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The Chris Moyles of the Falkland Islands

On becoming the Breakfast Show host on Falklands Radio

‘Are you an early bird? Do you love music? Do you enjoy interacting with members of the public?’

Well, no; yes – but with major caveats; and, er, not in most cases, honestly.

‘If so, Falklands Radio may have the perfect job for you.’

Oh, well. In for a penny…

Two months before, I’d still been living it up in the tropics. And then my wife, a school teacher, spotted a job in Stanley. Now we were on one salary, plus hungry three-year-old, and in a place where cucumbers cost almost four quid. The shipping bills, also, required a hasty fix.

The alternative jobs that week were Biosecurity Inspection Assistant (£16k, full time, irregular hours) or a job in ‘building services’ (‘must be of sober habits’); so I fired off my letter of application ‘outlining any previous experience’ (nil) and ‘reasons for applying’ (domestic equilibrium), and to my slight surprise I got an interview. Perhaps I was the only applicant.

They asked me what would be in my dream Breakfast Show. “Three hours of Handel opera, probably.” I reckon that was where I really landed it.

Still, I’d barely set foot in a studio, and certainly never sat behind the control panel – so there would be a serious amount of training needed. A month or two at least, I thought.

Ten hours, it turned out; then I was live on air. That first Friday I had to let myself in to the building.

It was a soft-ish launch, in fairness: two weeks co-hosting mentor Liz’s Morning Show, becoming the voice of her new ‘Checkout!’ shopping quiz, and making myself useful when Prince Philip died and the station suddenly needed somebody to line up a few days of Sombre Classical.

And then I started, for real, on Monday 3 May. May Day, in fact – and you needn’t think I didn’t make that joke (and then instantly wonder if it wasn’t a disastrous, perhaps even illegal, thing to say over the airwaves). My first track was Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’, an earworm dance number I’d once been stuck with for six months while in Afghanistan, and which the playlist hasn’t brought up since. (Some things are simply meant to be, I guess. As frequent listeners will vouch, I’m partial to a good coincidence.)

An habitual night-owl, the schedule now is I wake up round 5am, drink a properly unhealthy amount of coffee, and walk the mile down to the station, about 6ish. It’s mid-winter in the Southern hemisphere, and there are still a good three hours before the sun comes up.

One of my first tasks is to read the weather forecast for the day, which can be weird when announcing a ‘high’ sunburn risk while it’s pitch black outside. On windy days the road from Stanley to the RAF-run airport may be officially closed (to Forces personnel, mind; not civilians). And the ‘sheep chill factor’ gets a giggle from the foreigners; but that’s important info down here, especially just after shearing season. In early June I trudged, for two weeks, over mounting snow and in the teeth of South Atlantic winds, shemagh across my face, and heavy-duty jacket over a fisherman’s sweater. Plus hat and gloves, naturally.

The Falklands is a decent fit for freelancers, where having several jobs is unexceptional. But in my case, currently, the portfolio includes broadcasting, English-teaching, writing, daycare, and being in the local Defence Force. So by Wednesday, I confess, things do start getting quite sardonic; by Thursday, I can barely say what day it is; and by Friday I’m just thankful that my voice has held out.

But honestly, once I’ve got down there and turned the station ‘live’ much of the pressure’s off. To my surprise – and certainly my wife’s – I’ve not yet overslept and missed a show. Given the sparrow-fart hour and 40 years of strong disinclination for it, I don’t feel that I’m doing all that terribly. A fortnight in, I found a book called How to Be a Brilliant DJ (or thereabouts)… and opted not to look for trouble.

“Not your own personal iPod” was the phrase used in the interview. And that’s just fine, it turns out. Being, as I am, paid for just an hour of prep for every two-hour show, the only way it could be worse (for someone with a strong musical bent) is if I had to start the entire thing each day from scratch.

