That might sound a bit drastic but as he was completing his sign-off to his listeners and introducing ‘A Forest’ by The Cure, which would be the closing song of Show 44, his mind started wandering…

“Was that my favourite playlist so far?” He thought to himself. “Cos there were some absolute bangers in shows 42 and 43. And show 39 got to number 6 on the Mixcloud New Wave chart so that must’ve been half decent”

Still very new to the DJ/Presenter role on Express FM he’d stumbled into back at the tail end of 2019, he was quite self-critical of his performance. But boy it had improved.

The first 6 shows were done at the radio station, recorded ‘as-live’ full of pregnant pauses, dry-mouthed word salads and air-gaps where song intros should be. Plus the radio station’s library of Indie, Alternative, Post Punk, Ska and New Wave tracks didn’t quite match his own vinyl and CD collection.

Just about getting the hang of it, so that he wasn’t having to call the station producer into Studio 3 quite so often to solve a ‘technical’ and then… Covid struck. 23rd March 2020 - Lockdown. The sign on the radio station door read:
Building closed to all volunteers (for he was one of those) until further notice!

Without any recording equipment at home, he would have to wait until this virus had passed. It would only be a few weeks they’d said on the news, so not long until he could restart things with his newly rekindled love interest. Music had always played a big part in his life…from angelic church choirboy, to rude boy, then floppy fringed new romantic, post-punk with an immaculately coiffured quiff, to guy-linered goth (for a few weeks) and wannabe rockstar (for an even shorter few weeks)

There were 6th form school nights at the Kabin above Martha’s where he enjoyed snakebite and blackcurrant for the first time. Brilliantly hectic Friday nights at the Poly…’sign me in mate, sign me in?’ Lots of parties, lots of gigs and then there was alternative night on a Thursday at Martines. The best of times.

But that lockdown went on a bit didn’t it. He survived on a daily routine of 1hour walking or cycling for his permitted outdoor exercise. Fortunate to live quite close to the sea, at least the coastal breeze gave some respite to the incessant heat of that long Covid summer. Daily calls to his ageing Mum and Dad to check in on them and see if they were both doing ok…secretly hoping they’d ask him if he was doing ok. Super secretly hoping they’d had a lottery win. There was no work for his industry; he was one of those that had fallen through the cracks in the Government’s financial aid package. And then there was the over-eating. Thank goodness he didn’t drink at home these days. And thank goodness also for his boys! They helped him a great deal.

Come November the whole situation was taking its toll on him both physically and mentally. The cold and dark nights weren’t his favourite anyway. The lockdown timber he knew he could shift but the sometimes confused and frustrated thoughts going through his head, not so easy to get rid of.

He needed to get creative again and do things he knew he’d enjoy. He finally got some financial assistance from his local council so he bought the equipment he needed and set up his home studio. It wasn’t a huge outlay but it could’ve paid a bill. He roped his youngest son in to be sound engineer, and occasional guest presenter and he agreed with the radio station that he could include all his own CD and vinyl collection. He re-connected with his loyal group of listeners from the handful of shows he’d done…some were old school friends, football pals, drinking buddys, plus family and Facebook friends…but also people in the vinyl community on Instagram he’d never met in real life and may not ever do so, but they shared a love of the same music and they were so supportive and encouraging.

Requests would come through on the email that would brighten his day. Bands or tracks that he’d long forgotten about would be asked for and songs dedicated to someone special. Knowing that these requests and dedications would bring a smile to someone’s face when they heard it on the radio or on Mixcloud gave him a warm fuzzy feeling. People were posting up onto their Insta stories that they were listening. People from all parts of the world. The shows were sounding better, he was sounding a bit more confident and he was starting to smile again. You good tell through his voice. He’s always been a joker but sometimes that would mask the real feelings.

As a volunteer DJ he is only doing it for the love of music and trying to bring a bit of weekly joy into people’s day to day. And as he hears the last few bars of Simon Gallup’s bassline on ‘A Forest’ by The Cure play out…he felt he was actually loving music again.

The Volunteer DJ in question? It’s me. Kevin Stokes or DJPOMPEYKEV on Instagram and Mixcloud. ‘THAT 80s Show’ is a weekly 2hrs of the best music from the darker side of the 80s it can be found online at 93.7fm DAB or ask your Alexa to play ExpressFM.

My last ‘New Wave Wednesday’ show is on Wednesday 1st September before relaunching with a weekly ‘Monday Nightclub’ on Monday 6th September at 9pm.

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