In this week's interview Rachel Dean talks to Stuart Robinson (40), host of the Cool Saturday Show and content director at Cool FM and Downtown Radio. He lives in Belfast with girlfriend Katie and has two children, Holly (16) and Glenn (12), from a previous relationship.
Q. Tell us about your childhood.
A. I grew up in a very normal, busy, working-class house in an estate in Carrickfergus with my parents, my three brothers, Sam, Scott and Tom, and my sister Mary. It was a humble upbringing.
My dad John worked for my uncle's aerial business and my mum Marjorie was a stay-at-home-mum.
They've all actually relocated to Australia over the last 20 years or so. My parents lived there in the Seventies and my older brother Sam was born there, so he had citizenship and all these fond memories of growing up in Australia. When he was of age to go out again, he did and he met a girl and the rest is history. Then all my other siblings moved out there. My mum and dad moved out there last because that's where most of the family were.
I've never been to Australia. I'll go out and visit them, of course, but I don't think I would move there permanently. It just doesn't have the same appeal to me. My circumstances were different from my siblings. I started working in radio when I was really young - my first show was when I was 15 years old.
At the time, I was the youngest radio presenter in Northern Ireland. I went straight from climbing out of trees, running about the streets and all the usual things that teenagers did back then, to working in a radio station called Belfast Community Radio (BCR).
I started with a week's work experience and I got a real taste for radio. After that, I continued to help out by answering phones.
It was one of the first community stations here, so it was really good at embracing people from all ages and different backgrounds.
I had developed a real passion for radio and music, so it took me away from what a lot of people my age might have been doing.
I wouldn't say my childhood was cut short, but it certainly took a very different direction. I moved out of home when I was about 19 or 20, sooner than I maybe would have otherwise, because I was working in the radio station and building my rapport and my career, I suppose.
It made sense when I got the chance to buy a house and move out of Carrickfergus that I did.
Believe it or not, I actually bought my first house from Stephen Nolan. He had some houses around where we worked at the time, which was Citybeat.
The other thing was that I had my first child, Holly, when I was about 23 or 24, so I was still relatively young in the grand scheme of things.
So, as I said, my circumstances were completely different from that of my siblings - they didn't have any connections or ties to here like I do.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A. My kids - they're great. I have them half the week, and that's been fine within the lockdown guidelines as of late. My wee boy is so into his computer games and PlayStation that I don't think he even knows lockdown is on! At least there's no anxiety or worries.
Especially with everything that is going on at the moment, you do instinctively feel that you want to protect your kids from feeling frightened. The less they know about tens of thousands of people dying, the better.
Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?
A. I have a fairly rational view of the world, so I don't usually regret things.
Of course, there have been times over the years when things haven't gone my way, but they have been really valuable life lessons.
Q. What about phobias? Do you have any?
A. I wouldn't say it's a phobia - it's more me being a little bit weird - but I've never been a fan of hugs or handshakes, even before social distancing came along. I have little quirks, rather than phobias. My son is autistic and I'm maybe slightly on the spectrum there, but I've never been properly assessed - you never heard about things like autism in the Eighties. But, there are definitely traits in Glenn that I see in myself.
Q. The temptation you cannot resist?
A. Food. I've battled with my weight now for 20 years; it's the one vice I can't properly get sorted. I lose weight, I feel great, I look well, then I put it back on again - and it goes on and on. I just cannot get a handle on my diet. Food is too much of a draw for me.
Q. Your number one prized possession?
A. I have a little box of photographs. It's all sort of special photographs of 15-20 years ago when I first started in radio and when my kids came along. It's one of the things that you protect, and you know where it is at all times, even though you don't necessarily go to it that often.
Q. The book that's most impacted your life?
A. One book that really shaped my outlook on life was The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. That challenged a lot of my critical thinking.
Q. If you had the power or the authority, what would you do?
A. I think in the here and now, I would want to get this current pandemic under control. We need to get the vaccine made and get it out to everyone who needs it. The sooner that can happen, the better, because I don't think we will get back to 'normal' until such a time. If I could flip a switch and make that happen, that's what I would do.
Q. What makes your blood boil every time without fail?
A. I hate hypocrites. I find it hard to take people who aren't genuine, that'll say something nice about someone then do something else behind their back.
Another thing that gets me is when they get your order wrong at a drive-thru. However, with everything that's going on in the world right now, me not getting my chicken burger is probably a good thing. In the old world, when they mess up your order, that did make my blood boil - especially when you get home and realise they have left something out.
I think that will be the one good thing to come out of this pandemic, that maybe people will think a little more about what really makes their blood boil. It'll put a lot of our gripes into some sort of perspective.
