This much I know: Liz Nolan, broadcaster

My idea of misery is any job that isn’t the job I’m currently doing.

This much I know: Liz Nolan, broadcaster

Boy did I hit the jackpot. I chat to people about music, I put together playlists. I’m like a kid in a sweetshop.

My earliest memory of music is being wheeled in to play piano and sing for one of my mother’s coffee mornings when I was about six years old.

I read English at Trinity, whilst also attending the College of Music. Then I did a diploma in teaching singing and went down the academic, rather than the performance, road.

My father was English. He worked in the freight business. My mother was from a scholastic family, her father was a teacher at Belvedere College. My father was a natural showman, with a great baritone voice and quite a slection of naughty songs.

As a child, I was a desperate dreamer. I could barely hear what I was being told until I hit fifteen. The Inter Cert put fear into me and that is when I started studying.

I got into radio by chance. I had sent a voice demo into Lyric FM and got a call from Eoin Brady, now my wonderful producer, to fill in because a presenter had fallen sick. He tried me out the very next day.

I vividly remember sitting in the Lyric kitchen feeling so intimidated. I was listing off the names of symphonies and orchestras in my head, talking myself through my rigourously scripted show.

I scripted everything in the early days out of pure terror. Although I had a background in performance, radio is a different beast completely. The terror was of performing to an invisible audience. I will never forget the first live concert we broadcast, a lunch time in the National Concert Hall, and the sense of relief when I walked out on stage and saw actual faces.

I’m a lark. I get out of bed the moment my alarm rings.

I was never remotely ambitious and I never had a long-term objective or strategy, although I set ridiculously high standards for myself and always want to do things to the best of my ability.

Both my brothers have given me great advice over the years, as has Eoin my producer. When I’d be ringing them in a panic, my brother Rossa said, ‘take little steps. Just keep going and you will get there.’ That got me through many a war. And James simply quoted Churchill – just ‘keep buggering on’.

I was a late bloomer, all around. I was overweight as a child and during my 20s my weight went up and down. I hit my stride in my 30s, so I never take for granted the liberty of being able to move my body about with ease.

My biggest fault is that I tend to brood on things. I am not an optimist at all. I wish I was, but I’m a bit like a walking Wagner opera sometimes. I have had periods of battling depression. I tend to avoid medication, that didn’t work for me. I watch my diet. Running helps, although I have ambitions towards meditation.

My biggest challenge so far has been fitting into my own skin. I do find that my six-year-old boy has made me become more grounded. I’m a single working mother. I parted from his father about four years ago.

My father died in 2000 and my mother died five years ago. I still find it hard, that lack of an anchor once both parents die, of there no longer being that centre to my world. Now, my job is to provide that same sense of security for my son, I suppose.

I’m not sure if there is an afterlife but I don’t believe that it is possible for so much love to simply disappear. It must continue somehow. I’m wary of structured beliefs, of heaven and hell, although I do believe fables and stories are a marvelous way of explaining things.

I have a pragmatic outlook on life. I used to constantly want to be more, learn more -— but I have learnt to grasp simple daily pleasures, and to enjoy them.

My biggest fear is loneliess, that chasm, but not of being alone. If I could be someone else for a day, I’d be a character in an Angela Carter novel. I’d love to be sucked into that universe.

I believe in fate. What you put out there will come back to you. If I try to exert negativity on the world around me, it will come back to me. It’s only natural.

If I could change one thing in Irish society, it would be the meanness. The small outlook. It’s part of our history. I’d love to see less begrudgery and suspicion.

My advice to anyone starting out in this broadcasting game is to be kind to yourself. It’s a world in which it is very, very easy to speak negatively to oneself. Don’t take it all too seriously, even if you mess up a little. I make mistakes every day.

* Liz presents Classic Drive, 4-7pm weekdays on 96-99 RTÉ Lyric fm. On Sundays, join Liz for A World of Song, 7-8pm — great singers and vocal music through the ages. 

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