DJ Pete Snodden: My joy and agony this Christmas
The Cool FM presenter tells Stephanie Bell about becoming a dad again just weeks after losing his own father to cancer, and why he feels so lucky to be doing a job that he loves so much
It has been a bittersweet few weeks for Cool FM DJ Pete Snodden. In September, Pete's dad Jackie - who was also his best friend and biggest supporter - sadly lost a long battle with oesophageal cancer aged just 65.
Then, just a few weeks later on November 17, there was real joy for the family when Pete, wife Julia and three-year-old daughter Ivana welcomed a new addition to the family, little Elayna Sophia Snodden, who is now almost four weeks old.
While Elayna will never get to meet her grandad Snodden, it is Pete's aim to ensure both she and her big sister receive the same supreme love and support which he enjoyed throughout his life thanks to his parents. "I really looked up to my dad," he says. "I was always really close to both of my parents and I really admired my dad.
"He was the first person I went to for advice. No matter what it was that I was planning to do, I always asked dad first what he thought about it. I just hope that my kids can be as proud of me as I am of him."
Still coming to terms with his loss, Pete is clearly in a reflective mood as he continues to outline the special bond he had with his father: "My dad would have done anything for me. He would have given me the shirt off his back.
"He had lost his own dad quite young at 64 and I never knew my grandad or what my dad's relationship with him was like, but I always sensed that dad wanted our relationship to be closer than his was with his own dad.
"Dad was into sports and he got me into sport. He introduced me to golf and when I started to play hockey he came to my matches every Saturday without fail."
Indeed, Jackie was so supportive of his son that he managed to rally himself to watch him compete even while he was undergoing treatment. "He had 19 weeks of chemotherapy and on one of the days when he was feeling not too bad he got up and put his woolly hat on and came and stood at the side of the pitch and watched me play," recalls Pete.
"I only hope I can do for my kids what he did for me. Obviously he didn't get to meet Elayna but he loved Ivana beyond belief."
Coming to terms with such personal trauma will evidently take time but, on a brighter note, Pete says he is finding a new baby in the house a little easier second time round. His breakfast show, which he hosts from 6-10am, entails clambering out of bed at 4.45am - which means that he is well used to going without a full night's sleep.
Little Ivana is loving having a baby sister in the house and so far all is going smoothly for the new Snodden family of four.
Pete says: "It's different second time round, it's more chilled. You just seem to fall back into the way of having a newborn in the house and it's not such a shock to the system as it was the first time.
"It is weird, however, being back at the start with Elayna because Ivana is at that lovely age where she is developing her own wee personality and is such fun. She has a great wee sense of humour and has us laughing every single day.
"Julia and I both prepared her for her sister coming along and she has been really good and keeps trying to give her a wee kiss.
"We told her that she was going to get a wee sister and she would be really proud of her and she seems to have bought into that. We couldn't have asked for it to go any better although I know it's early days yet."
It's the busiest time of the year for Pete who, as well as being one of the best-loved DJs in Northern Ireland, is also in popular demand as a host for some of the province's coolest events.
In fact, if it's a big bash then it would be rare for Pete not to be there.
Among some of the many red carpet events he has hosted are the Magners Light Style Awards, Pepsi Sexiest Man, the Red Bull Soap Box Race and Sport Relief.
He also broadcast live from the red carpet at the MTV Europe Music Awards at the Titanic Quarter in Belfast and is the face of many of our biggest community celebrations such as the switching on of Belfast's Christmas tree lights as well as the city's St Patrick's Day and Halloween celebrations.
As a local star in his own right he has picked up a number of top awards; he is a previous winner of media personality of the year at both the Fate and Go awards and was a finalist at the 2008 Ulster Tatler People of the Year Awards in the category of Celebrity of the Year, losing out to actor Jimmy Nesbitt, who is currently starring in the BBC1 hit thriller The Missing.
What's refreshing, though, about Pete Snodden is that success hasn't changed him at all. His natural guy-next-door persona, which has won him thousands of regular listeners to his breakfast show on Cool FM every morning, is genuine. With Pete what you see is what you get. Indeed, he would cringe at the notion of himself as some kind of celebrity and views his public profile as simply part and parcel of his job.
"The word celebrity doesn't sit well with me," he says. "I don't see myself as being like that. My job is about being yourself and that's what my radio show is about. It's about being real, looking at the quirky things in life and having a laugh."
Warming to his theme, Pete outlines his philosophy as a radio host: "There are three things I stick by when it comes to presenting the show. Firstly, I believe that if it is not something you would speak to your friends about, then don't speak about it on the radio.
