What did I learn from my time at ATV/Central?
I learned how lucky I was to be paid for a job that was such fun. No time in my whole career, not even at breakfast TV, did I enjoy my job so much, learn so quickly, and have to pinch myself from time to time to double check that it really was happening to me! For instance, I worked in studio 3, reading the news for ATV, Monday to Friday. During the day, I would be a reporter and could be sent anywhere within the huge Midlands region ( in those days, stretching from Leicester to Hereford, Nottingham to Oxford). Then I'd be required to rush back to base in Birmingham in time to develop and edit the film ( you had to be quick to get your film into developing before the day's Crossroads shoot) and then go to make-up in time to slide into the newsreader's seat at 6pm to say "Welcome, to ATV Today!".
It was pretty gruelling sometimes, especially in the winter when the Midlands motorways were snowbound, but I absolutely loved it. When the ATV studios in Gas Street in Birmingham were eventually closed down, I was given the huge blow-up photograph of myself reading the news, that had used to dominate the lobby. I still have it in my garage.
On Friday evenings, just after I'd read the last news story at about 6.28pm, I would be able to see, in my peripheral vision, the studio crew getting ready to dismantle the ATV Today set, ready to put up the TISWAS set for Saturday morning. And that was a wonderful bonus, because on Saturday mornings I would often sneak into the background of my "own" studio, and watch TISWAS (with the legendary Chris Tarrant, Sally James etc) from the sidelines, and often join them in the ATV club bar afterwards! Great, wonderful days. Also the days when I first met Nick Owen - who was presenting ATV Sports News at the same time that I was reading the ATV News. We go back to those earliest days together. 1980 onwards.
I learned that no matter how important you think you are when you get into "national" or "network" news and programming, there's nothing so important to ordinary folk than their regional or local programme, and the TV and radio people who are like their next-door-neighbours. I was ATV/Central's Girl Next Door for three years. When I eventually did go into network programming, with the BBC and then TVam, I had thousands of letters from Midlanders saying how proud they were of their local girl. And, of course, I was local, because I was born in Birmingham and brought up in Malvern, in Worcestershire.
Nick and I were paired together many times at ATV/Central - especially when Central decided to create a separate region - the East Midlands, in 198? I remember when, just before then and when I was still in Birmingham, we got our first ever fax machine - so that we could easily transmit information between the West and East Midlands newsrooms, Birmingham and Nottingham. When it was delivered, we were amazed. It was the size of a Mini Metro and dominated the entire room. It made the sound of a Sherman Tank, looked as lethal, but it did what it said on the tin. It transmitted a page between those two towns. We were utterly flabbergasted by the technology - but we had to get permission from the editor every time we wanted to use it, as it was so expensive.
First published in the Radio Times July 2011