The new era thrust upon us by the global pandemic has provided an interesting opportunity for a locally-based cruise ship director who has shifted his overseas office to a makeshift studio in Papamoa.
Darren McColl, who lives with wife Mylinda Reid McColl and dog Kona, has been making a few final adjustments before launching Papamoa’s newest radio station, The Pulse.
“I’ve always been interested in radio,” explains Darren. “My dad was a radio disc jockey in Oman, Saudi Arabia years ago, and as a cruise director you are constantly hosting.”
With a 25-year background in the cruise industry, Darren has been in charge of entertainment for around 50 ships with major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line and Thomson Cruises.
Beginning as a cruise ship DJ, he’s hosted radio shows on-board while also performing as a singer in shows like Les Miserable, Miss Saigon and Five Guys Named Mo, where he performed many tap solos. He even played James Bond after learning to stage fight.
“I’ve been a cruise director for the last 11 years,” he says. “They flew me all over. My main office is based in Italy, as it’s an Italian company, but they’ve just opened up in America, South Africa and England. I go from different countries and ports and am away from four-to-six months a year. Or rather I was.”
With unprecedented challenges facing the cruise ship industry as it tries to rebuild after coronavirus, Darren’s role running entertainment day-in and day-out has been severely hampered. It has, however, meant he can apply his diverse skillset to a new enterprise – radio.
“With the aerial and transmitter it covers from just before the Mount out to Papamoa East,” explains Darren. “As people start to listen to it, I’ll extend it as much as I possibly can.”
His interest in radio and television presenting started early, thanks to regular presenter role for Reds TV. He then went on to present a digital channel called Carlton Kids, which was broadcast to all UK digital owners.
“I had the chance to do some location live presenting as well as interviewing up-and-coming live bands. I then tried my hand at radio, with my own show on Paradise FM here in Tauranga.
“I also had a brief opportunity to work with Grant Hislop and hosted a few live shows on The Station, which broadcasts throughout the Bay of Plenty.
“We’re still good friends, and he helps me out.”
He strongly believes that radio is something Papamoa is missing.
“It’s such a growing community,” says Darren. “We don’t have a local radio station and we really should. So I thought let’s try it.”
Darren’s been living in Papamoa for the last seven years.
“Mylinda and I got married two years ago. She was a dancer and we met on a cruise ship.”
Darren and Mylinda with their dog Kona, on their wedding day. Photo: Supplied.
Their dog Kona is a cross between a King Charles spaniel and a poodle, commonly known as a Cavoodle.
“He’s more spaniel than poodle, although it depends how long his hair grows whether he gets poodle-ly.”
As a child actor and model, Darren played a street urchin in Fifteen Streets at age 13, and an orphan and the Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist, performing professionally every evening for six months. He was also a professional child model for London-based modelling agency Childs Play.
After training at Laines Theatre Arts, where he studied the MTC course for two years, he joined a touring group called 8th Dimension, performing many different shows and playing many lead roles, including Danny from Grease, Elwood from The Blues Brother, the scarecrow in The Wizard of OZ, Greaseball from the musical Starlight Express - where he had to learn to roller-skate - and one of the Ugly Sisters in Pantomime.
He went on to become a Butlin’s Show Red, performing various shows to over 4000 people each evening. As the main host he interviewed many celebrities, including Bobby Davro, Edwin Starr, Jim Davidson, Steps and Elise Fisher, and hosted various bands and evening shows.
His years of running cruise ship entertainment every day stands him in good stead for radio.
“You have to put schedules and programmes together, make sure everything is up to scratch and take care of guest experience and customer service,” he says. “That’s the most important thing.
“I have to be very diverse. It’s all about music, entertainment and keeping people happy. I know the type of music I play should hopefully, with the background I have, be something that people will enjoy listening to.”
He plans to present a Papamoa surf report and a recreational water report every morning, so people can tune in and hear how big the waves are. There’s also an opportunity for local businesses to advertise.
To find The Pulse, Papamoa’s local radio station, go to 106.9FM.
“If it takes off, which I have a feeling it might because it’s Papamoa and a growing community, then I don’t know about the cruises,” admits Darren.
“I think 25 years is a long time to be on a cruise ship, so it could be a sign for me to move forward and do something different, but something that means I can still enjoy in the entertainment business.”