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RNIB Connect Radio volunteer Roger Cole talks to us about his experiences

A woman and a man stand next to each other in smart clothing outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, the man holds a cane.

Roger Cole and his wife Lou outside Buckingham Palace

RNIB volunteer Roger Cole shares his experiences that led to him to become a popular host of two RNIB Connect Radio shows and the full-circle moments that have connected him to some favourite musicians and back to Buckingham Palace for another historical event.

What is your volunteer role at RNIB?

I'm a volunteer for RNIB Connect radio. I've been doing it for almost 13 years. It was an opportunity to get back into doing something meaningful.

I was a DJ from 1986 to 1995, I did a lot in Spain. I’d go over in the summer to play in pubs and clubs. It's good fun, you know, every morning you get up, have a walk along the beach then play lots of dance music.

I stopped doing it because my sight was starting to fail at night because of Retinitis Pigmentosa, which I didn't know I had at the time but I couldn't see the line on the on the records and I told myself I couldn’t do it anymore. So from 1995 to 2011, I stopped being a DJ.

How did you get back to being a DJ?

I first got in contact with RNIB because they wanted people to go to their local MPs regarding the changes at the time with PIP. I went to my local MP who actually listened to what I was saying, and it was nice to get letters from the House of Commons. I still have a letter from him, it was great to get a response and he kept in contact for years.

This got me interested in more involvement with RNIB. I got in touch with the radio station, they gave me some training then after 3 months I was offered my own show! We started with an 80s show, so I was in my comfort zone. A couple of years later I then started a 70s show and every day of the week I'm working on something. My wife, Lou, helps with some of the research, she’ll find oddities about a song or a band.

What’s the experience like for you?

It takes a lot to do a show. You’ve got to compile it, get the right music, get music nobody's ever heard of before and you’ve got to find something that hooks the listener.

It’s the same when I was DJing, I'd get rare mixes of songs and I’d enjoy seeing people dancing then stopping and going “what on earth is this?” I enjoy reintroducing people to something that maybe they had forgotten all about, especially with the 70s Show. I sound like my dad, but the new stuff all sounds the same! It was good to reintroduce myself to 70s music.

Do you have much of a relationship with the listeners or the people that that message in?

I was expecting maybe one request a month but it’s about 20 a week!

I interact with the listeners on Twitter, and I get direct messages. It's good when you get somebody famous like a Rick Astley Tweet “I enjoyed that”!

During the last few years I've done a segment of a famous listener’s favourite three tracks. We’ve had Claire Grogan from Altered Images, Chesney Hawkes and Rusty Egan. I went to the Blitz Club when I was the 17 and I remember Rusty on stage DJing one night and then 30-40 years later he's sending me his favourite songs. It’s full circle, it’s amazing.

I’d love to speak to Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra. I was supposed to but it had to be cancelled and I hope I haven’t missed my opportunity.

Attending the Royal garden party

It was fantastic. It was great to be representing RNIB, it was an amazing day. It was the week of the Coronation and security was immense so the Mall was completely silent apart from a few people turning up to camp out. It actually reminded me of when I went to the Mall for the royal wedding in 1981. We hung out on the monument outside Buckingham Palace and got interviewed by Sir Terry Wogan! Yeah, it was definitely another full circle moment.

My hobbies

I love my volunteer role. It's sharing experiences and it shows sight loss doesn't mean everything stops, you can continue and do the passions that you love.

I also play blind golf with the England and Wales Blind Golf Society. I wish more people would get into golf because it’s basically the same rules as standard golf. In 2018 me and my guide, Ray, won the British Masters Stapleford which was quite an honour. You know, I'd never won thing in my life and all of a sudden I’m standing there with a cup in my hands.

Volunteering for RNIB is an honour. Being able to share my experiences and give a little insight into sight loss. It’s nice to have listeners who are blind and partially sighted and also those who maybe haven’t come across RNIB before.

One final and important question: what's your karaoke song?

It’s Michael McDonald “What a fool believes." It should be something like Michael Jackson's “Thriller”, but yeah, it's something uncool like Michael McDonald!