Mike Gaston

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Mike Gaston (born 1949) is a broadcast journalist, peace builder and singer/songwriter living in Northern Ireland.

Mike Gaston addressing a community mediators conference in Belfast.

Peace building[edit]

Gaston first became involved in peace building in October 1968, when Ray Davey introduced him to the Corrymeela Community.[citation needed] Along with dozens of other student volunteers, he worked for the community over the next four years. Physically, through summer work camps and developmentally, through community action programmes, fundraising and conference organisation. Over the next decade, Mike practiced as a qualified social worker and community development professional in Craigavon and Belfast. He subsequently became Northern Ireland Regional Manager for Community Service Volunteers (CSV). Whilst with CSV, he was instrumental in rolling out Community Action Radio and Television on Ulster Television, BBC Radio Ulster and Downtown Radio.[citation needed] He returned full circle to peace building in 2002. Since then he has worked as an independent mediator, peace builder and trainer for several organisations including Mediation Northern Ireland,[1] WEA Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Lakou Lape (Haiti).


Gaston was seconded, by BBC Northern Ireland to research the need for Youth Programmes in January 1980. This work and the subsequent report [2] led to the creation of the Youth Programmes Unit by BBC Northern Ireland. Mike was then recruited by BBC NI, News and Current Affairs. He worked as a producer and reporter on P.M. Ulster, Sunday Sequence, Good Morning Ulster and Newsbreak. During this period, he covered major stories including the Darkley Massacre, November 1983,the Milltown Cemetery attack, March 1988 and the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing, November 1987. He was the first reporter to interview Gordon Wilson.[3] The resulting interview was instrumental in persuading Loyalist paramilitaries not to carry out acts of retaliation.[4] International Mediator, William Ury later noted "No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact." [5] Gaston was nominated Sony Radio reporter of the year for his coverage of the Enniskillen story.

He also produced and presented a number of documentaries for the BBC including, Holding Out on the Border, Paddling Round Cape Horn, Christian Rock OK and Running Away with the Circus. During this period, as well as working at the BBC, Gaston was Northern Ireland correspondent for Associated Press Radio Network and Macquarie Radio Network(Australia). He was also a correspondent for Carsport magazine.

In January, 1990, Gaston took up appointment as Head of Programmes for the newly founded Belfast Community Radio Three months later, on 6 April, 60 brand new broadcasters had been recruited, trained, scheduled, rehearsed and were on the air.[6]

Less than six weeks later, the station almost closed down as staff threatened to walk out in protest at the sacking of their Head of Programmes by the company CEO.[7] In an emergency meeting, that night,Gaston persuaded the staff not to strike so that they could continue to fulfill their lifetime ambitions.[8] He was subsequently awarded 10% of the company’s equity in part settlement following negotiations at the LRA, where the company also rescinded its termination notice [9] The radio station CEO was censured by the board and subsequently resigned.[10]

Gaston was employed almost immediately by Wear FM, Sunderland to become its founding News Editor / Deputy Station Manager. Thus becoming one of the few people to launch two brand new radio stations in less than a year.[citation needed] Wear FM launched on 5 November 1990, with a range of popular programmes including Boogie Bass and Soulfish, Yer Ganny’s Boot and Gay to Gay.[11] Gaston also pioneered the first NJC course in applied broadcast journalism in conjunction with Sunderland University. Wear FM won the Sony Gold Radio Station award for its first year’s output.

In March 1992, Gaston was invited, by the board of Belfast Community Radio (BCR) to return to rescue the station, which by then had gotten into serious financial difficulty. Using the equity that he had been awarded by the station’s Chief Executive just eighteen months previously, he took control, reversed the crisis and led the station to its first period of economic stability. Gaston has since enabled the financial recovery of several other companies and voluntary organisations.[citation needed]

Towards the end of 1995, it became increasingly apparent that BCR could not survive in the long term as a pure community radio station. Consequently, with the support of the board of directors, the Radio Authority and the majority of the staff, Gaston rebranded the station as Belfast CityBeat and organised the transfer of the majority of its ownership to Transworld Communications and ultimately to its current owners, the CN group.[citation needed]

He became a talk show producer and presenter with Belfast 89 in April 2015. He currently produces and presents the Wednesday Morning Talk In on the station.


Mike Gaston with Chanter at The Langan Sessions

In the mid 70s Mike, a self-taught guitarist and singer, began performing in folk clubs in Belfast and Dublin. His first self penned song, Amber, was recorded by the Hammond Family on HMV in New Zealand in 1974 and became a top ten hit there.[12] He shared the stage at the Belfast Festival at Queens in 1975 with Scottish National poet, Liz Lochhead as a last minute stand-in for a Scots folk group which had been stranded in Stornaway.[citation needed]

Singing a variety of his own songs, Mike was a runner up in the Northern Ireland Benson and Hedges Entertainer of the Year Competition in 1978.[citation needed]

He was Stage Manager for the Belfast International Folk Festival from 1980 - 1983, working with artists like Ralph McTell, Loudon Wainwright III, DeDannan and Maura O’Connell.

As a member of St Patrick’s Choral Society in Downpatrick, he played the Kralahome in The King and I in 2002, was the producer for Carousel in 2003 and played Fagan in Oliver Twist in 2004.[13] Gaston opened for Dougie Maclean at the Belfast Nashville Songwriter’s Festival in 2008 and played Customs House Square, Belfast at the Tall Ships Race in 2009 with his folk group Chanter. They also played at the Ulster Scots Folk Festival in 2009 and 2010. Chanter played a full set of Mike’s own songs at the Lagan Sessions in Belfast in October 2012 which was recorded for CD and DvD.

