For 30 years, quizmaster Phil Richardson had been hosting some of Dubai’s most popular entertainment nights, booking bands and supporting up and coming local talent.
Like some other self-employed residents of the Emirates, life came to a halt when the global pandemic spread in the UAE.
But instead of turning on his heel and heading home in the north east of England, Mr Richardson, who is in his 50s, was determined to stick it out and focus his attention elsewhere.
As the operations of his events and advertising company were temporarily put on hold, the idea to start his own radio station came up.
It proved the perfect solution to keep him busy during the stay-at-home period and feed his passion for rock and blues.
“It was always at the back of my mind that the UAE should have its own rock music station,” he said.
“I had thought about it for eight years and no one else was doing it.”
Mr Richardson’s father, a racehorse trainer, had always hoped that his son would one day become a jockey growing up in Darlington.
It was a passion for music that led him towards a career as another form of jockey, a DJ spinning records and hosting radio shows on Dubai FM.
A sideline in pub quizzes made him a familiar face and a staple of Dubai’s evening entertainment industry while talent spotting for emerging new acts.
“Through my business, we did all sorts of entertainment – from weddings to corporate events – and brought live acts over from the UK such as lookalikes and tribute performers,” he said.
"But our entertainment stopped pretty much overnight in early April.
“All our advertising stopped too, we just had no work.
“Everyday I was getting emails from random, unsigned international acts, some were absolutely fantastic.”
An eight-year stint as an on-air presenter on Dubai FM and then former Fujairah station Rock Radio UAE lit a fire of ambition that never faded.
When that wound up, a gap in the market remained for a station dedicated to rock music enthusiasts, giving hope to a long held ambition to host his own radio show.
After extensive research, Mr Richardson launched online from a cloud-based platform in France called Radio King.
The site already hosts some 2,500 radio stations, and when Mr Richardson signed up to broadcast his first show, RAK Rock Radio was born.
Most of this spare time was taken up compiling a music catalogue to suit his listeners.
Then he had to reformat all the music ready for the show’s debut broadcast in May.
In the early days, the show attracted just a handful of listeners but now it has an average of 500 people who tune in from the UAE, Oman, India and Germany.
The station features classic rock hits from Meatloaf, Scorpions, Queen, and The Who, as well as the best of rhythm and blues and country music.
The station hosts a morning, lunchtime and drive-time show as Mr Richardson insists the sky’s the limit if his early success is anything to go by.
“On Radio King, we ranked 2,458th,” he said.
"Now, we are in the top 60, and I want to be in the top 10.”
Although he admits it was risky starting a new venture at the height of a global pandemic, he encourages others facing uncertain times to do the same.
“There is no point sitting around worrying and fretting,” he said.
“If you are stuck at home – start something, learn something new or follow a long-held dream.
“My advice for anyone who has lost work during the pandemic is to think positively.
Portrait of a Nation:
“It is not easy, but we all have to believe in the future. It led me towards this opportunity with RAK Rock Radio.”
While event bookings and his advertising business are showing signs of recovery, Mr Richardson has high hopes for the UAE’s newest radio station.
"I have ideas where I would like it to go, it is crying out to be an FM station,” he said.
"It takes a lot of investment as it’s a different league so, ideally, we would love an investor to come in and take us to the next level.
"We are based in Ras Al Khaimah so we could use the radio station to boost RAK as a tourist destination. It has a lot to offer.
"I would love to take our show on the road; imagine doing an outside broadcast standing at the top of Jebel Jais with the zip line?
"What is more inspiring than rock hits belting out while preparing to take off on the world's longest zip line – perhaps while blasting out Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell?"