One of the best blokes in Bega has just landed his dream job, four decades after he first had a crack.
John Watkin has been in the paint business for close to 40 years, but as a teen, he applied for radio school with the ambition of working on the wireless.
“Radio was my childhood dream and I got rejected,” John remembers.
“This was back in the day when youth unemployment was 30%, jobs were really hard to come by, you had to get a job wherever you could, which is how I ended up in the family business.”
John grabbed the opportunity with both hands, working with his father to build a business that is now one of the pillars of town – Inspirations Paint.
But from Monday, John’s radio dream becomes a reality as the new Morning presenter for East Coast Radio 2EC.
Program Director and 2EC Breakfast presenter, Kim Saker says giving John the job feels right despite his lack of professional radio experience.
“He and I had talked about the idea over a couple of scotches in years gone by,” Kim laughs.
Keen to bring stability to her station when yet another vacancy opened Kim pitched the 50 something painter to the powers that be.
“He doesn’t have the radio skills as such, but he’s got the personality, he’s got the stability, he’s got the maturity, and he’s got the passion – everything else you can teach,” Kim says.
John’s appointment comes at a time when regional media is under pressure and in many country radio stations local content has been replaced by networked programs from the nearest capital city.
Kim says it was localism that sealed the deal.
During his years running the paint business and raising three kids with his wife of 30 years Sharon, John has fed his radio dream with a regular painting and decorating segment in Kim’s breakfast program.
“And for the last 10 years when we have our radiothon weekend, John comes into the studio and he and I pretty much spend the whole weekend on air together,” Kim says.
Learning how to drive the radio studio has been the focus for John over the last few weeks of training, getting to know the equipment, being able to respond to a live radio program, and above all getting comfortable in what many people see as an intimidating environment.
Listeners to Kim’s breakfast program might not have realised that on some mornings recently, John has been “paneling” – pressing all the buttons while Kim kept her gums flapping – as only she can!
From Monday (December 4) he’ll need to do it all himself (as country radio presenters do) during his own program.
This boy from Bega who grew up listening to 2EC or 2BE as it used to be known, says it’s been a nerve-racking experience.
“I’ve been self-employed for the last 27 years, this is out of my comfort zone,” John says.
Locals will be familiar with John’s community work through the Bega Chamber of Commerce, Legacy, Anzac and Remembrance Day, Bega Hospital, and more, it’s something he is keen to bring to his new role.
“For me, radio is part of the local community, it’s a connection point, it’s a conduit for the community to share what’s going on,” John says.
“When it comes to fires and floods that’s where radio really steps up, you can get instant news to people.”
John will be on air between 9 and 12 weekdays, treading lightly at first while he gets his bearings, but his plan is to include interviews and discussion in amongst the music that 2EC is known for.
“My day is about connecting with this community, I’ll be talking about what’s happening and how that impacts on our local area,” John says.
The career change is a significant shift in the operations of the paint business John and Sharon continue to run.
“My wife is still not talking to me,” John laughs.
“Sharon is very supportive, she knows I’ve had a passion for radio since before I had a passion for her.
“And the kids think it’s fantastic, they keep hassling me. My daughter has just moved to London and she can’t wait to live-stream me.”
As a 30 year veteran of the industry, Kim Saker says it’s a really nice feeling to make someones radio dream come true.
“My passion for radio started when I was 11, I couldn’t imagine waiting as long as John has,” she says.
“For John to be living the dream now is awesome for me.”
Radio needs real people, country towns need radio, and John Watkin is a welcome addition to the ranks.
*About Regional content is backed by members, including – Kylie Dummer, Kaye Johnston, Geoffrey Grigg,
Robyn Kesby, Amanda Fowler, Sue and Duncan Mackinnon, Geoff Berry, Tania Ward, the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre, and Four Winds at Bermagui.