Journey of a tyre-fitter to newsreader

Alan Clark and Colin Briggs of BBC.
Alan Clark and Colin Briggs of BBC.

Morpeth Rotary Club members were very pleased to hear that Colin Briggs, of the BBC, had agreed to come to visit the group again and talk about his career.

He said it was his mother’s fault that he got into entertainment.

He was aged 15 on his summer holidays with no money. He had his wallet pinched in Plymouth and was in debt. He needed to get a job quickly and applied to a holiday camp on the Isle of Wight. He got a job as a kitchen porter where he had to peel two cwt. of potatoes a day and had to do the washing up.

He decided that his holiday job the following year would not be as a porter or waiter.

His mother wanted him to try for a job at the Gas Board, but he didn’t think he would meet many ladies there and wrote to various television companies instead.

He had an interview and was accepted to work for lots of money as an assistant in the sound department. This was great fun.

The business was moving from old studios in a converted cinema to purpose-built studios.

The team worked on Michael Miles’ Wheel Of Fortune and a programme called Houseparty with ladies sitting around a table giving opinions. They seemed to be very old women to Colin at the time, but were probably aged 40 to 45. They were very funny, very filthy and very sexy.

When this temporary job ended the only other summer job Colin could get was as a tyre fitter and van driver. Fitting tractor tyres was a particular struggle.

What he wanted to do was to read English at university. However, the school careers master told him that he would need GCE O Level Latin to do that and he had done English and German.

As an alternative, since he had been very young he had wanted to be a reporter. He had seen a series on television with a journalist in a trenchcoat phoning back urgent copy from pubs and phone boxes.

He entered a competition to write a story on what he had done at the weekend. He wrote a story about the Southampton Show where the Echo reporter had not turned up and he pretended he was a reporter and had to cover it.

He won the competition, and on the strength of that he got accepted onto one of the very few journalist training courses at the time, but then he got side-tracked.

A friend of his wanted to go to Oxford Polytechnic, but there was a postal strike and Colin went with him to call on the course tutor for an application form.

The tutor persuaded Colin to also take a form and apply, and this led to an interview for a degree course. It turned out to be one of the best interviews he had ever done as he didn’t care whether he got through or not. He was offered a place on the course and had three great years there.

In fact, he was at the college reunion only a few weeks ago.

There are now 25,000 students at Oxford Brookes University. When he went there, there were 1,500.

Colin graduated and got a job working back on van delivery and tyre fitting.

He should have gone into journalism, but there were no jobs available at any of the TV companies.

He was offered a place on a Natwest graduate trainee course to become a bank manager, although he thought he was not very suited.

A week before starting the job, he got a job as a sub-editor on She magazine. He had headlines and copy to re-write, but the pay and conditions were poor.

He moved on to work in motoring journalism and in public relations, and then later did some TV and radio, which he enjoyed more than anything he had done before.

He set himself a target of 12 months to get a job at a radio station or he would go to drama school as his brother was an actor.

He got a job at GB Radio in Gwent presenting programmes on rock and roll. He turned up in his red E-Type Jaguar, but his salary was halved overnight. Previously, he had been able to live off his expenses account.

It was the greatest fun to work at the radio station in Wales and he learnt a lot, but while there he lost his wife, his Ducatti and the E-Type.

Highlights were having a pint with Billy J. Kramer and interviewing Georgie Fame. The interview was unusable, but he was very good company.

There was no money in commercial radio and there were very few people in the newsroom. He would spend half his shift doing the show and if they were a bit short on the news team he would do a half shift with them.

He had a wonderful cottage nearby and a great life until one day the chairman of the company called in and told the staff they were shutting down the radio station and were in talks to merge with Cardiff CBC.

Colin ended up at CBC, which paid even less.

He moved to the North East to do sport on the radio, but then got side-tracked into news and current affairs for nine years, before moving round the corner to work on television.

He answered a large number of questions about Mike Neville, disasters while on air, his facebook and twitter accounts, his make-up and the studio lighting.

He also discussed how he organises and re-writes his breakfast slots, and how once, working with an award-winning photographer, he almost got an amazing scoop.

He answered in the same lively and interesting way that he had given his talk and was warmly thanked by the speaker’s host Alan Clark.