between these two fine young English girls would be the naked Northern Irishman. I thought about walking in completely naked during Zoe’s show just before mine, but oddly there was a sense of professionalism about my nudity on this day. It was carefully organised. Zoe did say she was making a quick getaway but I listened to the last part of her show and she introduced me in as I took over the controls.
Naked Nerve with Jonny Blair on the Air
The deal was I’d take off one item of clothing every 15 minutes of the show, leaving me completely naked for the final 15 minutes. For those 15 minutes, I was dancing naked in the studio playing songs by Louise and Kylie Minogue and yes, it was live on the webcam on the internet webstream. Naked by Louise was the song I took my underpants off to and danced naked in the studio with!
Not that anyone would want to actually look. Radio is about listening, and I did my best to make the show the best I could. In fact, I’d say it was one of my best ever shows and I will share the show some day as I have a tape copy of it somewhere – Naked Nerve – Comic Relief Friday.
My show went live on the radio, on FM all over Dorset, and all over the world on the internet. It was a flawless, professional show. I had quizzes, anecdotes, interaction and quirky stories. I gave text updated from listeners as I revealed which item was coming off next. My Naked Nerve show was a rousing success and in many ways one of my best moments in life. I got featured in the University Magazine for it (they even included the naked photo), I raised some cash for charity and my place was cemented in Nerve Radio history, whether people liked it or not. Believe it or not, people around me actually liked it.
I later won 2 awards for my radio show that year at the Nerve University Awards, including Outstanding Contribution to Nerve Radio and Radio Personality of the Year.
To top it all off I got to represent Nerve and Bournemouth at the National Student Awards in Loughborough and ended up collecting two trophies for Nerve!
I also once DJ-ed at a festival, in the student bar and I was in the DJ box running Colin Murray’s decks once while he popped to the toilet. Colin Murray is a well known UK DJ from Belfast, we flew the Northern Ireland scarf together in the DJ box once. I’m sure I’ll have a few more stories to come on those days.
I haven’t done a Radio show for a few years now, and yes I do kind of miss it. These were great times. BUT to make up for that I have been featured on a 5minute interview on BBC Radio Ulster based on my travels, recorded a Travel Podcast for Love Affair Travel and just finished my second Travel Podcast interview for Brian Tells Stories. I guess that means I’m still recording stuff!
– Jonny Blair Interview on BBC Radio Ulster Drivetime Show, September 2013
– Jonny Blair Travel Podcast on Love Affair Travel, February 2014
– Jonny Blair Travel Interview on Brian Tells Stories, 2015
– Jonny Blair Interview on Radio Poznan, Poland, February 2017
– Jonny Blair Podcast on Counting Countries, Poland, January 2018
Alas it was great fun and even Lauren enjoyed it (she was a “saucy girl”), but my days of getting naked on FM radio are over, it was a one off and I loved it, but I’m sure you’ll hear my voice again.
In the meantime, it’s “Jonny Blair off the air”. Happy listening!
Other Cool DJs I worked with on Nerve:
Tom Clarke, Jody Casey, Zoe Mack, Emma Broomhall, Adrian and Rich (the Breakout Brothers), Dan and Will, Ally Long, Neil and Sally (in the morning), Kathryn MacDonald Taylor, Carly Warren, Kevin Radcliffe, Kimberley Middleton, Bee, Sarah, Tom Newitt, Abbie Love, Louise Fowler, Tom, Sarah Callan, Sam Williams, Guy and a load of other top DJs!
The bosses – Jason Hawkins, Natalie Johnson.
Thanks for the memories, Nerve, It was fun!