BBC Look North celebrates 50th Anniversary

Stephen Chapman's picture

BBC Look North will celebrate its 50th anniversary this weekend, with a special half hour documentary.

It aired its first regional news programme on 25th March, 1968. Presented by David Seymour, who reported on the floods in York, from a boat in the city.

The documentary will be presented by Harry Gration, and it delves into the archives to look at some of the stories that have appeared on the show over the years. It includes interviews with previous presenters including Sophie Raworth, Judith Stamper, Peter Levy and regular contributors  to the programme such as former paratrooper Ben Parkinson from Doncaster and North Yorkshire’s Sally Slater who underwent a heart transplant operation when she was a child. 

“50 years on since our first programme and Look North is it's still the most popular news programme - regional or national - on any TV channel in Yorkshire. Our 6.30pm programme is watched by nearly two million people each week. But even more people now see our stories online, on social media and on the BBC iPlayer,” said Tim Smith, editor of Look North and acting head of BBC Yorkshire.

“We’ve had a very busy week celebrating our 50th – getting out and about across Yorkshire to meet our viewers with the sofa challenge; exploring some of our fascinating archive footage in the evening bulletins; and the celebrations continue this weekend with the documentary 50 Years of Look North which viewers can watch on Sunday. We’ve had a fantastic 50 years and I hope we'll continue doing what we do best for another half century.”

This week, Look North has featured a different decade from the programme’s history and tonight there will be a broadcast from the former studios on Woodhouse Lane in Leeds.

It will also feature some of its former staff, not least BAFTA winning producer and director Paul Berriff who was one of two cameramen on the very first programme in 1968; and Jeremy Thompson, who reported for Look North in the 1970s and went on to become the BBC’s first North of England correspondent. Sophie Raworth and Judith Stamper, who presented the show in the 1980s and 1990s, will both be in the studio.

“It was a baptism of fire.  I had come from behind the camera and suddenly I was on camera.  I was terrified!  A couple of months later they put me onto the main programme with the wonderful Mike McCarthy,” said Raworth.

“Mike and I started presenting the main show on Look North and it was about three months before I stopped shaking! Happy birthday Look North, it is a fantastic programme and I still remember the connection that the audience has with the people who present the programme.”

Harry Gration added: 

“There have been over 13,000 regular editions of Look North since we started in 1968 and I have presented very nearly 9000 of those programmes!  That tells you a little about how much my life has been dominated by Yorkshire and its folk. We live in the greatest county and we are surrounded by the best folk in the world, characters on every street.  I have loved every minute of my 40 years at Look North and hope there are a few more years to come.”