The accents on radio 2BBB
A LIFELONG passion for radio is what first attracted Michel Villachon to join the small band of dedicated enthusiasts in 1982, during the infancy of Bellingen's Community Radio 2BBB.
That was 22 years ago, and Michel is still part of the 2BBB team, his French accent a familiar sound on the Bellingen airwaves.
Michel says his love of radio goes back to when he was a child growing up in France.
"I always loved listening to information from the radio," Michel said.
"It started during the war years ? we used to listen to the BBC World Service for information, rather than the Vichy-controlled Radio Paris.
"The first thing I ever bought was a radio set."
In 1963 when Michel was working as a vet in French colonial Ethiopia, radio was how he heard of the developing drama of John F Kennedy's death.
And again in 1968, as a vet in rural France, the radio connected him intimately to the unfolding student riots in Paris, early one morning when he returned from a calving.
Michel's role at the station has taken many different forms over the years, from broadcaster to board member to program producer to day manager.
Filling these roles, large and small, he has been vital in keeping the station functioning and the community informed.
"The station involves a lot of people, all of them volunteers," Michel said.
"There are sometimes, voids, but other people come in and we keep driving on.
"I never thought I'd last this long."
What keeps Michel going is his passion for music and communication, and the social side of 2BBB.
"Many of my friends come from 2BBB.
"I am the 'baroque frog' ? I love baroque music.
"When you do a music show, you learn about the music.
"But there is no point in sharing the information if people don't listen.
"It is good when you are out in town and people recognise me, my voice and accent."
Michel's enthusiasm is infectious.
Current volunteer, Gail Wright, said when she arrived in Bellingen, she signed up as a 2BBB volunteer, having run into Michel at the front door.
"He trained me in running the office ? he's always here, sharing his knowledge and filling in the gaps," Ms Wright said.
Board chairman, Adrian Lipscomb, first met Michel through 2BBB 18 years ago.
"He's been a programmer and day manager for years," Mr Lipscomb said.
"What stands out most is his charming French accent, which has become a feature of 2BBB news.
"He is also such an erudite, well-read person and this enhances what he brings to his many roles at 2BBB."
Long-time friend Gilly Adams has been with 2BBB even longer than Michel.
"He's a marvellous volunteer ? without him, there would be no station," Ms Adams said.
"Volunteers come and go, but someone like Michel is invalu- able."