- 13 Jan 21
In the midst of confusion, fear and isolation this year, people across Ireland tuned into local radio more than ever before. Recognising the power of local radio, and the important work that radio stations have been carrying out over the past year, we spoke to a selection of presenters from across the country – who told us how they rose to the multiple challenges of Covid-19.
South East Radio's Alan Corcoran
Alan Corcoran has presented South East Radio’s award-winning Morning Mix for over 10 years. Of late, he has presented a specially extended, three-hour version of the programme with the latest Covid 19 information, giving a platform to health experts, frontline workers and listeners affected by the virus across Wexford.
Notably, Corcoran was this year honoured with a National Services Day Medal for services above and beyond the call of duty during the pandemic.
“The whole area of local radio changed dramatically during lockdown,” Alan reflects. “It went from concentrating on ordinary, run-of-the-mill things, if you like, to the sheer enormity of Covid. It caused panic – we hadn’t a clue what was happening. The Morning Mix Show straight away became a gateway to keeping people informed.
“One of the first things I did,” he adds, “was get a regular contributor, Dr William Lynch, to answer health-related questions. We also got a whole host of human stories. The biggest thing I came across was loneliness, where people just felt totally isolated. When you’re living alone, local radio is all you have.”
Alan’s relationship with his fiercely loyal listenership deepened considerably in 2020. Receiving the National Services Day Medal was an emotional moment for the broadcaster.
“I have a friend who is a pharmacist, and she was delivering prescriptions to a certain part of Wexford,” he says. “When she came to the house, she could hear our radio show in the background. The woman embraced her and said, ‘All I have is that show, and you are the first person I’ve seen in two weeks’. If you wanted to know every detail of what was going on in Wexford, the people turned to us.”
There were certain stories that starkly illustrated the enormous toll Covid was taking the community.
“One of the saddest stories I heard,” Alan says, “was a woman in Wexford who lost a daughter to cancer last year, and then her other daughter took ill with Covid and tragically passed away. But this woman couldn’t travel to her other daughter’s funeral. It was very sad. The tears on the show were unbelievable.
“There were also tremendous stories of inspiration. The Wexford community really embraced the whole campaign, and so we have one of the lowest incidence rates of Covid in the country.”
With the end of 2020 now in sight, Corcoran has picked up on the fatigue people are feeling after such an exceptionally trying year. “Initially, we tapped into the lockdown and stuck rigidly to the game-plan, but people are exhausted at this stage,” he says. “Even the mention of the word Covid is tiring – it’s like Brexit! The sheer frustration has boiled over. Mental health is another pandemic because people have lost their outlets, but Wexford did what we had to do.”
He strikes a personal note.
“I’m in my early sixties, so I’m absolutely petrified of getting it. I’ve spoken to people who have had the virus, and the stories of what they went through are staggering.”
Alan lost his own mother in February, giving him a deep understanding of how tough it is for anyone in mourning.
“This pandemic has made me determined to try and do more to benefit the community,” he says, “and to delve deeper into the issues. I lost my mother two weeks before this began. I actually haven’t had a chance to grieve for her yet, but at least we got to give her a proper burial. Many people didn’t get that chance.
“Every so often, the bereavement hits me, but I’m looking forward to Christmas so I can clear the head. I want to come back feeling recharged, because the onus is on us now to give people a bit of hope.”
• Listen to Alan Corcoran on South East Radio’s Morning Mix, weekdays from 10am-1pm.