FIRST PERSON: Ex-radio DJ and dog-groomer Tony Wright
6:12pm Wednesday 5th February 2014 in News
“MY proudest moment was being awarded the MBE by the Queen in 2006.
I never once thought I’d get it. I didn’t think I’d ever get to meet someone like that, never mind be awarded a medal by her.
When I first got the letter from Downing Street, I presumed it was a tax bill of some sort and was shocked when I read it.
I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone and it was announced on New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t go to London until May.
I was absolutely over the moon; it was incredible to see a boy like me ending up with an MBE and it’s something that I’m immensely proud of.
It was something I never expected in a million years, it took me by surprise and I still don’t know how it happened.
I grew up in Maesglas, which is ironically where I’ve ended up working now.
My grandparents brought me up. I was never a big fan of school and I left Duffryn High as soon as I could at 16.
I always wanted to be in showbiz and once out of school, I decided to enrol in drama college. I studied drama for two years and then did another year in Bristol, which was brilliant.
A while after that had finished, I went on a tour doing school, youth clubs and colleges, but when I came home I found it very hard to get any work.
It seemed that unless you were a well-known name in the acting industry then nothing was around. It was still my passion and I wanted to get into acting, but after seven months without a job I realised that I needed to do something.
I still wanted to be in the entertainment industry, but needed something that would give me regular work as opposed to me waiting for acting jobs to come up and I thought the radio would be perfect.
A job was advertised for Red Dragon and I decided to apply. I didn’t get it at first, but they rang me back three months later and offered me the job. I was traffic and travel reporter for about 18 months, at which point I was desperate for my own show.
One day someone rang in sick and I had to fill in, which was my big chance. I did it a few more times over the next few months and eventually got put on to the overnight shift.
I did that shift – known as the graveyard shift – from 1am until 6am for over a year.
People think there’s no one listening, but there really are a lot that listen to it. There’s nothing else going on, so they’re listening more intently than usual and they pick up on any mistakes that are made, so it can be very difficult.
I did that shift for a while and eventually they gave me a drive time show and then I made it to the breakfast show, which is what every radio presenter wants.
It’s the starring role, and it took me roughly nine years until I got that job.
I hosted that breakfast show on what was called Touch AM – Red Dragon’s sister station – for over ten years and it was brilliant.
Eventually the company was bought out by Capital FM and they decided to network the show from London which meant that I had to leave, but a petition was started and over 1,000 people signed it to get me re-instated, which was very humbling.
To see that people care about you enough to do something like that was really nice to know.
I didn’t get the job back, though, so I did some intermittent work for a while then ended up on Real Radio co-hosting the breakfast show with Angela Jay.
It was a brilliant time and we’re still good friends now, but when it came to 2010 Real Radio decided not to renew my contract.
In the radio industry, everyone is constantly on the lookout for younger people, which can make it hard to hold down a job.
I was unemployed for seven months, doing the odd shift at BBC Bristol when I was needed but there weren’t many jobs available.
I was approached by a radio station in Darlington to become the new host of their breakfast show but I felt I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to move away.
I had been roughly seven months unemployed and I needed a new plan and then it hit me.
I love dogs and I always have done, they’re a big part of my life. I’ve always had a great relationship with them.
Dog grooming just seemed the perfect option, so I spent £3,000 enrolling in a course in dog grooming and I absolutely loved it.
Once I had finished that, I opened my own dog grooming salon at the back of Newport railway station before I came to Maesglas, which is where I am now.
It’s great fun and it lets me get involved in other stuff to keep my foot in the door, which is great.
Last year I did a theatre tour called ‘I’ll be there now in a minute’ which was great for me as even though I was dog grooming, I could do both, which satisfied my appetite for performing.
I’ve always found any praise very humbling. It’s the same now if someone appreciates me grooming their dog, then it’s as great as people who would compliment me when I was on the radio.
You’ve always got to remember that without those people, then you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in, which is why I wanted to give something back.
I found the best way of doing that was through charity work so I did a lot of charity nights, charity walks and anything else I could think of.
I did sponsored walks from Barry to Newport, from Pontypridd to Pontypool and various other charity nights. I’m not sure how much I raised overall but every Ty Hafan night we did raised a good amount.
I feel very honoured to have been doing stuff I’ve enjoyed all my life. I’ve had some lucky breaks along the way but I’ve also worked tremendously hard to get to where I have.
I never forget I’m a council estate boy and to come as far as I have is something I’m very proud of.”
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