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Logo: Tom Bates, Derbyshire Local Histrory writer  
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Alan Hardwick - Yorkshire TV's `Mr. Versatile'

Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007

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Alan Hardwick - TV Presenter

An Interview with Tom Bates - 2001

“If, shamelessly paraphrasing Karl Marx, Television (and not religion) is the opiate of the masses”, then Yorkshire T.V.’s `Mr Versatile’ must bear some responsibility to the regions television addicts, for viewers have been hooked on Alan Hardwick for over a quarter of a century!

`Multi-talented Staveley-born son of a Coalminer'

As Alan surveyed life from the pinnacle of his 50 odd years, Yorkshire Television’s `Man for all Seasons’ exuded the air of a happy and satisfied individual who had found his vocation early in life, and who has lived comfortably with it ever since.

Indeed, as he sat contemplating and pondering the secret of his continued success, this multi-talented Staveley born son of a coal-miner who has been winning the hearts and admiration of viewers for 26 years, considered that Fate had played a major role in his life:-

“ I regard the people on the other side of the television screen as my friends, said Alan, `and importantly I have learned to accept whatever fate has decreed and followed wherever it has led”.

Significantly it has led from humble beginnings at Chesterfield Road, Staveley, to a magnificent period farmhouse in the Lincolnshire countryside. In the interim Alan has rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous; interviewed every Prime Minister since Edward Heath, and can count Archbishop Desmond Tutu amongst his friends!

More recently he was photographed alongside Sir Norman Wisdom at the switching on of Skegness Lights - and his enviable collection of ephemera includes a caricature of himself sketched by Rolf Harris which currently hangs in his bathroom.

“I suppose I’ve been lucky says Alan, -`but, I’ve always thought positively and believe to a large extent that you make your own luck”.

He adds, `I love what I do, and if at anytime throughout my career I’ve ceased to enjoy my job, I have changed it, - when one door closes, Fate opens another and you have to think positively, accept the challenge and walk through it”.

Fate, in the form and shape of Mr. Oakley, nicknamed `Horace’ by his pupils, and Alan’s Latin teacher at Staveley Netherthorpe Grammar School, opened the first door by suggesting that Alan should consider a career in journalism.

Alan takes up the story:..“But on leaving school I was initially turned down by the Derbyshire Times and took a job in the gents outfitting department at Swallows in Chesterfield earning £5-a-week”.

“Times were hard, recalls Alan - they provided me with a suit,- and deducted 10/- a week from my wages to pay for it, he grins at the recollection - but Fate was waiting just around the corner”. He went on, “Jack Sanderson, who was then News Editor at the Derbyshire Times purchased his suits from Swallows and the man who served him, Vincent Cleary, told him that I had a burning ambition to become a journalist”.

Thus in 1965 Alan became a Junior Reporter on the Derbyshire Times at the princely wage of £6-a-week, and the cruel hand of fate was evident in one of his first assignment – to report the tragic death of his mentor, Mr. Oakley following a car accident in Chesterfield!

He served his journalistic apprenticeship at the Derbyshire Times where he was Indentured for three years, and in 1969 he became sub-editor of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald. Alan was based in Swindon and quickly became homesick; “I’ve always been fiercely proud of my roots, and I missed the north of England terribly” says Alan, who has nurtured a fondness for Lincolnshire ever since his father took him there fishing as a boy. “So when fate opened the door to the Lincolnshire Chronicle as Chief Reporter and News Editor I duly walked through it, - but, smiled Alan, it didn’t last long”.

Soon the ambitious young journalist was adding to his already impressive c.v. when he moved to Kent to became Editor of the Faversham News.

Despite his rapid rise and journalistic success, the south of England remained unpalatable and desperate to return north again Alan took a job as Sports Editor on the Scarborough Evening News - and a few weeks later found himself on television!

He explains, “Ray Lazenby, the Editor, sent me to cover a story at Butlins Holiday Camp in Filey which Yorkshire T.V. were also covering, but the helicopter carrying the television presenter was unable to land owing to the weather conditions, so I was asked to stand in, - later that night I was amazed to see myself on Calendar News”.

Within a week Alan was invited to the Yorkshire Television Studios for a screen test. His nomadic quest was over. He had found his true vocation, and he joined Y.T.V. on his 24th birthday in 1974.

Two years later he met Julie, a studio-technician, who during her 13 years with the t.v. company had met and worked with a host of stars like Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Andy Williams and Hayley Mills. They were married in 1976 and have two equally gifted children, Emma, a studious 17 year-old who plays the tuba and flute and who is studying to become a Barrister, - and Georgina, a precocious 10 year-old who plays the piano. Alan also has a daughter, Claire (30) and is justifiably proud of grandsons Thomas (6) and James (5) whom Claire and husband Mark have presented him with.

Today, having spent more than half his life presenting and producing t.v. programmes, Alan is essentially a `pipe & slippers’ man who loves the quiet life and exhibits all the characteristics of the English country gentleman.

Despite his television schedule he still finds time for his local church and for charity work, and is currently helping to raise funds for a new Osteoparosis Scanner at the Pilgrim Hospital in Boston.

A lover of the English language and of literature, he is an avid and eclectic reader who enjoys authors as diverse as William Shakespeare and Wilbur Smith, - and he treasures his 1950’s bakelite `valve wireless’ which remains permenantly tuned to Radio Four, and always switched on for `The Archers’!

Alan enjoys live television best and his favourite job is presenting the programme “Missing which goes out in the Yorkshire Region on the first Tuesday in every month. “We have a live link with the National Missing Persons Helpline, and the programme has a 25-30% success rate”, explains Alan enthusiastically. “Television is not just about entertainment and news, he added, `it can also be a force for good, and being involved in that is immensely rewarding”.

Another twist of fate saw Alan returning to his roots when the `old boy’ of Staveley Netherthorpe Grammar School officiated at the school’s Annual Speech Day & Prizegiving.

And what eloquent words of wisdom did this erudite fatalist impart?

“I just told them always to think positively and to embrace their fate, answered Alan, adding with a wry grin, `and that I hope they are fortunate enough in their lives to meet a Horace Oakley”.

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