The playlist isn’t limitless, and the auto-generating software isn’t super-accurate. There’s a fair amount of repetition and the Rock category tends heavily towards Aerosmith, AC/DC, Nickelback and Muse – with whom I have no problem, but not all the time. Lots of songs are inappropriate at breakfast time, on various levels. Falklanders are not notably uptight, but there’s no end of skanky nightclub ‘bangerz’ out there that I don’t want to listen to at 7am. And that goes double for Little Mix boring on about their exes. Today, though, I played ‘Scooby Snacks’ – so that was on me.

I’ve a long-standing hatred of songs in which the artist names him-, her- or, these days, themselves. Ditto songs with any kind of crassly-engineered ‘placement’, such as ‘in the club’, ‘put your hands in the air’ or ‘in the USA’. The words ‘gurrll’, ‘huh?’ or ‘yeah!’ have now been added to this list. Also ‘sha la la’, ‘baby’, and anyone referring to ‘London Town’. I’m not big on voice distort technology. Or saxophone solos.

Broadly speaking I’m permitted to summarily delete anything that’s billed as Mellow, Gold or performed by Queen or Abba (as these will be requested anyway), and I’m allowed to add/swap three songs in each hour, of my choosing. In the first 60 minutes, though, what with the two big chunks of news (Forces and local), this could be almost half the tracks. I find I’ve become remarkably forgiving even of completely un-ironic 1980s stuff, so long as I’ve not heard it for, say, six or seven years. Even Jason Donovan has had a look-in.

Needless to say, you can’t please everyone – and I don’t even try. (Half the country hate Country. The other half live for it. Don’t ask me why.) And of course these things are all dependent on mood. I keep wanting to play ‘Jolene’ (White Stripes cover of), but it’s totally devastating. Same with ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries – but the computer threw that up, and so I left it in one morning, just for laughs.

And speaking of laughs, it was only after I’d been doing the job about a month that a mate of mine asked if I’d been briefed on what to do if the Argentinian army should come through the door again. I chuckled… and then I realised that I hadn’t. I keep a copy of Borges at hand, in case I need to strike up conversation – but since it’s bookmarked by an invitation to the Governor’s residence, addressed to ‘Pte Smyth’, that might not prove quite the get-out-of-jail-free card I’m hoping.

Two of my presenting confrères were actively involved in 1982, though, and one of them told me quite plainly I should leave the door open. I’ve also met the brave man, Patrick Watts (MBE), who was on air when Argentina came a-knockin’. Given that we have ‘Actions On’ for eventualities ranging from the loss of power to the death of royalty, it is perhaps a bit weird we don’t have a handy laminate for… that.

Other colleagues, meanwhile, include a helicopter pilot, a retired policeman, three fellow schoolteachers, a sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly, the government’s chief prosecutor, an ice-hockey player, and several more who work within the station full-time, as boss, head of content, chief technician, and so on. And then there’s the erstwhile Chilean-used-car salesman, news editor, ex-MLA, Defence Force veteran, security officer, and penultimate incumbent of the Breakfast Show: all one bloke ( – and quite the personality, at that!

One of the station identifiers we use says, “Falklands Radio – your local, national radio station!”, and the local news segments will typically feature up to eight minutes of commentary on pub darts, coverage of the annual Horticultural Show, and features on the reopening of the municipal swimming pool, to say nothing of the Fish-Catch Chart (which I maintain should have been named ‘LoLiga’). Last month we live-cast the ‘blood moon’ eclipse – at any rate until the snow clouds moved in and obliterated it.

But while some of my presenting colleagues lean quite local in their musical tastes (squeezebox), banter (pixies, peat-stoves, donkeys) and even quiz questions (“In 1976, what was the name of the mother of the owner of the wriggly-tin building which now houses Southern Imports…?”), we do have evidence of a much wider audience. So I’ve taken the opposite tack, introducing, whenever an excuse presents itself (and often when it doesn’t), anything from Uzbek pop to Nina Simone’s 10-minute epic ‘Sinnerman’ to my mate Paul’s rock band, One Day Elliott.

