East Coast FM Morning show producer Claire Darmody has announced she is leaving the station at the end of August after almost 13 years.
Claire will be joining up with Newstalk’s, George Hook as producer of his new show which airs from September 12th from 12-2pm.
She was responsible for starting the popular Wicklow Wide Coffee Morning and the St.Vincent De Paul give a gift.
How long have you been at ECFM?
I started in East Coast FM in November 2003, so almost 13 years. Since then the role has changed, as I started the East Coast fm Wicklow Wide Coffee Morning 8 years ago and the St Vincent DePaul Give a Gift Campaign 9 years ago, so I now do those as well and for a few years I worked on OB’s (Outside Broadcast) when we take the Morning Show on tour. I also started at a time when the programme was going from 2 hours to 3 and having a co-presenter joining Declan Meehan and now we are back to 2 hours and just Dec. We also cover a large range and mix of topics now
How much has the Coffee morning raised in the 8 years?
€340,303.37 is the cumulative figure raised in 8 years, with this year raising €71,546.33, almost 20% up on what we raised in 2015. The coffee morning is unique in that we don’t pay for anything, so the generosity of listeners and local businesses and amazing talent or very well known people donating time, venues, prizes, sound equipment, posters, refreshments, talent, tea and coffee and much more, means that every penny of the money raised goes to the charities. Thankfully, we have also managed to increase what we raise each year, which is also quite unique for an 8 year old event.
Why did you start the coffee morning?
I started it to use the station as a vehicle to raise awareness and funds for the then 4 cancer support centres in the County, after the first year, which was just 5 venues for 2 hours, where we raised just over €21,000.
Mary O’Brien in Arklow approached us about setting up a centre, we had held a coffee morning in Bridgewater Centre in Arklow and they came up with the idea of setting up their own centre, they have a smashing organisation now with a lot of community support and offer incredible services.
The hospice foundation also started up after the first year or perhaps the second, they wanted us to run the whole coffee morning for them, which was a fair enough request on their behalf, but I refused, it had to be for all the centres too, they are looking after so many people each day and so many people thankfully survive cancer and never need hospice care. So we raised money for all of these services and split it 6 ways – the 5 cancer support centres and the hospice foundation. The awareness we raised has also been amazing, so many people never knew about the centres until we started talking about and running the coffee morning.
One morning Mary was on talking about Arklow’s main coffee morning, and after she left a woman phoned her, her 12 year old daughter had been diagnosed with cancer the day previous and she lived in Arklow but never knew about the centre until she heard about it through the coffee morning promo, those kind of moments happen all the time and are so important.
It gives local businesses a chance to showcase and advertise via donation of prizes, or lending us a venue or equipment to help out and get on air mentions. And finally it gives the community a sense of purpose and so many people a fun day out, in the last few years people have really come out in force to run their own events, in schools, businesses and homes, that took a while to work, I made special promos and said it on air for about 5 years, but it only really took shape in the last 3, and those people bring in the big money to add to the 11 venues figures, granted it comes in bits and pieces but every effort and euro is so important and so, so appreciated, there is something so amazing happening when someone is running their own event, rather than just attending one of ours.
We were also lucky enough to have Marlena create the Wicklow Calendar this year, which was a beautiful and huge success. I am so grateful for all the work that goes into each and every event and hope it continues, I know first-hand how hard it is to manage around a job and other commitments. This year was a full weekend of over 55 events and was the biggest year ever, it took the full 6 months to work on it from start to finish and was the toughest year on me yet, but was all worth it on the day and the weekend when it was so successful and the sun shone, as it somehow always does. It has touched countless people lives and I am so lucky to have been able to start and be a part of it.
Give a Gift Campaign?
I also founded Give a gift campaign 9 years ago, and again that has gone from strength to strength. The first year we just collected in Bray and then we decided to get venues all over the County and keep the gifts in each VdeP conference area. We have tried to encourage people to donate money too, but to be honest I think people just love giving gifts, including to adults which is lovely and so important for the forgotten mums and dads who are under such pressure.
