Did you know I hold the record for being the guest who made the most appearances on the Terry Wogan TV chat show during the 80’s? I must have been a cheap booking! I have loved working with the king of TV and Radio for the last 30 years. I jokingly call him my broadcast Dad! I remember those early days standing in the wings, watching the master at work, and hoping with all that I had that one day I could be in the same position as Mr. Wogan!
In 2014 my dream came true.
Thanks to ITV, I have been hosting my very own music chat show called ‘Weekend’ for the last two years. Every Saturday and Sunday for seven months of the year I get to interview some of the biggest names in show business and I get to listen to some of the greatest musicians in the world. I have a wonderful team behind me, at the best production company ‘Cactus’. We all pull together, from bosses to runners to create a homely, welcoming atmosphere for all visitors. It is my dream job. Over the years we have established ourselves as the place to come for a proper in-depth interview and the show where all aspects of performance are looked after. I know what it’s like to be a singer and to be thrown in to the deep end on a show that doesn’t really understand sound. In the one hundred or so weeks we’ve broadcast we haven’t had a single musical complaint. That surely is a first in TV! I adore the wide variety of musical guests we have on the show – literally everyone from the Jamaican rapper 'Shaggy’ to world re-nowned classical violinist ‘David Garrett’. I also pride myself on the fact that we have had so many artists perform on television for the first time on my show. Acts like ‘Clean Bandit’, ‘Foxes’, ‘Lucy Rose’, ‘Ella Eire’, ‘Gabrielle Aplin’ and US sensation ‘Rachel Platten’. They sit side-by-side each weekend with established acts like ‘Little Mix’, ‘Will Young', ‘Sophie Ellis Bextor', ‘Razorlight', ‘Deacon Blue’ and ‘Engelbert Humperdinck’.
The same can be said for actors, comedians and personalities – we’ve had them all. Particular favourites are 'Imelda Staunton', ‘Martin Shaw’, ‘Jason Donavan’, ‘Alesha Dixon’, ‘Katherine Ryan’, ‘Vic Reeves’ and US actress ‘Laura Linney’.
We are back at Christmas with a few specials then the new series of “Weekend” begins in April. I cannot wait!
Songs of Praise is the BBC’s longest running flagship religious programme having just celebrated its 52nd year on BBC One. The idea for the show is a simple but highly effective one - to broadcast inspiring hymns and songs, together with uplifting stories of faith from around the UK and beyond. It has been enthralling audiences and congregations for centuries. The first edition was broadcast from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cardiff back in 1961. My association with Songs of Praise goes back a long time but not quite to the beginning! I was first asked to be a guest on the show whilst I was a chorister at Bangor Cathedral in the 80’s. Spool forward some twenty years and I found myself presenting an episode from my old stamping ground of Bangor. It was a wonderful and really memorable experience for me for obvious reasons. I have been fortunate to present Songs of Praise regularly for the last 15 years and there have been many highlights. I remember vividly hosting one Remembrance Day edition from the Falkland Islands. What a trip that was! It was minus 20 degrees for most of the time we were there and I was the coldest I have ever been in my life. I remember checking into our hotel in Stanley where there’s really nothing much to look at apart from the occasional penguin and a few restaurants and bars and the gentleman in reception saying, “We’ve put you in our only suite”. I thanked him and he followed it up with ”You’re very fortunate, the only other people to have ever slept in that bed are Alan Titchmarsh and Jim Davidson”!
Another stand out moment during my stint on the programme is the Big Sing event held at the Royal Albert Hall in London every year, which I have fronted since it’s inception in 2001. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as 6000 people raising their voices in song, whether it’s a hymn or a Christmas carol. I am so privileged to be involved in such an auspicious occasion. I also so enjoy presenting the ‘School Choir of the Year’ competition every year, which is a wonderful showcase for some of the UK’s best choirs.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. I actually made it onto Auntie’s Bloomers on my first programme when I forgot to sing, ‘Amen’ on my close up! There I was, chest out and showing off in front of the camera because the director had told me to, and when everyone around me sang that last word I just ended up standing there bright red and looking very flustered. Then I just burst out laughing! Who says religion can’t be fun!!
I am so proud to be the host of what is without doubt a British institution.
“I love interviewing the biggest stars in the world but it gives me just as much pleasure spending time with inspiring members of the public on Songs of Praise”.