Belfast Telegraph

How an Omagh DJ went from dole to Radio 1 in two years

Omagh-born Phil Taggart
Omagh-born Phil Taggart

By David O'Dornan

Radio 1 presenter Phil Taggart was so nervous when he made his BBC network debut he reckoned he sounded like a "Northern Irish Dalek".

Now a regular on the station with Radio 1's Chillest Show, Omagh-born Phil has enjoyed a meteoric rise since leaving Radio Ulster with barely 10 shows under his belt.

The 32-year-old had a baptism of fire after producers saw potential in him, despite his lack of experience - and he admitted he was nervous with his first big show across the water.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "Absolutely, everybody was telling me to slow down. Ten minutes before I went on I went to the shop across the road to buy supplies and the woman behind the counter couldn't understand what I was saying, and it just sent me into this spiral of thinking and when I opened the mic I'm pretty sure I went (speaks slowly), 'Hel-lo myyy na-me isss Phil Tag-gart...' I sounded like some sort of Northern Irish Dalek."

His rise to fame saw him switch from life on the dole to Radio 1 in little over two years since getting his foot in the door at Radio Ulster but he revealed it was also thanks to some poetic licence when he sent a demo over to London.

He explained: "I got in to the BBC through the CSV media work scheme, the steps to work scheme from the dole. I came back from a tour, I was playing with my band, and I was heavily encouraged by the dole office to go on one of the steps to work schemes, I couldn't get any employment elsewhere - I always tell people I got to Radio One from the dole office.

"I was working on Across The Line and a BBC Introducing show as well and they put me into the presenting role fairly early. It wasn't something I was necessarily chasing at the start, but I had a lot of encouragement from producers.

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"I sent Radio One a demo, told them I did it in half an hour but I'd actually been working on it for two weeks. They asked me to fly over to do a try-out over there but I hadn't a penny to my name. I said, 'I can't, I'm sorry!'

"Then they said, 'Right, we're going to try you out on Saturday afternoon at 1pm' - I'd only done a handful of shows and then I was broadcasting to five million people. It was probably my 10th radio show. So it was all a bit fast and a bit manic."

Phil, who before joining the BBC had a cameo in the Good Vibrations movie as Gordy Blair from Rudi, is back in Northern Ireland tomorrow night to host a live version of his popular Radio 1 podcast, Slacker, in the Limelight in Belfast and will be joined by special guest Ryan McMullan.

Singer Ryan McMullan
Singer Ryan McMullan

Phil said: "The Slacker podcast has always been a studio based thing up until quite recently, it's just over a year old at the moment and has already hit number one in the Apple podcast charts several time.

"The case of starting it was wanting to sit down with artists that I love and respect and I want to sort of get to know where they came from by playing their earliest demos.

"You'd have Fat Boy Slim playing a version of Praise You from about five years before it came out or Manic Street Preachers playing Motorcycle Emptiness from 1987 from the Coal Miner's Institute and it sounds like it was recorded by a dictaphone taped to a bucket.

"I think it's really interesting if you're a fan of the bigger artists to get an idea of where they come from and that's why I have started to do them live.

"I thought it would be good for fans of Ryan McMullan to be able to sit in the same room as him as he's interviewed, but also to have the opportunity to ask the questions that they want to ask as well, about his career and how he writes music, what his inspirations are and what it's like to go on tour with Ed Sheeran.

"So it is a podcast interview but it's also very much open to participation as well and that's what I like about it. Slacker Live is very new and I'm looking forward to it, it should be fun."

After tomorrow's gig, Brighton-based Phil said he is taking a few weeks off until the New Year to enjoy some family time back home.

Phil Taggart's Slacker Podcast Live, with special guest Ryan McMullan, is at The Limelight 2, Belfast on Tuesday from 7pm. Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.ie and www.limelightbelfast.com and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. The show is 18+ only

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