Up at the crack of dawn
Tim Littlechild definitely loves his job. You'd think that early morning radio shows would have just a small audience - but talking to the host reveals that there is a diverse family of listeners who tune in every day. And plenty of them at that. Presenter of The Very Early Morning Show on RTHK 3, Littlechild is charismatic and cheerful to listen to - a ray of light on even the darkest morn. Having moved from a career in night-time slots in London, he's embraced the early shift - and sounds like the luckiest man in the world for doing so…
So, you moved from London from Hong Kong…
I came here about four years ago. I followed my wife, who had to move here for work. Then I was lucky enough to get a job with RTHK quite quickly. The morning show is the best - sort of like a breakfast show, quite light, regular music. And that's what I'm doing now.
How do you decide what music to play?
You want to play music that people know or music that people feel like they know. I try to use new music that's strong enough that you can sort of instantly identify with it - and hopefully like.
Tell us more about your listeners.
Well they're great. For instance - one of the features that we do is called 5.55 club. It's about 20 minutes long and we just pose a question, which can be based around anything. I think this morning's was: “When was the last time you were well and truly shit-scared?” People just text and email in and then at 5.55 we read out the best answers! We get loads of people. The beauty of it is that early risers are wonderful people. They're kind of… I mean the range I get, they're lawyers, they're bankers, we get a lot of domestic helpers who get up early. We get a lot of kids who are studying and up early. We also get a lot of people abroad who have sort of left Hong Kong and still want to keep in touch with what's going on so they listen in.
What was the best answer today?
I think she was a teenage girl who said the last time she was well and truly scared was when she saw her dad come out of the shower. I didn't ask any more questions…
Any special listeners?
Let me tell you about one guy in particular. I arrive at work, very early, like about 4.30 in the morning. I check my emails and there's an email from him suggesting a theme or a thread or a topic for the 5.55 club. I started to use them. He's been doing it every day for about a year now. He's a fantastic key component of the show.
So you never get any quiet moments then?
Sometimes I wish I did! We get a lot of prisoners. They handwrite these letters and then the guards at the prison scan them and email them over. So they're often very colourful and interesting. What's interesting is that these letters are always the most perfectly worded, beautiful emails - there's not a scribble or a cross on them. It's always word perfect.
Have you got used to getting up so early?
I've started getting used to it but it's also kind of like… five past four. I never wake up naturally, I get woken up by my alarm every day. I constantly feel deprived of sleep but I can't complain. I mean the worst thing in the world would be for me to go on the radio and complain how sleep-deprived I am. I don't do that! And, as a result of not doing that, you kind of just forget about it and get on with it.
Is there anything which touches you on air?
The prisoners and the maids who listen. Sometimes, they listen in secret. They listen either on their phones or headphones because maybe they're not allowed to listen to the radio or something like that. That's a bit sad.
What part of your job do you love the most?
I think… I love doing my job! I love radio. The thing I love most about my job is, in a nutshell, I get paid for it. I get paid to do it. I count myself so lucky every day that I go in and I have a laugh on the radio for an hour and a half, and all these people interact with me - I get paid for it! I get to walk away being the luckiest man!
Any final comments?
I just think Hong Kong is a good city for radio. We recently got digital radio here, and that's worked really well for Radio 3. The beauty of doing digital is the diversity in it -locals, expats. Not all cities have that - and Hong Kong definitely does!