Gaston has been a concert manager and compere for the Belfast Nashville Songwriter’s Festival since 2008, working with songwriters like Nanci Griffith, Eleanor McEvoy, Ralph McTell and Billy Bragg.

Playwright and historian, Philip Orr invited Gaston to collaborate on a project which illustrated the humanitarian, egalitarian and peace building spirit inherent in the works of the Scottish Bard, Rabbie Burns.[citation needed] They performed this at the Skainos Centre in East Belfast and also the West Belfast Festival, Féile an Phobail in 2013.

In January 2015, Mike became one of the organisers of The Hair O'The Dog Sessions. This is a series of traditional music sessions which take place in Molly Browns, Newtownards, Saltwater Brig, Portaferry and Horatio Todd's, Belfast. The sessions are accessible to musicians at all levels of ability and from all community backgrounds.


Following the transfer of BCR to Transworld Communications, Gaston became the first Property Manager at Castle Ward[14] for the National Trust. He was responsible for the built, man made and natural heritage of the estate, as well as for its business development. In this latter role, he organized the first modern day Viking invasion of Strangford Lough and the first commercial weddings on the site He also co-ordinated using Castle Ward as a location [15] for the filming of Hollywood movie, St Ives later retitled All for Love, starring Anna Friel,[16] the location filming of a The Hole in the Wall Gang special and five years co-operation with Castleward Opera.[17]


Between 1986 and 1996, Gaston took up competitive motor sport as a special stage rally co driver. Notable achievements in rallying included: 2nd in class and 4th overall in the Irish National Rally Championship (1986) with driver Kerron Humphreys [18] and winning the Irish Forest Rally Championship with driver Roy Haslett (1996).[19] The 1995 victory was against the odds, since the car was a fairly aged, rear wheel drive G3 Escort, which faced stiff competition from several state of the art four wheel drive Escort Cosworths. Gaston has been a correspondent with Carsport Magazine (including the Give it a Spin series),[20] Stars and Cars,[21] and Buying Secondhand.[22]


  1. ^ Mediation Northern Ireland Magazine Media-tion, Issue 27 page 4 Taxi, Issue 28 page 5 Health, Issue 28 page 3 Interface, Issue 30 page 4 Neighbour, Issue 34 page 4 Community Policy
  2. ^ Youth Programmes Project, BBC Northern Ireland, 23 September 1981
  3. ^ McCreary, Alf (1996). Gordon Wilson, An Ordinary Hero. Marshall Pickering
  4. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/northern_ireland/understanding/events/eniskillen_bomb.stm
  5. ^ The Third Side: Why We Fight and How We Can Stop, William I Ury, 1999
  6. ^ UTV Kelly Show 9.30pm 30 March 1990, UTV Six Tonight News Show 6.15pm 6 April 1990, UTV (TV channel)
  7. ^ Belfast Telegraph 16 May 1990, front page, Linda Brien, "Rumpus over sacking of new radio station chief"
  8. ^ Sunday World 20 May 1990, page 5, "Who? Who's backing Mike Gaston"
  9. ^ Sunday Life 20 May 1990, page 4, "Move to back station boss"
  10. ^ Belfast Telegraph 24 August 1990, page 2, "Community radio chief quits post"
  11. ^ Guardian 5 November 1990, David Ward, "Polytechnic aids new voice on air-waves"
  12. ^ http://alextsu.narod.ru/borderlinebooks/nz/h1.html#The_Hammond_Family
  13. ^ Down Recorder 24 March 2004, page 29, "St Patrick's Choral Society's out-standing production of Oliver is a huge success"
  14. ^ Down Recorder 30 April 1997, page 30, Making Plans for Castle Ward, reporter David Telford
  15. ^ Down Recorder 14 May 1997, page 37, Castle Ward Hits the Screens of 40 Million Americans, Marcus Crichton
  16. ^ Down Recorder 18 June 1997, page 23, Castle Ward Given Friel Good Factor, Marcus Crichton
  17. ^ Down Recorder Castle Ward Opera 2 April 1997, page 26, Gary Law
  18. ^ RIAC Shell Super Oils National Rally Championship Carsport Magazine, February 1986 page 84 - 85, April 1986 page 60, June 1986 page 57, August 1986 page 79, September 1986 Page 79, October 1986 page 63, December 1986 page 57
  19. ^ All Ireland Forest Rally Championship Carsport Magazine, March 1996 page 73 - 75, April 1996 page 36, reporter Seamus Counihan
  20. ^ Give it a Spin Carsport Magazine, July 1986 page 70 - 71, August 1986 page 52 - 53 Karting, September 1986 page 38 Auto Testing, October 1986 page 26 - 27 Safe Drivers, November 1986 page 82 - 83 Formula VW, December 1986 page 78 - 79 Grass Tracking, January 1987 page 62-63 Navigation Rallying, February 1987 page 74 Four Wheel Drive, April 1987 page 76-77 Forest Rallying, May 1987 page 66-67 Co Navigating, June 1987 page 32-33 Rally School
  21. ^ Stars and Cars Carsport Magazine, April 1987 page 90, May 1987 page 90, September 1987 page 90, November 1987 page 90, January 1988 page 90, February 1988 page 96, April 1988 page 84, May 1988 page 106, June 1988 page 82, September 1988 page 87, January 1989 page 82, February 1989 page 100, March 1989 page 90, May 1989 page 98, June 1989 page 90, July 1989 page 98
  22. ^ Buying Secondhand Carsport Magazine, April 1988 page 33, June 1988 page 77 - 78, October 1988 page 84 - 85, November 1988 page 77, March 1989 page 79, April 1989 page 90 - 91, May 1989 page 87, July 1989 page 89, August 1989 page 33, December 1989 page 83

Music Link: https://soundcloud.com/mike-gaston-with-chanter