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From pirate to presenter-pastor

Michael Cleere shares some of the highlights of presenting three of Premier’s most popular radio shows. 

Premier Christian Radio presenter Michael Cleere remembers dabbling with radio as far back as his teens. The advent of pirate radio put the wind in his sails and he enjoyed “a life on the ocean waves for a while”.

“I’ve got the gift of the gab,” says Michael. “I could talk for hours. If it was an Olympic sport I would win a gold, I think.”

This gift came in handy and it wasn’t long before he was back on dry land, with lengthy stop-offs at RTE and the BBC on the way to Premier.

Michael currently presents three Premier shows: Worship at Home, which he describes as “wit, worship and wisdom”; Night Light, a late-night show that bridges one day and the next; and That Friday Feeling!, a fun entertainment show designed to “wind people up for the weekend”.

In addition to gracing Premier’s airwaves six days a week, Michael has been a civil servant at Southwark Council for the last ten years. The day job is about to come to an end, freeing Michael up to spend more time presenting, pursuing God and enjoying an active social life.

How did you make your break into mainstream radio?

I was studying philosophy and theology at college and we had these long summer holidays, so I set up a summer radio station for those college years. I managed the whole thing, brought in some advertising and got some other people involved. 

Then I got a break with RTE as a continuity announcer. That meant doing the shipping forecasts and all the stuff you hear on BBC Radio 4. I did that for six years and I made radio programmes too, mostly on religious subjects.

Then I applied for a job at the BBC and got the job as a religion and ethics producer and presenter. That was in the West Midlands. From there I came down to London and I was working for Radio 4, making features for a programme called Home Truths.

What brought you to Premier?

They were looking for a producer. I applied and was invited for an interview. [Programme controller] Charmaine [Noble- Mclean] was the person who interviewed me. She told me, in honesty, at the end of the interview, “Right, I don’t think you’re the right person for this particular job because the programme is called Woman to Woman! I just wanted to meet you because I was really impressed with how you sound, and we’d really like to make some use of you.” And that was how I got my foot in the door.

Premier Drive was called The Home Run at that point with Cindy Kent. Cindy went off sick for several months and they brought me in to present the programme. When I left The Home Run, Charmaine said, “If you had a choice, what programme would you like to present?” I said, “Worship at Home.” She said, “That’s exactly what I thought.” So that’s how it happened, and then the other two programmes developed from there.

Can you tell us more about Worship at Home?

We’ve got about 100,000 who worship at home on a Sunday. It’s a massive audience. I call it the ‘cathedral of the air’. I do a competition, and so many of the people who call in will say how much they appreciate it because they physically cannot go to church, so it means the world to them.

It’s a huge privilege that people have ‘gone to God’ having listened to Worship at Home. They have, literally, some of them, died while the programme was being broadcast.

Does the show preclude you from attending church yourself?

I used to go to church beforehand at eight o’clock. I decided then I was pushing myself too hard and I decided, well, actually, Worship at Home is church. All these people are going to church, and so am I. I think of myself as their pastor.

There’s a lady called Priscilla who lives in Forest Gate, she’s about 90 now. She told me that her carer comes in on a Sunday morning and puts her best clothes on as if she was going to church. She puts a hat on! She sits down in her Sunday clothes with her hat on and her Bible, and she turns on Worship at Home, and that’s church for her. That story is replicated hundreds of times. So I decided I’ll go to church, but I’ll go on a different day.

How did you become a Christian?

I suppose for us in the Catholic tradition it’s with the sacrament of Confirmation, where you’re old enough and wise enough to say, “I am now confirming what was done on my behalf in baptism.” At the risk of sounding like I’m a very holy person – and I’m not – I spent an awful lot of time one year in particular on my own, praying, reflecting and meditating. That was in 1984. I just decided, I’m going to spend at least one hour every day sitting in church on my own in the peace and quiet. It was in that period that I made a very personal commitment.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I’m a member of a gym, so I go to the gym to swim, mostly. I always have a book on the go. I’m reading a book at the moment called Soulfulness (Hodder & Stoughton) by Brian Draper. Draper is a Christian and he’s turning ‘mindfulness’ into ‘soulfulness’, which I think is a way of going deeper.

I like to walk a lot. I live in a lovely part of Kent where you’ve got town and country on the doorstep. I’ve got a very good circle of friends and we spend time together, having meals.  

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