Page 35


DA ME JOA N BA KEWELL dbe Words by Matthew Bell Photos courtesy of Geraint Lewis/Alamy Stock Photo (portrait); ITV/Shutterstock (Scientology HQ); Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo (1975 portrait); Victor Watts/Alamy Stock Photo (Primrose Hill); Peter Brooker/Shutterstock (Lyric Theatre); BAFTA (2008 Craft Awards and Jack Cardiff event); BAFTA/Doug Mackenzie (1994 Film and Television Awards)

moved to London and became a studio manager with BBC Radio. “I was terrible – I couldn’t do technical stuff and I still can’t,” she recalls. She tried advertising, but couldn’t stomach the ethics of the business: “Copywriting involves selling people stuff they don’t need that they can’t afford.” Next came supply teaching at a primary school: “I was hopeless.” Persistence, though, is a Bakewell trait. “I don’t take no for an answer, which is an enormous virtue in television,” she says, recounting how she “bombarded” producers with ideas for stories. Eventually, she began to get short items on BBC Radio, including one “about a south London man who had a pigeon coop in his garden to which his neighbours objected”. Naturally, as a woman who has always backed the underdog, Bakewell “sided with the man with the pigeons”. She made her television debut in the early 1960s on Sunday Break, a series billed as “a Sunday club for teenagers”. Its role was to fill ITV’s quota of religious programming, with subjects often

ver a career spanning six decades, Joan Bakewell has offered viewers an erudite and distinctive voice, whether she is discussing the arts, current affairs or the big ethical issues of the day. Still working at the age of 86, the broadcaster, presenter and journalist has long been an inspiration to women in and outside television. “Being awarded the Fellowship is extraordinary because it’s an acknowledgment by the people in the business that I’ve adored all my life,” says Bakewell, who already has a BAFTA – the Richard Dimbleby Award for her work on BBC One ethics show Heart of the Matter – proudly displayed in her office. “The idea of joining a fellowship is really something. On the night, I will be in the company of such illustrious talent.” The Stockport-born Bakewell suffered a few false starts after graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1954. Looking for a way into the BBC, she


3 3

Profile for BAFTA

Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards in 2019 programme