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DJ Ibe Sesay wants to get rid of 'hatred' in Northern Ireland - 'we still have a long way to go'


Music enthusiast: Ibe Sesay at the Q Radio studios
Music enthusiast: Ibe Sesay at the Q Radio studios
Ibe and Gareth Stewart launching Step Back in Time at Q Radio
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to Ibe Sesay (38) who is a DJ and presenter of the mid-morning show on Q Radio. He lives in Lambeg with his wife Colleen and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8).

Q. Tell us about your  childhood

A. I had a very happy childhood. I have one brother, Abdul, who is five years younger than me. He owns his own car dealership. We got on most of the time - like all brothers, we fought the bit out. We are much closer now as adults.

My mum, Gerardine, was an auxiliary nurse for years in the City Hospital, but about six or seven years ago, she got a job in the Ulster Independent Clinic. She loves it, she's always loved nursing, but she hopes to retire in a few years.

My dad, Ibe, was a scientific officer. He retired around four or five years ago, and he's enjoying retirement.

I actually lived in West Africa for a while. When I was just six months old, my parents moved to Sierra Leone, where my dad's from.

We were there from 1980 until 1983, when we returned to Northern Ireland.

I have a vague memory of being at Lumley Beach (above) in Sierra Leone Freetown and playing with a dog.

Back in Northern Ireland, I went to St Colman's Primary School in Lambeg, then on to St Patrick's Academy in Lisburn. I played a lot of sport in school, including football, hurling and basketball.

After school, I studied motor vehicles because I wanted to be a mechanic. Then, I studied a further two years in auto electrics, which led to me working for Coca-Cola.

Music enthusiast: Ibe Sesay at the Q Radio studios
Music enthusiast: Ibe Sesay at the Q Radio studios

I worked on all the company cars, vans and lorries. While I was there, I was asked to join the events team, which I did.

I was DJing at a very early age, from I was 16 years old.

I worked as a labourer over the summer holidays to earn enough money to get my first roadshow, which included turntables, speakers and lighting, everything I needed to go on the road.

I would DJ at weddings and birthday parties - it started with family and friends until I got the word out and it progressed from there.

I've worked in bars and clubs all over Northern Ireland. What started off as a hobby snowballed into a full-time job and I love it.

I was doing that for years and that's how I eventually got on to radio.

I started off in Citybeat, which was bought over by Q Radio, and I've been there for around 10 years now.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. My family. I have two girls and two boys, who are all very independent and into their own things. We are a very close family.

Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?

A. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably have travelled more before all my kids came along. It's so much harder travelling with four kids. When they eventually flee the nest, me and my wife can go travelling then!

Q. Do you have any phobias?

A. I have a phobia of being buried alive. I'm not claustrophobic, I just have this thing about being buried alive. I remember watching a film and that was the storyline - I had to turn it off.

Q. The temptation you cannot resist?

A. Beer. I have tried to cut down, but I do love a bottle of beer. I work a lot of weekends, so Monday night would be my Saturday.

Family man: Ibe with his wife, Colleen, and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8)
Family man: Ibe with his wife, Colleen, and their four kids, Katie (16), Mollie (13), Stephen (9) and Daniel (8)

Q. Your number one prized possession?

A. I have an extensive CD collection, boasting over 10,000 CD albums.

It started years ago when I used to buy music to play in the clubs and I just started collecting the CDs.

A good friend of mine, Trevor, who sadly passed away about seven years ago, was also a collector and he left me his entire collection.

It's a special thing to have, that's why I've made it a feature in my home, which we now call the music room.

Q. The book that's most impacted your life?

A. I read a lot of autobiographies and Chris Evans' first book, It's Not What You Think (above), blew me away. He talks about how he started his radio career and now he's a successful TV presenter.

I admire him so much for his drive and determination.

Q. If you had the power or authority, what would you do?

A. I would get rid of all the hatred that exists in Northern Ireland, in terms of sectarianism, racism and everything else. I do think we are getting there, but we still have such a long way to go.

I have four kids and I don't want them to be subject to the world of hate that we are currently living in.

Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?

A. When people hang up the phone without saying goodbye - that really annoys me. My brother does it after every phone call and I always say to him to stop, but he still does it!

Q. Who has most influenced you in life?

A. I would have to say my parents, because of their hard work ethic.

They have both worked very hard, especially my mum, who is still working today. She is the most caring person you will ever meet - she will go over and above for everyone. My parents have always told me and my brother to just always do our best.

They always say that if you go through life with manners and are courteous, then that will stand by you. I have instilled these same morals into my own kids. I always ensure that they are well-mannered and polite, and that will absolutely take them through life in the right way.

Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?

A. Barack Obama because he was the first black president of the United States. I would love to hear about what he went through, all his struggles and triumphs. I think he would have great stories to tell.

My next would be Frank Sinatra because he's such a great singer and would also have brilliant stories to tell, I'm sure.

Then I would invite actor Will Smith because I've always admired his work ethic and he seems like an all-round, nice guy.

Q. The best piece of advice you ever received?

A. Treat others how you would like to be treated. That's something my parents taught me.

Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A. Chess. Everyone laughs at this. Way back in school, I was the captain of the chess club and to this day, my wife makes fun of me because of it.

We have a chess board at home and all my kids know how to play. I wouldn't say I'm that great at it, I was definitely better when I was younger!

Q. The poem that touches your heart?

A. I don't think I have ever been affected by a poem, to be honest. I appreciate a good poem when I hear it, but it's just not something I'm that interested in. I'm really into music and some songs can often be poetic. My all-time favourite song is Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson - it's a great song with beautiful words.

Q. The happiest moment of your life?

A. Becoming a dad for the first time.

My mum couldn't be there because of work, and I remember ringing her and I was so composed until she answered the phone - then I went to pieces. I was crying and she was crying.

Q. And the saddest moment of your life?

A. Losing my friend, Trevor. We were friends for many years, and I was kind of his next of kin at the time because he didn't have much of a family.

He was diagnosed with cancer in June/July of 2010 and passed away that November.

Q. The one event that made a difference in your life?

A. When I first met my wife. I was a DJ for the Groovy Train at M Club and Colleen was there one night. I remember it was her birthday and I mistakenly thought it was her hen night because she was wearing a tiara and a sash.

I only spoke to her over the music for a few weeks and on the first night, I asked her what her name was and I thought she said 'Pauline'. I was calling her the wrong name for about three weeks until she plucked up the courage to tell me she was actually called Colleen!

Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?

A. I love my radio show and chatting to people every day. I love my job; it truly keeps me going.

I want to do what I love for as long as possible.

Q. What's the philosophy you live by?

A. All you can do is do your best.

That was instilled in me by my parents and I think it's a great mentality to have.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. I want to be remembered as someone who was helpful, fun and a good dad and husband.

Ibe Sesay and Gareth Stewart are getting ready to Step Back in Time when they host the Q Radio's upcoming 80s & 90s disco and quiz. Taking place in The Doyen, Belfast, on June 14 as part of this year's Q Radiothon, the event promises songs from the best of the two decades and optional 80s fancy dress, with spot prizes for the best dressed on the night - all for a very good cause.

This is to help raise money for the station's four chosen charities; Action Cancer, Cancer Fund for Children, Friends of The Cancer Centre and Marie Curie. For tickets, visit

Ibe and Gareth Stewart launching Step Back in Time at Q Radio

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