"Secondly, if you can't have a laugh at yourself then who can you laugh at? And, finally, the show should be inclusive of everyone and should be about getting people involved and wanting to talk about the quirky things in life. It's about being real. If people aren't talking about something over a cup of tea in work or a pint in the pub then I won't be talking about it on the radio."
Pete grew up an only child in Bangor and still lives in the town. He met his wife Julia in 2000 while studying international business studies at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and proposed in 2006 on the London Eye. Next June, the couple will celebrate their eighth wedding anniversary.
Family comes first for the couple and Julia, who is also 34, gave up a highly paid job with Coca-Cola to work part-time as a classroom assistant so that she could spend more time at home with Ivana. As he mentioned earlier, in his spare time Pete likes to relax by playing hockey for his hometown Bangor. He is also partial to a game of football and a round of golf.
His late father not only influenced his love of sport but also played a huge role in broadening his interest in music. It was Jackie who introduced his son to the music of the likes of Tina Turner, Phil Collins and Lionel Ritchie, and Pete says he remembers exactly when his desire to become a DJ was born.
"When my primary six teacher Richard Heasley had been doing his teacher training at Stranmillis College they had a radio station there which they broadcast in-house in the students' union.
"They were upgrading their equipment and he bought all the old equipment off them and then set it up in a storeroom at the back of our classroom.
"Every Friday me and a couple of other guys would spend about 45 minutes in the storeroom playing music and speaking into the microphone to the class. Then we started to do it at school fayres and other events too. That's really where I got my first taste of that kind of thing and then during my teenage years I remember thinking it would be nice to have the confidence to be a DJ.
"During the Nineties and the super club era I lived and breathed dance music and taught myself how to mix. I was doing some clubs when I was 17 and managed to get a job as a DJ six months before I graduated."
Pete joined Cool FM in 1999 and until 2011 worked on the station's specialist music output as well as hosting various dance music programmes.
He is most proud of the show 'The Source', which he presented for nine years. It was Northern Ireland's official start to Saturday night and on a weekly basis Pete shared his passion for the genre by playing upfront and cutting edge music, showcasing new artists and giving a platform for international and up-and-coming DJs to showcase their talents.
From 2004 until 2012 he hosted The Pete Snodden Breakfast Show, which he ended, because he wanted to spend mornings with Ivana.
He then went on to host "Snodden Show" on Cool FM in the afternoons from 1-4pm while the Breakfast Show was hosted by Gareth Stewart and Connor Phillips. He returned to the Breakfast Show earlier this year which he now hosts again along with Paulo Ross.
Pete believes that the listener should feel part of the show and with that in mind he happily invites them onto the airwaves to share their funny stories and take part in the varying topics of conversation every morning. He has also interviewed many famous faces - from Noel Gallagher to Louis Walsh and Leona Lewis to Cheryl Cole. He takes nothing for granted and feels fortunate to have a job that he feels so passionate about.
He says: "I live and breathe what I do and I believe that if things are great at home then you will be happy in your work life and if you are happy in your work life things will be good at home and I think it's about keeping that balance.
"I'm very lucky. I have friends who just regard their job as a daily grind but I love what I do and that's what gets me up in the morning and hopefully it will last and I will be able to do it for a long time to come."
But while work consumes a lot of his time, his home life always comes first and for Pete there is no doubting his sincerity when he says: "Of everything I have done, the biggest achievement for me to date is becoming a father."
Naturally, the festive season - the first without his beloved father - is going to have its difficult moments, but Pete is determined to accentuate the positive, too, not least the fact he will get a rare week off from those early starts and be able to spend Christmas with family and friends.
He adds: "We took Ivana to Castle Espie to see Santa and she was transfixed by him. I can't wait to see her face this Christmas as she is at a great age now for Santa and will be chomping at the bit to get down the stairs on Christmas morning.
"In fact, I think I am more excited than she is at the presents Santa is bringing her this year."
Pete sets the record straight
What was the first record you bought? Bad by Michael Jackson
All-time favourite record? Urban Hymns by The Verve
Favourite song? Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack
Favourite movie? Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Favourite food? Pizza
Favourite place in the world? Los Angeles
Best moment on radio? Too many to mention, but being told I was the guy for the breakfast show, interviewing Noel Gallagher (pictured right) and getting record audience figures were all great moments. I suppose it's the experience I have got from broadcasting, it's just brilliant.
Most embarrassing moment on air? Again, too many to mention but referring to the movie Notes on a Scandal as Notes on a Sandal springs to mind ...