I think my life is busy now, and it undoubtedly is, but looking back through my old diaries from late 2006 into 2007, this week’s trip down QVC’s memory lane, I have no idea how I packed it all in! It was the year of Search for a Presenter (affectionately referred to as SFAP by everyone involved in it) but so much more!
In November of 2006, amongst the hectic on-air schedule, I travelled to Liverpool, where our call centre and warehouse are located, to film our warehouse staff hard at work picking and packing all the products that were being ordered in the run up to Christmas. It was crazy busy, but everyone went about their jobs in a very calm manner. It was good to see behind the scenes and astounding to see the speed of parcels leaving the warehouse, and I think that was in the days of the 5 – 7 day delivery guarantee.
In March 2007, I was having a well-earned break in Spain when the call came through from our then Presenter Manager, Mark West, asking me if I would like to be one of the judges for Search for a Presenter, an idea that had originated with Kara Tritton due to the popularity of shows such as X Factor. Mark explained there was a lot of work involved: four lots of auditions, in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow, coaching sessions, and five consecutive Sundays of the live shows; all that plus my normal on-air commitments but, to be honest, I was thrilled to be asked and jumped at the chance, particularly as my children were both at university by this time, so they were living away from home.
Before that started in June 2007, I managed to squeeze in an attendance at the BAFTAs with Simon Biagi (he was wearing a kilt if I remember correctly) and also the Breast Cancer Care Ribbon Walk. The walk was at Blenheim Palace on the day before my birthday and I signed up to do the 10k. For most people, 10k is tiring but nor overly taxing, but for me, as a polio survivor, it was a little more challenging. I think that is one of the reasons my son agreed to do the walk with me, to make sure I got round in one piece! He had been going out for long walks with me on weekends when he was home from uni to get me up to speed. I was fine when we were walking along roads, but when the route took us down the sides of fields and through woodland it was more of a struggle for my weaker ankle. Claudia Sylvester and Debbie Greenwood also did the walk that day; this picture of Debbie and me was taken before I drove us out to Blenheim Palace – we didn’t look quite so fresh when we finished! According to my diary, I was back on-air the next day, my birthday, for an hour of Premier Tanzanite and then a three hour gem show…. I’ll bet I was aching by the end of that!
The picture of me with my son was in Woman & Home magazine. They did a feature that year on people who had done the walk and their reasons for doing it. Mine was because both my mum and older sister, Lynda, had been diagnosed with the disease and, for Lynda in particular, the BCC helpline was very useful. Both have now been given the all clear, thankfully.
Less than a week later, we started Search for a Presenter with two days of auditions at our Battersea studios, in London. Although Mark, myself and the then presenter scheduler, Barbara, were the judges, many of the other presenters were also involved. Pipa and Julian Ballantyne were on-hand to offer help and encouragement to contestants at the London auditions, which is where we first laid eyes on Craig Rowe.
Claire Sutton was in Birmingham with us two weeks later and I think it may have been Debbie Greenwood in Manchester. Apologies, I can’t remember who travelled to Glasgow with us. We had a fabulous backstage team, which is just as well when you are spending so much time in each other’s company. Thanks to Vanessa, sadly no longer with QVC, for most of the photos… she is pictured in the centre of the pic of Pipa with her short blonde hair. There were a lot of photos of me holding a wine glass. To be honest, I don’t drink much but it seemed to be constantly refilled by either Vanessa or lovely Dickie, who now works for the BBC as a floor manager.
Her favourite photo is the one of us all doing crazy poses after we had finished the location auditions in Glasgow – she calls it ‘The Album Cover’!
We saw hundreds of people at each of the audition centres, some who were already presenters and others who had never presented before in their lives. It was fascinating to see how difficult people found it to talk about their selected ‘item’ for five minutes. If we were unsure whether to put someone through to the next round we would ask them to sell us a bottle of water for a minute… a bit like the pencil test we original presenters had to do. We had selected around a hundred people from the first audition phase and that need to be whittled down to just fifteen for the ‘Boot Camp’ days in August, with only eight making the live shows that started in September.
Mark and I were still judges, but we had celebrity judges instead of Barbara for the live shows… Anne Diamond, Vanessa Feltz and I believe Joan Rivers sat in the hot seat too. Dale hosted the live shows, with Pipa or Anthony Heyward spending time with the contestants and their families to gauge the nerves. Viewers were asked to vote for their favourites – I wonder if any of you rang in? I’m sure you all must realise that Craig was the eventual winner, but also in the final eight were Sam Simmons, who went on to become a guest presenter for Emu before moving to America, and the lovely Ali Pyne who now guests Cuddl Duds and Heavenly Sleepwear. I also made a lifelong friend in Claire Simonsen, second from the left in the finale picture, who works for Radio City in Liverpool and is tireless in her charity work. It was the most fabulous thing to be involved with and how lucky were we to ‘discover’ Craig – hard to believe that was eleven years ago!
So, coming back to the present day, I thought I would give you a heads up on this weekend’s TSVs. I am actually quite sad not to be working, as tomorrow it is the Gtech AirRam Vacuum and it’s on 4 easypays. I absolutely LOVE mine and would highly recommend. It’s the only vacuum I use for the downstairs carpets and hard floors and is brilliant if you have pets. It’s already available if you wanted to order early.
Then, on Sunday, Mally is in town with a fab 7 piece collection, also on maximum easy pays and also already available to early bird purchase. The collection has two of the shadow sticks, eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss, flawless finish foundation and a primer stick – you can check it out here.
By the way, if you’ve been loving my nail colours this week they are from the OPI TSV collection coming a week tomorrow – more on next week’s blog.
It’s time for a new Style Look and for the next fortnight, and we are featuring a maxi dress and striped cardigan combo from Antthony Designs. It’s a nice, easy shape to wear, but a word of warning – it is quite generous so you may want to go down a size.
Finally, thanks for all your fabulous suggestions for the teddies’ names (the competition on last week’s blog). I’ve been reading through them all and have noticed some of you haven’t suggested a name – you need to in order to be entered in to the competition. There’s still plenty of time to enter, as it doesn’t close until midnight on 19th July.
Have a great weekend and enjoy the Wimbledon finals if you’re a tennis fan.