THIS week Paul Bradley catches up with Jimmy Stafford, the Cobh native who has made Donegal his home. He talks about work, music and his admiration for how Donegal people are so resilient when times are tough.
Hi Jimmy, how are you these days?
I am feeling good these days. I turned 50 last Christmas ..they say turning 50 is the new forties in today’s world.
It’s been a tough few years on a personal front losing loved ones very close to me but I try to see the positives in life, enjoy each day and look ahead with confidence.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, please?
I was born in Cobh which is about 30 minutes from Cork city. There were seven children in my family. My Dad served in the Irish Naval Service and my Mam was a hard working housewife.
I went to college in Cork city and completed my Business Studies degree. I joined Bank of Ireland in 1993 and have spent all my career to date in BoI working in Cork City, Dublin and moved to Donegal in 2007.
My wife Triona (Dunne) is from Letterkenny so that made the move here a bit easier. In fact,when the job came up here in Donegal, it was me who wanted to move here as I had fallen in love with Donegal.
I have collected thousands of CDs since I was a child. My late mother was a music enthusiast, so I picked up my love of listening to music from her.
When I was in Dublin my wife had bought me a DJ system just for home use. I was asked one Christmas to do a staff Christmas party for a friend of mine in Kealy’s Bar at Dublin Airport and I spent the next six years DJing every Friday night at this bar.
When I moved to Donegal in 2007 I did some DJing at SWDCR in Bruckless and also at Finn FM. I also produced my brother-in-law Fr Paddy Dunne’s show on Highland Radio .
Over eight years ago Head of Programme Control at Highland, Linda McGroarty, gave me the opportunity to host my own show “Centre Stage” every Thursday evening promoting homegrown Irish music acts. I also produce the Monday Night Sessions presented by Paul McDevitt where we have live music acts in studio. Doing radio shows is my game of golf, it’s how I relax!
You’re probably best known for your slot on Highland Radio, but you also have quite a responsible role in Bank Of Ireland. How do you find the time and energy?
I am the Risk & Operations Manager for Bank of Ireland covering from Dundalk across to Galway and up to Donegal. I have learned over the years to strike a balance. The trick for me is diary management! I also have a great wife in Triona who supports all I do even though she has her own business Triona Stafford Therapies to run. Good coffee also helps!
Do the jobs complement each other at all? Do you, for example, see the ups and downs in local business reflected in the moods and messages of listeners?
The shows I do are music and I try to keep the mood as positive as I can. Music can be a great healer for people, especially if you have had a bad day and a song comes on that brings you to another place.
You also served as President in the Chamber of Commerce a few years ago. What sort of insights did you glean from that?
That was an amazing experience for me. I took on the role and we had great plans for the year, then in March of that year the dreaded Covid hit.
As a Chamber we adopted a “can do” positive approach. Working with our CEO Toni Forrester and the Board we went out with messages to the general public that we would be back and open soon for business.
What I learned that year is that Donegal businesses, community and voluntary groups and the general public, probably because of the history and the location, are persistent and resilient.
They pivot, change, collaborate and push on. Whatever challenges they face, they come together, put the shoulder to the wheel and figure out a way to move forward. There is huge grit, and determination by the bucket loads. All of that got us out the other side.
Presumably, with all that, you must be very much a people person. Do you have the time or inclination just to spend the odd day yawning on the sofa with the TV? Or do you have other ways of relaxing?
I love to garden and a few years ago I bought a polytunnel, that is my go-to place of rest.
I also like to swim and tour around Donegal, for me it is the most beautiful county in Ireland and every time I head somewhere within the county I tend to find something new. I also love my coffee and discovering new coffee shops!
How do you keep track of new music? Do acts/agents approach you, or do you keep an eye (or an ear) on particular radio stations/TV shows/media for information?
I get a lot of emails to my Highland Radio email account from agents all over the world. I also follow a lot of stuff on Twitter as musicians and DJs tend to use Twitter to reach out.
A lot of what I discover is from people referring new music to me, “so and so said you might like to listen to our new music” . It’s a tough industry and I admire the amazing musicians and singers who work really hard in the industry.
You have half-joked that you intend to discover the next U2. With so many separate musical niches and outlets and age groups now, has the time passed for that level of stardom? Is that good or bad?
I think there are still huge opportunities out there. Look at acts like Picture This, Cian Ducrot, Lewis Capaldi and so on. These artists have come out of nowhere and are now packing stadiums and venues across many countries.
By the same token, does the number of platforms available now make it harder for radio stations to survive? Are local stations less vulnerable than the national ones?
I think local radio will always be strong. I look at the positive reaction we get on our shows, especially The Monday Night Sessions. I could be anywhere in Donegal and people will stop and talk about certain acts Paul McDevitt and I have had on our shows.
I’m guessing that you sometimes have to play music you’re not personally that keen on. Where are your own musical tastes?
I am very keen on new Irish music acts but I also love classical, easy listening music and the 80s. I am a huge fan of John Creedon and the eclectic mix he plays on his shows.
Any major plans for the future – new directions, new projects, new jobs?
Perfect my skills in the growing department of the polytunnel.
Christy Dignam – My Crazy World
Loved the series “Fauda” on Netflix
Your perfect night?
Nice meal at the Lemon Tree in Letterkenny with Tanya McCole singing in the corner.
Your nickname at school?
What do you look for most in a friend?
Loyalty and kindness
What angers, frightens, or disappoints you?
What worries me is the way social media has turned, some of it has gotten very nasty and sadly when people voice an opinion they can be attacked from all sides. The days of having a good old debate and agreeing to disagree have gone.
Do you have a particular motto/belief that you try to live by?
You have only one bite of the cherry so do your best for everyone.
You have €10,000 – what’s the one thing you’d most like to spend it on right now?
Give some to charity and put the rest towards a new car and a holiday to the island of Madeira
If anyone else would like to take part in this interview, to raise a profile or an issue, or just for fun, please contact Paul at Dnthirddegree@gmail.com