Fiona Poole is a household name in the Bellingen Shire, entertaining many of us each morning as presenter of the Breakfast Show for ABC Coffs Coast. Fi describes herself quite simply as a “music lover”, which one can imagine is a proclivity for most radio presenters. This passion was only ignited after leaving school. “I got a job doing the door at the Palladium in Kings Cross. That’s when I started falling in love with music and the dance music culture. At the time I lived in Surry Hills with my boyfriend who was a techno dj, and the constant techno drove me out of the house and up the road to the Hopetoun Hotel. It was a live music venue, and I’d spend night after night there listening to independent artists and bands. Live, new music, of all genres – I hope I have it in my life always,” enthuses Fi.
Like most children, Fi had early dreams of career paths. ” I wanted to be a barrister, actor, and a national park ranger,” says Fi. She ended up being a Youth Worker and ran the Youth Activities Centre in Byron Bay. “I organised band competitions, breakdancing classes, manga sessions and a bunch of fun stuff for local young people to get involved with. As a part of that I started a youth radio program and we built a music studio. That’s where I started thinking, hang on a sec, I think I actually enjoy this more than my real job.” And so began a new career path.
Fi’s earliest radio gig was with FBi Radio, an independent youth broadcaster based in Sydney that specialises in Sydney music, arts and culture. From here Fi did a stint at a few commercial stations and then landed at ABC 702 Sydney producing ‘Afternoons with James Valentine’. This time proved very formative for Fi’s career. “James Valentine sets the bench mark for great radio in my opinion. He’s just so clever, and engaging. He taught me that radio is about rhythm – your voice, the way you blend tracks, the way you intertwine guests, concepts, and ideas – it’s all a symphony which the presenter conducts. Framing radio like that has bought me so much joy. Hopefully my listeners can hear that too. So that time with James, although brief, was a game changer for me.” However, in 2008 Fi relocated to the mid north coast to present the Breakfast Show for ABC Coffs Coast. “The move was serendipitous. My fiancé (now husband) Pete was offered a positon as one of the Directors of Bellingen’ s Global Carnival at the same time as I was offered the Breakfast show on ABC Coffs Coast. How could we not come, it was like it was meant to be. (PS, he’ll hate reading that, he thinks comments like ‘meant to be’ are BS),” says Fi.
Fi knows her current role is a good one. “I get to chat to people from all over the region who are doing interesting things,” says Fi. Her days are hectic though. “Alarm 4.45am, drive to Coffs, make coffee, present the breakfast show, chase stories, chat with people, look for the weird and wonderful, locate good music, download, research, head to press conference, eat sushi, go opshopping, back to office, more chatting, more trying to convince people to chat live on radio, go home, repeat.” However, she admits her ‘dream job’ would be to fill-in for Macca on ‘Australia all Over’. “I love this country, Aboriginal culture, camping, fishing, exploring country. I’d love to chat with people all over Australia and have a radio party every Sunday,” effuses Fi. This ‘love of country’ prompted the one year sabbatical in Broome in 2016. “We lived in a unit overlooking Roebuck Bay, and each morning I’d pop down the road to the studio and present the ABC Kimberley Breakfast Show.
On weekends we’d go camping and explore the region. The land there is so ancient and so remote. We had pindan in our toes, and Aboriginal culture in our hearts. The thing I miss most about the Kimberley is living so closely with Aboriginal people and learning from the oldest living culture on this planet. Aboriginal people make up 49% of the population in the Kimberley, and so their culture is strong, proud, and fascinating. I loved discovering it, and I think it’s made me a better Australian.”
These days Fi’s downtime is spent with her two boys at “Hoochie”, her little retro caravan down at Myelstom. “We spend a few nights there a week. It’s low key, simple living. Throw your shoes off, get your togs on and hit the beach. We also love fishing off the pontoon and sliding down the sand dunes. On Sunday nights you’ll often see us at the Mylestom Bowlo for the meat raffle and for a meal at Chan’s Chinese.
Our favourite dish is the sweet and sour fish – all the yums.” Op-shops and market stalls also loom large in Fi’s life, scratching through all the bric-a-brac looking for retro gems. “I love Bellingen’s markets so much, I’m always one of the first people there hunting for second hand clothes and retro gems of course. The turnover in my wardrobe is pretty massive, and when I’m sick of a garment I take it down to Elizabeth at Retro Bello. She has some great stuff in there and I’ll often hand over my old clothes and pick up something new.” The Raleigh Second Hand Barn is another of Fi’s favourite haunts. “Wendy and her sons always have something special and a big chunk of my household furniture comes from there.”
Fi adores life in the shire, even more so now that her parents have relocated here. However, she does admit, “It’s a big world out there and I want to live in a whole bunch of different places.” Fortunately for us the breadth of available live music in the Shire is the major draw card for this ‘music lover’. “We get to see so much music in this town. I can see my hubby playing at the Brewery – he does a night called Disco E Cultura and I love Number 5 Church Street. It’s such a great venue – excellent sound, an easy atmosphere, the best chips and ginger beer, and every night ends up being a memorable one. I honestly think the thing that keeps me in Bellingen is the music. And the fact the Bello loves to dance. I’m here for a good time after all.”