Since gaining her radio licence just over seven years ago, Ruth O’Reilly has interviewed writers, musicians, and other creative people from all walks of life. The Levenshulme-based community station, AllFM, where she trained then presented her own show, uses the tagline ‘The real voice of Manchester’. Ruth has remained true to this in giving local creatives and those with a connection to Manchester a place to share their creativity.
Ruth’s fascination with radio started as a young child. Her Irish mother loved to listen to Gay Byrne on RTE. This amazed a young Ruth that she could listen to someone broadcasting from Ireland, while she was in Manchester. She also recalls travelling to visit family in Ireland, and the way the stations on her transistor radio would switch from England to Ireland-based stations when they reached Ireland.
Later, Ruth would become a carer for her mother, and the two of them would listen to AllFM together. The community radio station provided a way for her mum to feel connected to the local community, even when she couldn’t physically be a part of it.
After her mother passed away, Ruth got involved with AllFM. She says, “It was a station that brought my mum a lot of joy to listen to, and I felt that it was helping me to process my grief. I never thought I would get involved with it for as long as I did.”
During lockdown, she used the station as a way to connect people through her interviews. She carried these out remotely, but Ruth’s ‘Sunday Tea Show’ provided a platform for creatives to share their work, and for listeners to discover work that could potentially entertain them or even help them through a difficult time.
Since starting as a volunteer with AllFM, Ruth has always gravitated toward finding and interviewing creative people. She believes that radio is a great way of creating conversations and helping people get over their nerves or imposter syndrome. Describing herself as a shy person who found her voice through radio, she aims to help others do the same by being guests on her show.
Manchester is full of talented people, many of who have other careers alongside their creative pursuits. Ruth finds a lot of her guests through social media, at events such as spoken word nights, and by networking.
She interviews people at different stages of their journey, but particularly loves meeting those just taking their first creative steps and watching how they evolve, and often keeps in touch with guests either through social media or in person.
One example she uses is Connor Molloy (a Manchester musician) who was a guest near the beginning of the lockdown and already had some success in his career, performing and supporting other acts around the UK. He has now produced his debut solo album.
Tom Stocks is another guest she remembers talking to. He went on to write a book and be published less than a year after being a guest on her show.
She also says that a few former guests are in talks about having their books turned into a film or television series, and another has their own show at Manchester Fringe.
She states, “The greatest reward I get from it is when someone I have interviewed then goes on to do festivals or be featured on TV, which was the case with Sara Kay who went on Lorraine during lockdown after our interview. It just makes me so proud to see what previous guests who had their first radio interview with me, go on to create. There is a magic to radio.”
For most people, the acknowledgement can be motivation to continue, and with a lot more people sharing their creativity during and after lockdown, AllFM is a great platform for their voices to be heard. Creativity is underrated and provides an outlet for people struggling with their mental health.
Ruth hopes to continue providing a platform for the local community in her future shows and would love to feature some radio plays. She says this is a nod to her grandfather, who wrote and starred in plays in Ireland.
She emphasises the importance of giving local people a place to share relatable content that inspires others to create something for themselves, in a way that interviewing a big name would not. Although, she admits she wouldn't say no to interviewing Ryan Reynolds if he’s reading this.