Monday 26 August 2019

The Ronan Collins empire expands horizons with new show


Ronan Collins.
Ronan Collins.
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

A friend once told me they loved The Ronan Collins Show (Radio 1, Mon-Fri noon), primarily because it breaks up the seemingly endless barrage of blah-blah-blah on Radio 1 from 7am to 8pm, when John Creedon arrives with fresh respite.

You can see their point: a diet mostly comprising talk radio is the choice of many, including myself, but it all gets too much at times. You need a break, and Collins' long-running midday music show feels like a cool drink on a hot day.

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What I like most about him, and the programme, is the laidback vibe. You never get the feeling Collins is trying too hard. He does the simple things and does them perfectly well: introduce the song, maybe with a few titbits of information about track or performer, then play the song.

He reads requests and says hello to listeners. He doesn't try to be funny or wacky. He doesn't yak over the music. He stands aside and lets it speak for itself. He's cheerful, genial and easy-going, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music.

That last comes to play in a new, nine-part show, just begun on Radio 1. In The Collins Collection (Sun 10am), Ronan talks to a broad range of musicians - everyone from Elaine Paige and Cathy Davey to Chris de Burgh and Johnny Logan - about their lives and careers, their inspiration, motivation and determination… in short, the man/woman and their art.

The series kicked off with Paul Brady, and speaking of cheerful, genial and easy-going… The Tyrone man seems like he'd be at ease in conversation with anyone, anywhere.

Their chat was lively and entertaining, and - no surprise, considering Collins is a drummer and singer himself - revealing of the nuts and bolts, plus a little of that magic, which goes into making music. I think my friend will be pleased.

Newstalk Breakfast (Mon-Fri 7am) asked: "Is going to the Gaeltacht a typically middle-class pursuit?" Gaeilgeoir broadcaster Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh reckoned "absolutely", because of the price involved, adding: "There should be more scholarships in certain catchment areas."

She also made a doughty defence of Irish in the face of the sort of stupid raiméis (look it up, béarla speakers) we often hear: "When I speak Irish to my kids, I still get people saying, 'Oh my God, it's amazing that you're doing that'. It's not really! It's like looking at a Spanish person speaking Spanish or Polish speaking Polish."

But - no ideologue or zealot she: so long as people are speaking Irish at all, Ní Chofaigh is happy enough. She concluded: "Everyone owns the language. That's not a cliché or a soundbite: Irish is everyone's. If you want to speak it bilingually, that's your business. …It's not for me or any fluent Irish speaker to correct people."

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