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Carol cares

NATANGA SMITH, [email protected]

Carol cares

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YOU HEAR HER voice from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m Mondays to Fridays and on Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Life 97.5 FM. She is all about being not only a good listener, but being compassionate and more understanding.

“I am not about hot air. I am about doing things differently. Messages never change but methods must.”

Carol Toppin is about breaking down walls and barriers and turning up her nose at old clichés: “Don’t give me all the fish . . . . Teach me to fish.”

In her interview with EASY magazine, she made it clear that the fact that she is a Christian doesn’t mean she doesn’t suffer from same issues as anyone else.

“Yes, I am a broadcaster on a gospel radio programme, but Christians eat food, buy clothing, appliances . . . . We are human beings so we cannot be ignored or left out. When they call into my programme I want them to say what’s on their minds . . . even if it’s political or the ills they see in society.”

Carol didn’t know she would end up in radio full-time. She wanted to be a dietician.

“My dad [Harold Nicholls of Nicholls Bakery] insisted on us eating well. Junk food was foreign to us. My siblings and I lived on a big plantation in St Thomas before we moved to Clapham so we had fruit orchards, plenty ground provisions. I was active and healthy and was big into athletics at school.”

Carol attended St Gabriel’s Primary, boarded weekly at Codrington and was a student of the now defunct St Anthony’s.

“I loved the country living. I was a tomboy, climbing trees, playing rounders, going to the beach, looking for dunks. I was also smart with giving trouble,” she said, throwing back her head with laughter.

Life was good but then took a cruel turn. Her dad got really ill and mum Hazel took on more work.

“By the time I left school dad still hadn’t recovered fully so in order to help I found a job. Dad felt guilty about it, but it was a necessity,” she said, as her eyes went sad with painful memories.

Carol’s first job was at a place that sold natural juices; then she worked in dentistry for a while. In a turn of luck that would see her start on radio she got a call from a good friend Colin Cunningham.

“This was his third time telling me to come for an audition at Starcom. So I finally went. I was given a script and I was so nervous as I had no experience. “But it seemed I did okay as I got a call saying Monday and Thursday nights were mine.”

Carol dove right in, soaking up as much as she could.

“I found that I really loved doing it. It was high pressure but I find I work well under pressure. I found I gravitated towards hearing listeners call in and talk to me. Then Ronnie Clarke, programme manager, asked me if I wanted to be full-time on Gospel 790.

“I loved having guests in the studio, sitting across from me and I would treat it like it was my home, making them feel comfortable and at ease.”

And for 14 years she did that. But family responsibilities tugged at her and in 2007 she moved to England with son Joshua and she married her fiancé.

Jobs were difficult to get and getting into radio was worse. What helped was an offer from the British Broadcasting Corporation in Derby for her to do a Sunday night gig where she was like a “virtual tour guide” talking about places of interest in Barbados.

Carol moved back to Barbados five years ago and went back into radio: “It was like I never left.”

She was at CITA, went to VOB and did a little stint on LOVE.

“I actually came back to Starcom because of Ronnie. We had talked a couple times about it and he said Life 97.5 FM was the right spot for me. He is a tough boss but he balances it out with teaching and looking out for you.”

Carol knows she has an important role to play as a voice on radio.

“Even though I am extremely shy off radio, I don’t know . . . . When I sit in that chair and programme my music and put on my headphones and the telephone rings I get an awesome feeling. I like connecting with people and expressing myself.”

While many might not recognise the face but know the voice, she says she likes to get feedback when approached by the man in the street,

“It is not just about being popular. It is about respecting your craft. I would like anyone who wants to be in radio to take it seriously. Practise, practise, practise and also study to be well rounded. Listen to good radio and good media. It is also about presentation and what you put out there.”

Carol says while she keeps herself busy with hiking, going to the gym, watching movies and international news and reading literature, she misses her only child.

“He elected to stay in England. It was my best and worst decision but he has school and he told me he wanted to stay and finish up. But summers are a big time for us when he comes home. He plays basketball for Pinelands so I don’t mind being his chauffeur, chef, ATM,” she said, laughing.

“He is a great child and very affectionate. He is my greatest achievement.”

Carol has added one more thing to her plate: a radio programme called 40+Phenomenal.

“We as women can empower each other. I have some women who have been my friends for a long time. We like to hang out and talk about stuff that affects us and affect other women.”

Carol, who is also in her 40s, said this was her way of connecting to thousands of women.

“I don’t live in a bubble . . . . I felt like this programme was timely. We are all phenomenal women.”