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Radio presenter Pete Snodden: Losing my father was the saddest time of my life

 

Family time: Pete Snodden relaxing at home in Bangor with wife Julia and daughters Elayna and Ivana
Family time: Pete Snodden relaxing at home in Bangor with wife Julia and daughters Elayna and Ivana
Rachel Dean

By Rachel Dean

In the third interview of our most revealing series yet Rachel Dean talks to Pete Snodden (38), radio presenter and host of the Cool FM Breakfast Show. He lives in Bangor with his wife Julia (38) and their two daughters, Ivana (8) and Elayna (4).

Q. Tell us about your  childhood.

A. I grew up in Bangor and lived in the same family home my entire life until I went to Ulster University. Before that, I went to Bangor Central Primary School and then Royal Belfast Academical Institution, also known as Inst. My (late) dad Jackie was a director at North Down Borough Council and for the majority of my life my mum Irene stayed home and looked after me. I'm an only child.

I was really lucky. I've always had such a strong bond with my mum and dad. My mum would have always been asked why she didn't have any other children and I would have been asked a lot, 'don't you wish you had any brothers or sisters?'.

But I honestly believe that, when you're an only child, you know no different. I've been very fortunate to have some really good friends - the closest I'll ever get to having brothers - and I know that whenever I need help or support they will always be there for me.

I know people who don't have the best relationship with their folks, and I'm grateful to have had such a close bond with my mum and dad. That to me is so special and it's something that I truly value.

Even though I was an only child, my mum and dad always told me to 'give it a go' and always supported me all the way through everything.

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My dad always said to me that perhaps when he was growing up he wasn't really pushed at home. That meant, when it came to me, he made it a point to never miss a match.

He would have watched me play hockey for the school in the morning, then went and played golf and then came to watch me again in the afternoon. He was always there to watch me and made sure that I got to games and training.

Whenever it came to me showing an interest in DJing, my mum and dad were really supportive and said 'yeah, you go and give it a go son'.

I'm so glad because I'm sure there would have been many other parents out there who, when their 15-year old-son came in saying he wanted to be a DJ, they would have said 'catch yourself on - you need to get a proper job'.

I'm very lucky to have had such supportive parents.

From an early age, I was in lots of different clubs. Even in primary school, I was really into sport.

Parental support: Pete with mum Irene
Parental support: Pete with mum Irene
Parental support: Pete with his dad Jackie at a Liverpool match at Anfield

I was pretty much in every team going, whether it was football, hockey, mini rugby, athletics, everything.

I loved all sports throughout my childhood and I've always been the type to give everything a go.

When I went to Inst, hockey really became my thing. I played some representative stuff for Ulster and Ireland under 15s and 16s. Although, after that I didn't make many other teams. My dad got me into golf at a young age and I still play now. The thing that amazes the most about it is that I've played golf for such a long time that realistically I should be good at it - if only that was the case!

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. My kids and my family. Years ago, if you had asked me this question, I would have said I'm proud of my career and the fact I've been able to achieve the things I've set my soul out to do.

But realistically, I'm so proud of my kids - I love seeing them grow and develop into their own unique personalities.

I don't think my parents did a bad job with me and both me and my wife want to bring up our daughters in the same way in which we were brought up.

Q. The one regret you wish you could amend?

A. I genuinely don't have regrets. If I had to choose something, the only thing I would say is that I wish I could go back and tell my 15-year-old self to not put so much pressure on myself. I got myself so worked up about performing well in sports teams and worried so much that I used to mess up.

Now, I always pass on to people to enjoy the moment, because if you don't, the moment passes you by.

Q. Do you have any phobias?

A. I'm okay with the spiders we get at home because the girls scream the house down and I have to go sort it out - it's sort of my job now. I don't think I'd be okay with the spiders or snakes they get in Australia, though!

Other than that, I don't really have any phobias that stop me from doing regular things.

Q. The temptation you cannot resist?

A. Pizza. If the question is asked in our house, 'will we have takeaway tonight, what do you want?' I will always say pizza and my wife Julia will roll her eyes and say she wants Indian or Thai food, or whatever.

Generally, she wins. If it was up to me, we'd have pizza every time.

Q. Your number one prized possession?

A. A farthing coin. My understanding of the story behind it is that my grandad worked in the shipyard and whenever my mum and uncle were born, a workmate of his arrived with two brand new farthings and gave them to my grandfather. To cut a long story short, my mum ended up getting this coin and, whenever I was younger, I used to get really nervous about exams.

Pete with his two girls
Pete with his two girls

One of my teachers told my parents that they had never seen a child so nervous going into an exam. So, before my 11-plus, my mum gave me the farthing and said, 'you keep this on you and it'll be a good luck charm'. I took the coin into every exam after it, right up until I graduated university.

