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Ilídio Leal: The story of the homeless man who founded an original radio station in Lisbon

Ilídio Leal was only 16 years old when he started doing radio at Rádio da Madeira radio station in Funchal. What I was doing was basically reading the key to Totobola until I started doing more things as an announcer. It was 1975, in the midst of a revolutionary period, and a year later he was returning to the continent — where he was born — to continue his professional life.

Today he is 65 years old. He lives in a nursing home – the A-das-Lebres nursing home in Loures – and continues to do radio. About three months ago he launched Rádio Memória, a digital project he runs from his room with just a laptop and a virtual studio. Every day between 9pm and midnight, Ilídio Leal goes live to talk to listeners and play music. The program is called “A Cor do Som”.

The way here was not easy. In the last four years he lived in a homeless situation at times because he also went through several institutions. “For my mistakes, for bad choices I made in my life… I’m an only child, my parents died and I had no structure behind me anymore. Because of some mistakes I made, I started losing ground and ended up in this homeless situation,” he explains to NiT.

Between the ages of 16 and 65 he worked at many local radio stations. He was an announcer at Rádio Clube do Sul in Faro; on Radio Horizonte Algarve, in Tavira; or, among others, on Rádio Cova da Beira. At the same time, he was associated with the entertainment sector. He was a clown in several circuses, did amateur theater and moderated shows. “After all, I’ve always had a life connected to the realm of the show.”

By chance he started working as a clown. “There was a time when I was doing theater and playing a character that was the clown Zézé. And someone from the Mariano Circus invited me to work in the circus. Being a little adventurer I left, I liked it and that’s it, I kept going until recently.” He has also worked in the Texas and Roma circuses, among others. In theater he was mainly in the Santa Clara Theater Group, where he also worked as a director. “Shows, I’ve always liked the stage and I’ve tried a few areas.”

Until four years ago he continued to work as a clown and on radio, professions which he changed. “However, what accelerated this situation the most was a heart attack I had and things got very complicated from there.” Unable to work. “I had a house in Rio de Mouro, it was in good condition, but of course I stopped working and earning money. I couldn’t pay my bills anymore and then it got worse. Unfortunately I lost everything.”

“I had a few more friends who looked after me but since I’m a little… he’s not proud but he didn’t want to bother anyone. And so I decided to go to Santa Casa da Misericórdia. Having done many shows for Santa Casa, homes and day centers I had some knowledge there. Of course I was desperate at the time and knocked on the door of the Santa Casa, who welcomed and supported me. But we all go through the street phase,” he adds.

“People tend to look sideways at the homeless, turn away. Do not do it. We are human like everyone else. We have feelings, we cry, we laugh. Just do one thing that’s already very good: say hello or just say “good morning”. So that we continue to feel alive.”

During this phase I continued to listen to the radio whenever I could – but it wasn’t easy. “Of course it was difficult to do or have anything on the street. But whenever I could, I was there with my little ear, I closed my eyes, and I remembered. It was very difficult. But I don’t blame anyone, not even society. We tend to blame society for what happens to us. But not. I stayed in this situation, I repeat, because I made bad decisions. I made a lot of money, the choices I made were bad – which also led to me not having a family structure.”

He is 65 years old.

Ilídio Leal was once married, but he was “a child” of 17 years. The relationship only lasted about a year and a half. He’s had other relationships throughout his life, but never anything very stable or long-lasting. “With the life I led, raising a family was a bit difficult because I went from one place to another and never stayed in the same places. I never adjusted. And I always thought: Why have a family if I won’t be there? So I never worried about getting married or having a family.”

In the end, he was able to have the support of Santa Casa da Misericórdia, who supported him being in a private home at the moment – preventing NiT from visiting Ilídio Leal to take a picture of him for this article.

Ilídio Leal had already founded other online radio stations, but discontinued the projects due to a lack of conditions. In recent months he managed to start broadcasting Memory. “I felt the need to communicate. i was in one [outro] Place where I looked aside and unfortunately saw very dependent people. Where I couldn’t communicate with anyone. I needed refuge to have something I liked, so I founded Rádio Memória.”

The management of the current home gave him permission to do the broadcasts from the computer. “The name of the radio says it all. I’ve always liked old stuff and will look for old songs, I play music from the 60’s and 70’s and interact with other people who communicate with me via chat. It’s really like on the radio.”

There is also an announcer from the island of Porto Santo in the Madeira archipelago who is doing a program in Memória. The rest of the show consists of a playlist. Although the focus is on music from the 60’s and 70’s, Ilídio Leal also plays contemporary music.

“Every day I go to YouTube and I’m always looking for new topics, new values ​​to present on the radio. And in addition to playing music, I have blocks of information that I take from YouTube. About sports, about music… I also do theatre, Portuguese-style magazines and people are starting to get involved. Right now I’m averaging 100 or 120 listeners a day, which is very good for online radio.”

He uses Facebook to communicate with listeners and publicize his work. His program “A Cor do Som” is also broadcast live by a Madeiran online radio station he has partnered with, called Pérola Dourada.

At home, he says, staff are curious, but other users “don’t care” — most of whom are older and in poorer health. He says he’s glad to have a bed, food and a place to stay. But I’d like a chance to get out of there to keep working.

“Of course I’m not 100 percent satisfied because that wasn’t the life I wanted. What I wanted was someone – and I’ve already started this appeal on Facebook – from a local radio station out there to give me work. I don’t need a salary: as long as you can find me a place to stay, please give me a job. Because I want to keep being useful to society.”

And he adds: “I love to do late nights. Going to the local radios, I did the late nights, and I liked reconnecting with people. For me it was like the Euromillions coming out. My program is oxygen for me, it’s a way to feel alive. I love radio more than I loved a woman. I love the radio and the day I can’t speak into the microphone I’ll die.”

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