Q. Who has most influenced you in life?
A. My mum has always been supportive. When I was coming up with these crazy ideas - like wanting to spend £20 on a weekly train pass from Carrickfergus to Belfast to sit in a radio station - she supported me in that. My dad as well, to be fair. On late nights he would have driven me in and sometimes sat and waited while I was covering a three-hour show.
But my mum especially helped to shape my thinking later in life and helped me stay level-headed and mindful of others. I grew up in a predominantly Protestant area, but my mum never entertained or would have ever engaged in sectarianism. I've passed that onto my kids as well - they're from west Belfast and I live in east Belfast. There's a divide that exists in some communities still, but my mum made sure it wasn't a thing, so I make sure it's not a thing for my kids.
Q. Your top three dinner party guests, dead or alive, and why?
A. Walt Disney, because I'm a huge Disney fan. I think the Walt Disney story is one of the best stories of all. He's probably one of the greatest entrepreneurs ever, to build up that company the way he did, using imagination, families, kids and characters - I think the whole thing is just very inspiring. Then, Bill Maher, who I'm a big fan of. You know when you find somebody who says everything that you think? That's Bill Maher for me.
And Larry David because I love his humour and dry wit.
Q. The best piece of advice you've ever received?
A. I was once told: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." Starting out in media at a time where if someone wanted to have a pop at you, they would have had to write a letter or phone in - and people weren't as quick at phoning in as people are at sending a tweet today; writing a letter takes effort - that set me up at a really early age for a time when people in their thousands could dissect everything you do and say and have an opinion, then do so online.
I had already made my peace with that advice. Now, whenever someone says something about me online, it allows me to dismiss it as "Oh well, at least they're talking about me!" So, when someone says, "I think your show is c***," it's like "Well, thanks very much for listening!"
Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?
A. All things Disney, from any of the movies, the franchise and the theme parks. It's that idea of being able to lose yourself in this world, regardless of what age you are. Disney really captures your imagination and your inner kid. It's something we do a lot as a family; it's something that connects us all. We're a big Disney family.
Q. The poem that touches your heart?
A. I definitely don't have a poem that touches my heart or any other part of my body. One of my favourite songs is Jessie by Joshua Kadison because that was the first song I ever played on the radio. I suppose that's got a sentimental reason behind it.
Q. The happiest moment of your life?
A. Last Thursday, when the audience figures came in and I realised Cool FM had gone to number one for the first time in 30 years. I'd been working towards that day for about two years, ever since I knew that with the strategy we were on course for we could go ahead of BBC Radio Ulster.
As soon as I saw the figures last week, I spontaneously jumped up from my seat and punched the air. I was in the office by myself and it was weird because I'd never usually react to something in that way. I'm not one for huge outpouring of emotion; I'm quite placid. I would certainly say last week was the happiest moment for a long time.
Prior to that, it was going out to Florida to cover the opening of one of the Disney parks. This was the first time the boy from Carrickfergus had been out of Northern Ireland - the furthest I'd been was probably Portrush.
My daughter had just been born and I remember thinking "I can never come back to this place and not bring my daughter", so at the age of three I took her to Walt Disney World. That was a true happy moment and it was a lovely thing to be able to do with her.
Q. And the saddest moment of your life?
A. When my granda Robert died - I was just 14 or 15 and I had never experienced loss before. When you first lose someone it always sticks with you. You remember where you were, what you were doing and how you felt when you heard that news.
Then, about 10 years ago, my kids' granny on their mum's side passed away. Holly was still very young and was very close to her granny. Having to sit her down and tell her that was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.
Q. What event changed your life?
A. Getting that work experience in BCR in the Nineties. It made me realise that I wanted a career in radio.
I reached out to John Rosborough who was the programme director at Downtown Radio and Cool FM, which is the job I now do. He asked me, "What's your goal here? Where do you see yourself one day?" and I said, being a little cocky, "I see myself in your seat. I'm going to do your job one day". That was about 25 years ago and, as it turns out, the seat that I'm in now is the same one John had all those years ago!
Q. What's the ambition that keeps driving you onwards?
A. My career is something that keeps me going on and something I've always been passionate about. Today, a lot of people are getting into media because they see the fame or money. It's different for me, and the people I started out in radio with, people like Stephen Nolan and Christine Bleakley - we were probably the last batch of people to get into radio here in the Nineties.
We all started at the same time at the same station and we've all done quite well. I think that's because we were focused on what we all wanted. I always want to be a better broadcaster than I was yesterday. We wanted Cool FM to be number one, now we are so our next challenge is how we stay there.
Q. What's the philosophy you live by?
A. If you've got nothing good to say about someone, say nothing at all.
Q. How do you want to be remembered?
A. Maybe as someone who influenced a small period of broadcasting. And hopefully I brightened up someone's day - if I can make one person smile or laugh or distract them from the stuff going on in their life for a minute, then my job is done.
Stuart presents the Cool Saturday Show with Katharine Walker from 10am on Cool FM