Nicki Cockburn

Nicki was born in Zimbabwe. She moved with her parents to the UK at the age of 5 months when doctors discovered she was totally blind.

“It was a huge shock to my parents. It’s genetic but nobody else in the family has sight loss,”

After attending mainstream and specialist schools for the blind, Nicki did a performing arts course at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford where Nicki’s drama teacher saw real potential in her ability and suggested she apply to university. She went to Manchester Metropolitan University and completed a degree in Contemporary Arts."

Nicki has been a guide dog owner since the age of 19.

“Getting a dog was like finding the key to a door that had always been locked,” she explains.

Although Nicki has worked on three of her local papers and had articles published – she found some employers were hesitant at giving her a chance.  “I think they’re scared of the unknown,” she says.  “They react to my blindness – as opposed to looking at who I am as a person, which is a capable, presentable and very employable person.”

She worked on her local community radio station for 18 months, presenting a weekly nature show and reading the news most days as well as working as a volunteer at Sonshine FM in Perth, Australia. This was a turning point in her quest to become a journalist.

“They looked at what I could do – not what I can’t. It was so refreshing.”

Nicki then applied for the prestigious broadcast journalism course at Cardiff University.

“A lot of newsreaders at the BBC and ITV have been through the doors of Cardiff journalism school – so I was delighted to get a place on the course.”

Nicki struggled to find work after graduating and had almost given up when she decided to move from North Wales to Cardiff for better support and job prospects.

“It was incredibly daunting moving to Cardiff. I’d lived there for a year at university – but it’s totally different when you’re on your own.

Chelsea my guide dog did incredibly well learning all the new routes – and was always there with a lick and wagging tail when I had days where I felt quite upset.”

Within a month, Nicki had found two jobs.

“I was lucky to get funding through the Intermediate Labour Market fund to work two days at the Cardiff institute for the Blind – and two days at RNIB Connect Radio. It’s absolutely fantastic, I’m using the skills I’ve learned, whilst gaining valuable experience. I’m really learning a lot.”

Nicki’s 90’s Night is a show that is close to Nicki’s heart.

“The 90’s was a great decade.  I loved so much of the music of that era. I was at school and the music really helped me through a few difficult periods of being a teenager. I’m looking forward to playing all sorts of music, from the well-known artists like the Spice Girls, to lesser known bands such as Portishead and Elastica.”

Nicki has many hobbies including bird watching, creative writing and travel, and is a passionate advocate of Australia.

“I recently discovered we have Australian ancestors – so I’m fiercely loyal to Australia – especially when they play sport. I’ll support Wales if they’re playing England – but never if they’re against the Aussies.”

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