Get to know Jolene James, local media personality and a bit of a creative legend. We sat down with our favourite Tauranga radio host to learn about Peter and the Wolf, her ongoing obsession with Kiwi band The Mockers, a first job as a school receptionist, and why you might find her on the Daisy Hardwick walkway.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do)
I am Breakfast Host on The Breeze 95.8FM, and also a Marriage Celebrant and Funeral Celebrant.
What cities/towns have you lived in (or spent more than a few months in) beginning with the place of your birth?
Stratford, New Plymouth, Tauranga.
What are the earliest stories you remember hearing? The ones that told you about the world?
The first is Peter and the Wolf. We had the 45 record with musical accompaniment by Prokofiev. Other early stories are Noddy and Big Ears, Aesop’s Fables, and Richard Scarry—because of course animals made better humans than we did!
What’s your favourite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
This is really difficult to answer! I never have one thing as a favourite—always multiple. Driving home to Pillans Point across the Chapel Street bridge and looking across the Waikareo Estuary to the left then to the railway bridge and Mauao on the right is pretty special. I’ve always loved the fact that you’re never far from the water here—the colours change every day and what stage the tide is at affects what you see. I love seeing the birds enjoying it, like shags and herons and looking across to the walkway, trees and houses on the clifftops.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
Getting up out of bed, enjoying the pre-sunrise skies and estuary as I drive to work from Pillans Point, then arriving at The Breeze before 6am to start the local breakfast show. After we finish on-air we spend time prepping the next day’s show, connecting in with locals and often heading out to visit local groups and businesses. We have a catch up with our coach, voice ads, record interviews and I compile and write local news.
I’m usually all done at work by early afternoon and love heading home at that point—often stopping off at an op shop or two. Some afternoons I just chill at home, reading, gardening or watching something on TV. Other days I may have an appointment like a meeting to discuss a funeral with a family or some “me time” like a massage. I like to try and go for a walk with my husband around the Pillans Point area but some days I’ll pull out my yoga mat instead and do some very average looking yoga in the lounge! I’m very lucky that my husband is the chef in our house so he takes care of dinner while I put away the clean washing. We usually watch something together as we eat dinner—we both love English historical dramas and modern dramas and thrillers. We just watched Downton Abbey all over again from start to finish. I keep an eye on The Breeze Tauranga Facebook page through the afternoon and evening, responding to messages and commenting on posts, then I head to bed around 9pm with a cup of sleep tea and a book (and aim to have lights out by 9.30)!
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
I was a huge fan of Kiwi band The Mockers. I own every piece of vinyl they ever issued and it’s all autographed. I stalked them once! And growing up I loved INXS, David Bowie, Madonna, Psychedelic Furs, Hunters and Collectors, The Church, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Dance Exponents, Talk Talk, Talking Heads, Eurythmics, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Prince. I could go on and on: music was a huge part of my teenage years and one of the reasons I decided to get into radio.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
Sir Ian McKellan, Robert Plant, Wes Anderson.
If you went away from the Bay of Plenty for a long time and then came back, what are the first three things you would do or visit?
I would walk the Daisy Hardwick walkway, visit my favourite op shop in Bureta Road, then go to Harbour Drive to look across at Mauao.
Looking back at your childhood self: what one sentence describes that person?
I think my Standard 1 teacher summed me up quite well in my school report: “A mature, helpful little girl, rather shy in some ways and quite extrovert in others.”
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
Roast vegetables and quinoa salad with beetroot and goats cheese.
What are you planning for 2021 that nobody knows about yet?
That would be telling! I’m hoping to go to Europe but even if the borders open I would be very wary about doing it next year with the COVID situation.
Who are your favourite or most admired figures from history?
Winston Churchill, Ghandi, Agatha Christie.
If the Prime Minister asked you to make up a new policy or law for New Zealand, what would it be?
It would be that the current NCEA system be completely revamped to allow for diverse learners who don’t respond to that type of assessment.
In one sentence, can you define art?
An expression that entertains, provokes and enriches others lives.
What is missing or lacking from your Bay of Plenty community or environment?
Large numbers of historic buildings, outdoor sculptures and public art that has relevance to the area.
Name a few films that you consider profound, moving or extraordinary?
The Shape of Water, Bladerunner 2049, Leave No Trace, Heavenly Creatures, Isle of Dogs.
What was your first real job, second, third?
After School Receptionist, Radio Announcer, Promotions Manager.
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
The French Riviera.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
Don’t let the “no’s” stop you, use them to help create fire in your belly.
What’s the biggest problem about life in New Zealand? How you would solve it?
Judgement and prejudice that comes from people who aren’t able to understand and appreciate people who are different from them—for example people with disabilities or under the autistic spectrum. Better education and publicity around the diverse nature of our population could help.
What is your dream of happiness?
Travelling the world with an unlimited budget and the freedom to choose where I go from day to day.
What one question would you add to this Interview?
What are your three most treasured possessions?
Explore and connect with creative people, groups & spaces in Tauranga and Western BOP