I’ve also shamelessly used friends’ birthdays, book releases, gig dates, anniversaries, et al. as hooks to generate requests, from cricketing chums, thriller writers, a Fellow of All Souls, my apprentice Teddy (who has his own Bristol-based radio show), an American Army Lt Col (ret), a professor of film in Vancouver, a Booker Prize judge, a conductor, and a rich South Asian scioness who works on HS2. Thankfully, most local requests come in after I have left the building.

I’ve read aloud dad jokes and James Blunt’s tweets; essays (by me – ahem) on bibliomania, the Skinners’ Company, and JS Mill; and I try to chuck in two or three funny international news items near the end, just to leaven the fare (though you try Googling ‘funny news stories Kazakhstan’, and see how far you get!). Oh, and a disquisition on the theremin.

Thanks to internet radio options, there are regular listeners in Germany, Australia, England, Portugal, and very northern Canada, and I’ve more or less coerced drop-ins from Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Jordan, and Sri Lanka. I’d like to think everyone’s at least equally dissatisfied; but they may well be switching off in droves – I wouldn’t know. (There is a button in the studio marked ‘Fans’. Thus far I have withstood the urge to push it.)

Really, the nearest thing I get to feedback is on the quiz questions. Half of the punters say they should be more tricky, and half less difficult. Almost all my contestants phone rather than e-mail – because they’re of a certain age, and/or because the internet’s so damn expensive here – and they’re commendably unembarrassed at giving the wrong answer and then saying they will go away and do some more ‘research’. Already I’ve come to recognize a couple of dozen people simply from the sound of their voice. And although when someone new calls in I take that as a mark of broadened reach (which it doubtless isn’t), I’m more pleased when a friendly regular emerges victorious from the Friday prize-draw.

Almost inevitably, of course, my mother won in my first week (the station generously sent some branded coasters). A fortnight later (a hardback on the Falklands War), it was an old school friend in Sydney, to which I said “Well done, Rob,” and rolled the dice again. I warned a mate in Singapore he might not want to win the pack of toothfish cheeks…

Despite all that, the station is – like every other organisation in the Falklands (pop. 3,500) – an unabashed community affair.

Even the number of people with whom I have daily quiz chat (as contestants or indeed prize-donors) includes several who’ve presented the Breakfast Show. I know that Tigger hates the ‘Wellerman’ sea-shanty remix, and that Willie, poor chap, has problems with his eyesight. Some people introduce themselves by where they live, so when ‘Sue along the road’ or ‘Annie from Salvador’ are thrown up by the random-number generator, I have to put out an appeal for their contact details. Occasionally, somebody phones with only 20 seconds of a song to go, and/or fails to interpret “How’re you doing?” as a rhetorical question; but I suppose one takes the rough with the smooth, in any line of work.

Venture outside the capital and the place gets even smaller. Coming over the brow of a hill on distant Saunders Island, in the company of a farmer who views Stanley as a corrupting beast good only for bi-annual dental trips and doctors’ check-ups, I was momentarily perplexed to hear my own voice blaring “Checkout!” late one morning. Two days before, we’d been flown out there by a man whom I would later find to be the chairman of the Falklands Media Trust. And on Landing Day (21 May), at San Carlos – a day off and two-hour drive from the radio station – I heard myself quite audibly picked up on Falklands Radio, singing the anthem.

No limo, then, no ‘gang’, no mega-millions book contract. I go about my day in cheerful anonymity. Last week, my mother wrote to say the website doesn’t even have my picture on: Chris Moyles, eat yer heart out. At 9:05, I head back up the road, to one of my three other jobs.

You can listen to the Breakfast Show – and indeed any other Falklands Radio programming – by hitting the ‘Listen Now’ button at (GMT-3)

For Perspective magazine, in a shorter version

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