For quite a while now I have had one night every year where I get to do what teenage Steve wanted to do - be an interviewer like Parkinson. Like Wogan. Nothing like Norton.
There was a day when Television chat shows were not hosted by comedians. They were serious shows. I loved them. I wanted to know about the artist and the art.
So, as a sixteen year old I wanted to be a journalist. Indeed, in 1979 I went off to Sunderland Polytech to do Media Studies but three days later came home, went back to school and shifted my direction towards ministry.
Yet, at every turn I have had an opportunity to do my journalism. At the Presbyterian Church’s annual Youth Reach Festival I got to co-host a magazine show with my mate David Montgomery. I then did some radio in Dublin in the early 90s before hosting a music show on BBC Radio Ulster for 10 years from 1996. I have also written articles, even been a magazine editor and of course blog and more recently podcast.
Never am I more happy that when I have someone to interview. The 4 Corners Festival has given me the chance to chat to Gary Lightbody, Ricky Ross, Ruth McGinley, Duke Special, Brian Houston and Iain Archer. Tonight it is a sold out Fitzroy for Dana Masters.
I am deeply grateful for those who say they like my interviewing style, particularly if they are artists. Many artists are almost insulted by a template of dull repetitive questions from journalists. I like to fool myself into thinking that I am a little different.
I am primarily a fan. I have a favourite artist in front of me. Yes, there is an audience there too but I pretend that I am in my kitchen. What would I like to know? What have other journalists not asked? My only fear is that I bore the audience with my own interests. Ricky Ross even had a song that would break the seriousness if needed!
Tonight it is Dana Masters and it was during her songs at the closing event of the Festival last year with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, that a spark went off in my head. Her story of growing up in the deep south, her Granny being a Civil Rights activist yet here she is in Northern Ireland. I knew there were tales to dig into not just for the sake of it but to hear insights that might help us as we try to do our little bit for reconciliation here.
Of course we never planned that she’d be featuring on BBC TV the two nights before I interview her. We’ll get to talk about Ottilie Patterson too.
A bonus. She’s going to sing. What a voice!
I’m getting excited. Being a talk show host in the same spot that I preach. God didn’t erase my dreams. I am grateful!