Anthea Turner on returning to her broadcasting roots
- Credit: Archant
From Blue Peter to her own eponymous shows, Anthea Turner has been a staple of British TV for three decades and counting – now the long-time Surrey citizen is returning to her broadcasting roots in a very modern setting
Some things are just unquestionably, quintessentially British - from the fish and chips doused in vinegar and wrapped in newspaper to the capital's big red busses. Anthea Turner's career on the box could make a strong claim to being nothing short of a British institution by now. Blue Peter, Top of the Pops, GMTV, The National Lottery: Turner has been the face of some of the UK's most well-loved and widely watched shows, and that's not even considering her time as the nation's favourite 'Perfect Housewife'.
Since her Pops debut just over 30 years ago, Turner has followed in the trails blazed by her heroes - the "grand dames we have in this business" - such as Esther Rantzen and Gloria Hunniford... "It's not like being an actor or an actress, you're you really," Turner, now 58, says of the secrets behind her long-running career. "I think staying engaged, staying active, and just staying there. Of course, I've fallen over a few times, but I've always tried to get back up, dust myself down and get back out there and everything will be fine."
Such optimism, delivered via breathy, sparkling tones, does little to assuage any idea of Turner as a bona fide darling of British broadcasting. That being said, she's not one to consider that resting on her laurels is the best way of staying relevant to new generations of fans.
"I think you have to keep up with the times, you have to be interested, and you have to have a young at heart feel," she nods. "You always have to be a bit of a punter! I watch a lot, I listen to a lot, I'm fully engaged with what's going on now. I might not sit and watch every episode of Love Island but I know what's going on.
"I know what's going on with the tabloids as much as the broadsheets, and I know my way around social media. I think we are probably the first generation of 50-somethings that keep up to date with stuff - our parents' generation was very, very different."
Enter Turner's latest project - a Sunday spot opposite her long-time friend and former Newsround host Chris Rogers on the newly-created Scala Radio station. Not only does the show take place amongst seemingly idyllic settings - "It's a fun, relaxed Sunday," she says. "We sit there, drinking coffee, eating croissants, reading the paper, and we have the lovely Scala record box to play with" - it also gives Turner a chance to relive the earliest rungs of her career ladder.
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"The reason I got into television was because of radio," Turner reminisces. "I was a video jock, but I originally started doing the road traffic reports on BBC Radio Stoke-on-Trent, and then I went to work at a commercial radio station in Stoke-on-Trent. I was a record librarian, and then I ran the PR department, so I've always had that connection. Top of the Pops was always a simultaneous broadcast with Radio 1 as well so it's always an environment I have been comfortable with really."
In spite of this professional return, there are many things that are different about Turner's life off-screen now compared to her early years in Stoke's Potteries. Not least of all in this regard is her decades-long love affair with Surrey, which has seen her settle down in upmarket mansions surrounded by sprawling countryside and, more recently, on the fringes of the county in Richmond.
"I've always felt very at home in Surrey, I don't particularly know why - maybe in a former life I lived here?" she laughs. "I think it has a beautiful countryside, but it also has action. I always say I love Guildford to everybody, it's one of my favourite places. There's still lots of things going on, but it still has community, and I think there is something about Surrey that I don't experience when I speak to other people about other areas. I definitely consider it my home, and I can't imagine moving away."
Even if her current employer's studio is less wild than some of her previous professional spaces, there's even opportunity enough in her area for Turner to indulge a little of her Blue Peter spirit. "Last weekend I came off air and I went paddle-boarding in Kew," she reveals. "My new hobby, as of last weekend, is definitely paddle-boarding on the Richmond part of the Thames. I've watched it for ages, and I've always thought I wanted to give it a go, so I just went along and tried it and absolutely loved it. When I lived in the Surrey countryside, back then it was always about horses and dogs, but I don't live that life anymore so now it's a paddleboard for me!"
And Turner's river-borne activities should be as much of a surprise as her being called upon by Scala to take a starring role alongside a plethora of celebrated hosts - from Simon Mayo to Mark Kermode and William Orbit - in bringing a spot of fresh modernity to the world of classical music.
"A lot of the reason that people didn't approach classical music is that people felt intimidated or that they didn't know enough about it - but you don't need to know anything about it, you just need to listen," she beams. "Do you like it? Yes? Great. That's it! Everyone has that opportunity with Scala."
My favourite Surrey
- Place to relax: The Withies on a Sunday. You can't beat that with a pile of mates; it's not the poshest, it's just got a great atmosphere. On a sunny Sunday, you couldn't ask for a better place!
- To walk: The Downs, of course. There's not really anywhere else you can argue with that one!
- To shop: At The Courtyard in Angel Gate in Guildford. I do quite a lot of damage there! It's run by a lovely friend of mine, Julia Jaconelli, and it's like walking into my own wardrobe, I love it! It's an independent boutique, and she has a great eye, she's a great buyer, so it's really just a lovely collection of clothes that I like. Whatever I'm looking for, I know it'll be in The Courtyard.
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