By Heather Suttie, Glasgow.
As a child I used to watch TV and always loved Saturday morning TV. I used to think to myself, I’d love to do that! We weren’t allowed to watch Grange Hill or Tiswas when we were wee and that’s ok because on Saturday we got to watch loads of cartoons, Swap Shop and Live & Kicking and all the usual kids favourites.
I always wanted to be a TV presenter and the one gig I really really wanted was Saturday morning TV.
After I left school I worked for the AA Insurance Services doing telesales which I did from the age of 17-19 and part-time I worked for Ron McCulloch in his entertainment business Big Beat. I worked in PR & marketing and hosting my own club nights, booking DJs, hosting parties and the like.
I remember the day I resigned from my job selling car insurance, my area manager Gordon Watson laughed when I told him I wanted to be a presenter and told me I was making a big mistake leaving the AA where my lovely Dad had worked for 28 years. I knew though that I wanted to work in London.
By fate and luck and thanks to a chap called Paul Morrision, I ended up working for a brilliant international marketing agency called KLP who were based in London, I worked there for a few years and really loved it before I went to an audition for ITV2. Weirdly in my first few weeks at KLP I appeared on Channel 4’s Moviewatch and remember seeing it on TV in the reception of the Paddington based offices where I now worked.
Now, I have no formal training, I come from a very working class background where caution is the way and taking risks is met with worry. I was never positively encouraged to follow a dream or take risks.
My folks were worried when I told them I was leaving the AA and moving to London aged 21 to live and work. That in itself was a huge gamble.
Can you imagine how they felt about me leaving a well paid job, working on international accounts and working in Moscow, Valencia, Prague to name a few places and working on the Spice Girls World Tour to try and land a TV presenters job!? I had zilcho chance.
Well, I had nothing to lose, if I didn’t get it, it wasn’t meant for me.
After they auditioned 800 hopefuls and I did two auditions, I got the call when I was on the second day of a 6 week all paid for holiday to Australia, that I had the job. If I wanted it, I had to be back in London within 48 hours.
I took the call when I was out with Ron, his partner Julie and my boyfriend at the time, Brian. It was a no brainer. I had to do it.
Ok bye bye my boyfriend of 5 years who was now living in Sydney, cheerio holiday that I’d saved up holiday time and money for, bye bye KLP colleagues whom I loved and hello the world of broadcast media.
Hello scary world of scripts, cameras, microphones ( which pick up everything ) and hello to the drug of live TV.
The company who hired me were Notting Hill based Princess Productions and my career started in earnest in 1999 when I was one of four presenters on ITV2’s flagship youth show Bedrock. They were the company who amongst other things made the Big Breakfast and were the leading entertainment production company and still are.
It was by far my favourite job, I learned live TV as I did it, fucking up monumentously on the odd occasion but it was a total dream. I had so many laughs on that job. And I’m sure laughs at my expense.
I worked with the brilliant team at Princess Productions and one of the other three presenters was only Malcolm Jeffries. His posters from his modelling days in Just Seventeen and Jackie used to adorn my bedroom walls and the inside of my wardrobe. ( OMG. And for the record my mum still has some old mags of mine in which he featured. )
The show was a live one hour format five days a week then after a year we moved to a 2 hour slot on after Ant & Dec’s Saturday show. We had brilliant high profile guests and everyone loved coming on the show because it had such a great vibe.
After a year Malcolm moved on and Ben Shepherd took his place joining comedian Neil Cole, actress Rachel Brady and me. Heather from Coatbridge who can’t sing, dance, act or confidently tell a brilliant joke. I don’t know how I had the balls to do it because let me tell you, live TV is scary.
I did my best and after battling anxiety and overcoming it, I really began to love it! The inevitability of anything could happen, it was so exhilarating and live TV is intoxicating and so much fun.
Chris Evans ( whose ex girl friend Rachel Tatton Brown, the loveliest leggy blonde from TFI was a producer on the show ) told me he watched it all the time and he loved my energy and naiveté. He was a fan of the show and I think he liked me. (Ok review I think.)
It was a total blast. I got my friend Gerry Butler on the show when he was starting to get more acting roles and he was appearing in Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married and everyone and I mean everyone was smitten by him. He was just one of a cast of a thousand guests who made regular visits to the sofa on Bedrock. It’s also the show where Tess Daly was our roving reporter and fashion stylist and it was on Bedrock that she met her husband Vernon Kay.
I did scores and scores of interviews, press junkets, red carpets and never took myself or the job too seriously.
It was such a privilege to work on the show and the people I worked with, I will never forget, we worked hard, played hard and really worked so well as a team and I miss that. And them.
Many of the team who produced the show have gone onto great things. Our exec producer and fellow Scot Drew Pearce went on to write Iron Man 3 and is currently working with Tom Cruise. Andy Milligan now writes all Ant & Dec’s gags, my old flat mate and celeb booker Becca Walker recently won a BAFTA for Saturday Night Takeaway, Sharon Smith styles Russell Brand, Mel Smith produces great TV and works on the BAFTA Film & TV Awards and many of the others have also done and continue to do very, very well.
Many tears were shed when Bedrock ended and after this I presented a children’s science programme for BBC2 before fulfilling my childhood dream to present Saturday morning kids TV. I got the gig after Katy Hill stood down from the show.
It was a completely different kettle of fish, the fun went out of it; the pressure was on and the media started taking an interest in everything we did on and off screen, This made me very uncomfortable and unfortunately part of the job is courting the media, being at the right parties, wearing the right gear, dating the right guy, etc. It was all too much and I didn’t like it. It also didn’t help that with the start of reality TV you were up against Kate Lawler or other Big Brother contestants who were never out the press. It wasn’t for me.
The highlights of my TV career include meeting Paul McCartney, playing table tennis with Keanu Reeves and shaking Al Pacino’s hand for 33 seconds ( they were all good ), but it was every single bit of Bedrock.
The uncomfortable bits and all the sheer mental-ness of it all – there was no expectations, every show was a total joy, which reminds me of Malcolm’s chant “happy happy” he’d holler and the whole crew would shout back “joy joy!” I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet.
The highlight of the dream of being a TV presenter doing Live & Kicking was being unexpectedly gunged on the last ever episode of the show.
In one word it was MEGA!!!! I reckon everyone should have the opportunity to get gunged. It’s no wonder A List stars line up to take part in the Nickelodeon Awards, it’s a blast!
It was a pretty special experience and the cold, goey paint was ridiculously good fun and I worked with great people at the BBC. However the paint did ruin my favourite red shoes but I’d do it again in a heart beat. If you ever get the opportunity to get gunged – do it!
And the lesson from my experience, yes it’s great to achieve a childhood dream but actually the journey part for me, really was way, way more fun. And dreams do come true, be careful what you wish for!