When he’s not entertaining an army of listeners to the popular drive-time show on Wave 105, DJ Rick Jackson can regularly be found brandishing a paintbrush or drill down at Ryde’s old bus depot.
That’s because the Island-born presenter is one of the team of volunteers currently helping to turn the bus depot into a transport museum – and for him you could say it’s truly a labour of love.
Rick’s first job, you see, was as a 16 year-old apprentice coach painter with the Island’s bus company Southern Vectis.
“Like a lot of boys, I always loved buses, trains, ferries – so I was really pleased to get a two year apprenticeship with the bus company when I left school” he says.
His job involved painting liveries and promotional designs on the buses – including imaginative designs featuring images of smugglers for Blackgang Chine and Queen Victoria in front of Osborne House.
Rick worked with the bus company for two years, but much as he loved it, his attention was also being drawn to another passion of his, as a young volunteer radio presenter with Hospital Radio at St Mary’s.
“As a kid, I’d always told people I was either going to be a ship’s captain or a DJ, so the interest was always there”.
His talent and enthusiasm soon became clear in the hospital radio role, so it wasn’t long before he landed his first paid radio DJ job on the Island. By 21 he was being billed as the youngest presenter of a flagship breakfast show in the UK – and by the age of 23, “the mainland came calling” as he puts it, with a job offer at Power FM.
This presented Island-loving Rick – who cheerfully describes himself as a “Caulkhead” – with a big dilemma: leaving the Island.
“I must admit I was really homesick, especially in my first job away which was in Bournemouth. I had an apartment in Boscombe, and could see the Needles in the distance, which didn’t help!”
It’s a homesickness that has never quite gone away, although now Rick lives in Alverstoke – which he says at least allows him to keep an eye on his home town of Ryde, just across the Solent.
He moved from Power FM after eleven years to Ocean FM, and then to the regional station Wave 105, which also takes in the Isle of Wight, and is in fact the market leading commercial radio station here.
“That’s the station I really wanted to work for. It’s very successful and covers a very large area, but they value the Island very much, which matters a lot to me.”
Having said that, Rick – who’s married to Sarah and has a baby son, Freddie – still hops over to the Island once or twice a week, both to see his family in Ryde and to help at the up-and-coming bus museum.
It seems that both the Island and buses are in his blood.
Indeed, he actually holds a valid bus driver’s licence – which he gained as part of a Top Gear-style race between a car and a bus for his radio show.
“I crammed in what should have been a one-month course and passed first time, after driving a full-size coach through Bristol for the test. Talk about stressful!”
And as if that weren’t enough, Rick also co-owns a double-decker bus with his friend and local transport historian Richard Newman.
The bus is the same vintage as Rick – made in 1973 – and is the only one left in the country that’s painted in the distinctive two-tone blue and yellow Solent Blue Line livery.
“I absolutely love driving it,” he says. “We take it out on rallies and take people on trips. They love the whole experience – the smell of old leather and the sound of the engine, you can’t beat it.
“Though Richard and I share the bus, he is retired now so he’s happy for me to hog the driving wheel.”
Rick’s involvement with the transport museum also strengthens his links back to the Island, and along with the other volunteers, he’s looking forward to the big opening day in Ryde in April.
When he’s not painting or driving buses, Rick is enjoying the thrill of being a first-time parent, and looking forward with Sarah to Freddie’s landmark first birthday in May.
“As he gets older, I’m really looking forward to us being able to take him to all the places on the Island I loved as a child – Walks over Mottistone Down, St Helens Duver and Appley Beach.”
And is Rick hoping that his little son will share dad’s passion for buses?
“Errr … I don’t think Freddie is going to have a choice!” he laughs.