I don’t blame people, I prefer to give gifts too. People have been extraordinarily generous over the years, through the recession when people who had never needed VdeP were relying on them and now that we are in recovery people are every bit as generous and more, it’s always a very emotional and overwhelming time to see peoples’kindness and I feel very blessed to have started something so special. We all love that last Christmas week in East Coast, we are like Santa’s Little helpers!
Everyone in East Coast is an incredible help with both charity events and Declan bears the brunt happily with a smile and no complaints, it would take too long to name all in the station who help in so many important and essential ways, the team have been just super in their support, tolerance and their entirety and I am so appreciative of them. I do have to mention Anne Kennedy, she is vital in all events, has been an irreplaceable help to me and responsible for so much soul and kindness in the station generally and is a special person in there and in my life.
What was the high and what was the low in your years at ECFM?
The lows; there were many but the death of the Bray Firefighters, devastating loss of our intern Olivia Burke in Berkley (Olivia worked with me closely on the coffee morning) and tragic garda Ciaran Jones who drowned in Blessington saving lives are a few that come straight to mind, covering the London bombings on 7/7 and many more global tragedies as they happened was also difficult too.
The highs; there were more; Katie Taylors gold medal, the final completion of the N11 which we campaigned for on the morning show for many years, and Declan had for many years before I came, all of the elections, because I love working on them, when a little girl heard the give a gift campaign promos and donated the bike she won in school, working with Declan, the level of response to and success of the coffee morning over the years, meeting so many amazing people in so many different areas. I know this is not meant to be personal but winning an award for service to the community at the Wicklow People of the year awards and to win person of the year at Bray Endeavour awards were amazing highs.
Of the people you met who stood out and was nice?
I couldn’t possibly name everybody that stood out, as I’ve met so many wonderful people!
I did really love meeting Garett Fitzgerald, I was totally starstruck and I met one of my best friends and former boyfriend Kieran through the station, he was a guest on the show over 8 years ago. He is still a huge part of my life personally and professionally and has supplied tons of tea, coffee and prizes for all 8 years of the coffee mornings and even though he mostly lives away now, he still has a local business and continues to support me and the event massively, so they both stood out in their own ways.
Goodness, almost all of the guests are really, really nice to be honest – all of our regulars are now my friends, like Pete the Vet, Barbara Scully, Laura Haugh, Niall O’Connor to name but a few, the amazing people from the cancer centres are brilliant and the politicians are actually all super too and I worked with some deadly people guest presenting on the programme.
Also, all the brilliant celebrities who have taken part in the coffee morning are lovely to deal with; Chris De Burgh, Jack L, Eleanor McEvoy, Mundy, Paddy Casey and Brian Kennedy, Phil Coulter, Mary Coughlan, Dickie Rock, the Dublin Gospel Choir, Paul Harrington, Don Mescall, Luan Parle, ,Kim Hayden, Bagatelle, Mary Byrne, Molly Sterling, The High Kings, best-selling authors; Cathy Kelly, Paul Howard and Sarah Webb, TV personalities; Craig Doyle and Amanda Brunker and Sports personalities Ken Doherty, Shane Byrne, Katie Taylor and Mick O’ Dwyer
It’s very hard to say good bye, even though I am moving on to a fantastic and exciting opportunity. I have met some life-long friends in all of my East Coast colleagues and people like Michael Kelly! Also, some of the guests like Luan Parle, Cathy Kelly, Don Mescall, Annette Plunkett and many more who I met here are part of my life well beyond East Coast fm and will always be and I am very grateful for that. The station have always supported my Wicklow charity projects, the volunteering I do outside the company and the blog I now have with my sister and in the past my TV producing and presenting, that has made my life much easier.
Wicklow is really my home even though I live in Dublin and East Coast are family, I have so many happy memories and part of my heart will always be here, I will continue to present Wicklow this week once or twice a month on a Saturday morning, which I am very grateful to do.