There was only ever one place for Cian Ó Cíobháin to lay his hat. Brought up in the surrounds of the Raidió na Gaeltachta’s Kerry studios as his father Seán worked in the newsroom, a love for the Irish language radio station was nurtured. But the ‘An Taobh Tuathail’ host was drawn more to music than news reporting from the start.
“I spent a lot of time in and around the old analogue studios in Baile na nGall. There was something about the reels and the aroma of the place,” he recalls.
“But from day one, it was always music that caught my attention. I spent my time making loads of mixed tapes. I actually found a book recently recording all the tapes I made for different people. I even had a fictitious record label, ‘Warsaw Records’, that I inscribed on the tapes. They were mostly for girls I fancied but people often tell me they still have them.”
An Arts degree in English and Irish led Cian into a H-Dip in Communications and from there a work experience stint in Raidió na Gaeltachta allowed him chase the dream.
“I started off reading the weather forecast and doing some continuity work, but I slowly managed to build it up to three days per week. I had other opportunities but I was happier working part time in Raidió na Gaeltachta.
“The big breakthrough came for us in 1999 when the station was awarded the extra broadcast hours and, at that point, I made a submission to host a youth music show. It proved difficult in the early days, as all the music played had to be either Irish language or instrumentals, but, once that changed in 2005, it opened a whole new world of music that I could use.”
Many Galwegians first came across Cian through another guise, as host of 110th Street alongside Cyril Briscoe. From the early days in the Town Hall Theatre, 110th Street has proven to be a huge hit with Galway revellers, but Cian was quick to praise the influential hand of the late Mike Diskin in their development.
“From the very start, Mike was a huge influence on us. He was the real driving force behind the show; he encouraged us to keep pushing ahead with it and, without his help early on, there is no way we would have succeeded. His death leaves a huge hole in Galway’s arts scene and he will be hugely missed.”
Of course, Cian has come a long way since his mixed tape days: An Taobh Tuathail Volumes 1-4 are already available and he is currently elbow deep in volume five.
“Looking back, I should have released the CDs a bit sooner, but Volume 1 came out in 2007, right when the illegal downloading phenomenon was taking off. By the time I reached the third one, it was almost a money losing venture, so I decided to release it as a free download. But I am just working my way through all the contract talks for the fifth one, so it should be completed before too long.”
As well as it being Raidió na Gaeltachta’s 40th birthday, An Taobh Tuathail celebrates its 13th year on 1 May. As usual, Cian wants to mark the occasion with something slightly eclectic.
“On the night, we will host an anti-party. Instead of the usual uplifting tunes, we will host a night of your favourite tear jerkers. It will be different, but we have already had some great recommendations via email. Everyone has a song like that, so it should be quite the party.”