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“I felt shame”: BBC Studios creative director opens up about ADHD diagnosis and “bright future” for Salford

Pete Ogden

Home to BBC Breakfast and CBeebies, MediaCity isn’t just an expanding media and creative hub for the BBC. It’s also where some of the BBC Studios Entertainment team are based.

In the busy foyer of BBC’s Bridge House building, where you’ll find BBC Children’s and Education plus some BBC Sport and operations staff, you can’t miss vivid murals of Children in Need mascot Pudsey Bear or characters like Elmo, a Sesame Street favourite.

I’m here to meet Pete Ogden, creative director at BBC Studios. Here, the production team recently worked on Children In Need, filmed live every year from neighbouring studios dock10, plus a brand new show for Children in Need called Game on!

As we head up to meet Ogden, unlike the foyer there’s a handful of staff scattered around the floor, with some testing out quiz ideas in meeting rooms. Next year, all the teams based in this 105,000 sq ft building will depart Bridge House and transfer to the BBC’s neighbouring buildings – Dock and Quay House. 

The BBC announced last November that it would be leaving the building as part of ongoing reforms to “deliver a simpler, leaner and more efficient organisation.” 

Flitting from the wackiness of Eurovision to the buzz surrounding the live shows for Children in Need or Comic Relief, Ogden appears to be a busy man with plenty to sink his teeth into as part of the BBC Studios Entertainment team.

Although he’s full of pride about the shows he gets to work on, he’s open about his personal challenges too.

“I have ADHD. That is a challenge,” he tells Prolific North. “One of the traits, I admit, is that I get very, very distracted.”

“Sometimes, you feel like you can’t give every show the attention that it always needs.”

Only recently receiving his ADHD diagnosis during lockdown, he admits he found it “difficult” thanks to what seems like a big increase in the number of people being diagnosed.

But is that just because there’s more awareness about ADHD now? “I think it is, we’ve all known about dyslexia and autism, haven’t we? For years, I felt like there were things I was really rubbish at, and I felt a bit stupid if I’m honest.”

Landing a job as researcher on This Morning in 2002, he reflects on how the hustle and bustle of the office often left him struggling to focus. 

“I was quite disorganised. I often had to work late or weekends because I was distracted during the day.

“Back then, you were on huge PCs in the office, it wasn’t like you could take your laptop off to a call. For years, I always felt like I was finding this harder than lots of other people.”

When he finally received his ADHD diagnosis, which he discovered was “quite severe”, he cried.

“I thought: ‘Oh, I’m not just an idiot?’

“I didn’t present as a naughty child or anything, it was a real focus thing. 

“I did feel a bit of shame about it, if I’m honest. But, I learnt things I’m not so good at and things I am good at. For me, it’s been about finding tools that have helped with the stuff I’m less good at.”

Although he’s had to “really work hard,” he praises the support of his assistant and has discovered ways of keeping focus through things such as the pomodoro technique – which splits work into 25-minute long sessions – lists and project management tools like ClickUp.

Working at ITV – and moving back North to work for BBC Studios

Originally from Blackpool, Ogden’s television career started in 2001 after he moved to London. Over the years, he’s dabbled in anything from undercover investigations to working across daytime TV and celebrity-fronted prime time shows.

But his big break was working on ITV’s This Morning, initially as a researcher. 

“I tell you what, daytime is just the best training, you do everything,” he says. “You’re live – things change, drop, move and shift. I have always employed lots of day time folk in entertainment because they often get overlooked a bit and I know they are in the trenches.” 

Four years later, after lots of “pestering people” to pursue his passion and work in entertainment, he left the show and went on to work on the original Celebrity Love Island, Big Brother, then I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

“I love those shows. God, it was incredible. I did the Biggins year of I’m a Celeb, and the Matt Willis year. But I still really wanted to do less reality and more shiny floor entertainment.”

Where better than X Factor? During its “glory days”, he became a producer/director on the show when Cheryl Cole featured as a judge and some of the show’s most memorable winners and contestants emerged – Alexandra Burke, One Direction, Stacey Solomon and Olly Murs.

Part of the team that took X Factor to America, he soon returned home and was offered a job as a series producer to relaunch Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and two series later, he was approached to return to This Morning as an editor where he stayed for 14 months.

With his love for Saturday Night Takeaway, he eventually returned back to the show as executive producer for almost seven years, picking up lots of awards along the way. But it was time to move back North.

“I can’t really explain it. It just was a feeling. I don’t know whether it’s parents getting older, wanting to be nearer family, or what it was. I’ve been lucky enough to work on pretty much, bar Strictly, lots of big entertainment formats. I wanted to be nearer home and back into the fold.

“Thank goodness this job came up!”

“The future of Salford is bright”

Now at BBC Studios, the commercial and production arm of the BBC, there’s a small team based in MediaCity made up of editorial, production, office and freelance staff. 

But what does his role as a creative director involve? Ogden oversees and drives the development and delivery of BBC’s current entertainment slate in the North including Eurovision, Comic Relief, A Question of Sport, Children in Need and the Weakest Link filmed in Glasgow. He’s also tasked with expanding on the shows and commissions based in Salford. 

There’s no such thing as a typical day. One moment he might be crewing up for a new series or wrapping up after shows like Junior Eurovision have ended.

“I do go down to London a fair bit to make sure that there’s always a Salford representation in with the development team.

“The future of Salford, to me, is bright. I’ve got a seat at the table when it comes to development so it’s about making sure your voice is heard and we’re quite far down the line with two other projects for different broadcasters that have come to Salford.”

Although he can’t reveal more details just yet, he announced a new show will begin filming next year and a new pilot is already in pre-production. 

The BBC recently announced BBC News at One will permanently move up to Salford from May 2024, there will be an extended daily BBC Breakfast show, plus a new UK editor to be based in Salford.

Although the changes won’t have any impact on BBC Studios, he says it’s “great news” for Salford. 

“The more that comes this way, which we’re thrilled about, it attracts more talent. It means there’s more going on, even small things can drive more footfall in MediaCity. It’s great in terms of community building. 

“The BBC is really clear that they are keen to bring more up here, which is great for us.”

Although the team is already working on a number of shows, his “big ambition” is to have a major entertainment series based out of dock10.

“We’ve got some brilliant shows. Comic Relief, Children in Need are all big one-offs.  I want to see an audience queuing around dock10 to come and watch the new big thing. That’s really the ambition for me, as well as protecting all the brilliant things that we do now.”

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