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

A. I don't have a book that has had a real impact on my life, but I did read a book not too long ago that I related to a lot - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson. As I've got older, I've noticed that I no longer get annoyed at things that I would have a few years ago.

A lot of the stuff the author talks about in the book, I had already come to the conclusions myself. It's a relatable book that is worth a read.

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

A. I love where we live, but I would bring Northern Ireland in line with pretty much every other country in Europe - in terms of our rights, licencing laws, equal marriage, etc. I would give our people the same equality that societies elsewhere have.

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

A. Stormont. I remember the Troubles and when I started Inst in 1991 the soldiers were still on the streets. We had bomb training - the Europa Hotel was bombed twice, I think, in my time at school and it was only down the street.

I know things have changed dramatically since then, and that's amazing. However, we haven't had a proper government (I know they're talking, and that's brilliant too) that are able to legislate on the stuff that directly affects us in this part of the world. We have been through it time and time again, and I just think it's really sad. I want a stable society, as everyone does, and I want the best environment possible for my children to grow up in. I don't want my kids, when they're my age, to still be talking about the same issues that we are today. That makes my blood boil - I really think that the people who live here deserve a lot better.

Q. Who has most influenced you in life?

A. My dad. There are so many things he taught me that I still live by. Even just small things, like he used to say to me 'if you tell someone you're going to do something, do it; don't let anyone down' and I still live by that today. If I could be half the dad that he was to me, I would be so happy.

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

A. Firstly, I would invite Steven Gerrard - Liverpool has been my team since I was nine years old. I remember when I was 17, I watched Steven, who's the same age as me, come on the pitch as a substitute. That was a new era for me and I have followed him throughout his entire career.

Secondly, TV and radio presenter Chris Evans. He was one of my first radio heroes. I've met him before and I chatted to him for about 20-30 minutes outside the BBC Blackstaff House. People say don't meet your heroes, but he was brilliant.

Thirdly, I would bring American broadcaster Larry King. For me, he is the best interviewer in the world - I don't care what anyone says. He has the trust of the audience and most importantly, of the person he is interviewing. He makes people so comfortable that they often share things on TV they never thought they would. I would love to ask him for advice.

Q. The best piece of advice you ever received?

A. 'Not everyone is going to like you. If someone has a problem with you, that's their problem, not yours'. It would have beat me up years ago knowing that someone didn't like me. Now, I embrace who I am - you can't be everyone's man.

Q. The unlikely interest or hobby that you love?

A. In my teenage years, I got turntables. It was the era of the dance club DJs and I loved dance music, so I gave it a go.

I started going to record shops, four or five times a week and collecting records.

I suppose, then, it was a slightly different hobby to have.

People would have said 'you're not going to be a DJ' and 'you're not going to do this' and that really pushed me on.

I was like, 'I'll prove you wrong'.

I'm very proud of my record collection and I will never sell it - I've built it up since I was 15 and it means a lot to me.

I remember the first record I ever bought - my mum gave me £5 and I used it to buy a seven-inch single of Michael Jackson's Bad.

The last time we moved to a new house I said 'I'm never moving house again', because lugging those records around is a job in itself.

Q. The poem that touches your heart?

A. An Irish Blessing. Julia and I had it read at our wedding.

Q. The happiest moment of your life?

A. When my kids were born. Ivana was born on February 19, 2011 and Elayna was born on November 17, 2014. Words can't describe how I felt when I held each of them for the first time. Before I became a dad, one of my friends said to me 'no one can prepare you for the love it brings' and that is true.

Q. And the saddest moment of your life?

A. Losing my dad. He died of cancer in September 2014, around 18 months after he was diagnosed and just two months before Elayna was born. There's no 'good' cancer - but what I saw him go through, I wouldn't wish on anyone.

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Parental support: Pete with his dad Jackie at a Liverpool match at Anfield

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

A. I recorded a dance music track in 2001 and I sent it around to lots of different record companies. At that point, I already had my foot in the door at Cool FM, but I hadn't got a gig. I was helping out a friend on his show and I was making use of the spare studio to build my confidence in broadcasting. Just by chance, I got a phone call from a gentleman who was putting together an unsigned dance music CD, that was to be free with the Daily Star newspaper. They flew me to London and put the song on the CD and it went out on the Saturday publication, alongside a double-page spread, right across the UK.

I made an appointment to see the managing director of the radio station - he knew I was in the building, but he didn't know much else about me. I arrived in and sat the newspaper down in front of him. I told him I was knocking around and I wanted a job. I walked out of that meeting with two shows at the weekend.

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

A. I love what I do and I want to do it for as long as I possibly can and provide for my family while doing it.

Q. What's the philosophy you live by?

A. To live in the moment. We really don't know what's going to happen to us tomorrow, so I always try to enjoy every moment.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. As someone who was fun, who didn't take himself too seriously and who loved his family deeply.

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