BBC Breakfast unites hosts past and present to celebrate 40 years

BBC Breakfast unites hosts past and present to celebrate 40 years

BBC Breakfast has celebrated its 40th anniversary by uniting presenters past and present to reminiscence about how the show has evolved over the years.

In a special episode on Tuesday, current hosts Sally Nugent and Jon Kay were joined by original presenters including newsreader Debbie Rix, weatherman Francis Wilson and astrologer Russell Grant, who featured on the formerly named Breakfast Time, which launched on January 17 1983.

They also marked the occasion with the return of singer Leo Sayer, who was a guest on the first episode, and an aerobic workout in London’s Waterloo station led by the show’s original health and fitness guru Diana Moran.

During the episode, Sayer praised the show’s day one presenters, Frank Bough and Selina Scott, as “such stars”.

“To be interviewed by Selena Scott at that time, it was very special. She was the ‘Princess Diana of TV’ so it was quite incredible to walk into the studio,” he said.

BBC Breakfast 40th anniversary
From left: astrologer Russell Grant, former presenter Debbie Rix and former weather presenter Francis Wilson backstage (Danny Lawson/PA)

Sayer said the show “started a tradition that went all around the world”, with celebrities then needing to wake up earlier to promote their work.

The singer said he complimented the team on “coping” back in 1983 because many of the TV crew complained to him that morning about having to get up so early, to which Nugent joked: “It’s not new anymore but we still do that.”

Workers in the gallery as BBC Breakfast celebrates its 40th anniversary
Workers in the gallery as BBC Breakfast celebrates its 40th anniversary (Danny Lawson/PA)

During her time on the breakfast programme, Moran, who was known as the “Green Goddess”, led a popular exercise segment.

To celebrate her return, she was joined by BBC Breakfast presenter Jayne McCubbin at Waterloo station, where they recreated a moment from the first episode when they surprised commuters by getting them on their feet to do a few aerobics.

Moran said television exercise programmes made workouts more accessible for women, adding: “Beforehand, women in particular hadn’t gone into gyms. Gyms were for the chaps, the rugby and football players, smelly boxers and all that sort of thing.

“And suddenly we brought it up, we put some music to it, which appealed to the women.”

Elsewhere in the episode, the show’s first editor and director Ron Neil and Keith Clempart talked about the direction they wanted for the show.

Neil said: “People go, ‘television on in the morning? That’s a disgusting idea. What’s happening in this country?’

“People even used the word immoral that you would have the television on in the morning. ‘We’re far too busy getting ready for the working day ahead.'”

The BBC was motivated to set up the morning show by rival ITV making its own plans – with a race launched to see who could be the first to set theirs up, Neil said.

When it first aired, Breakfast Time was revolutionary, mixing hard news with showbusiness, gossip, health and even a daily astrology segment.

BBC Breakfast 40th anniversary
Former weather presenter Francis Wilson with weather presenter Carol Kirkwood (Danny Lawson/PA)

The BBC style was more informal because Clempart wanted it to feel “very friendly, very cosy” and so the presenters often wore jumpers and presented from a red leather sofa.

As part of the episode, host Kay attempted to track down the original red sofa and found a piece of it at the home of Debbie Greenwood, a former Miss Great Britain who presented the programme in the mid-1980s.

And current weatherwoman Carol Kirkwood, an original member of the show who joined in 1983 as a production secretary, had a special look back with original weatherman Francis Wilson – while donning the signature cosy jumpers – at how weather presenting and graphics have evolved.

Charlie Stayt in makeup before going on air
Charlie Stayt in makeup before going on air (Danny Lawson/PA)

As the show drew to a close, Nugent, Kay, Kirkwood and fellow current hosts Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt welcomed original members Rix, Wilson and Grant to their new red sofa.

Rix said the show has become “more newsy”, with presenters now wearing more formal attire.

They also marked the occasion with a cake, designed as an old-school television and featuring the show’s original logo.

The original Breakfast Time programme was recorded at Lime Grove Studios in west London, which was also home to Grandstand, Panorama and Doctor Who.

Tuesday’s show also saw a return of the Breakfast Time on-screen analogue clock, which Nugent said was “divisive” for viewers because some children had not seen the style before and were struggling to tell the time.

Another segment featured videos from viewers wishing the programme happy birthday and telling stories of their experiences of waking up early to watch it.

Some described their “shock and excitement” of watching a news and entertainment show in the morning for the first time.

Others attached to BBC Breakfast congratulated the show on its milestone, with former BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker tweeting: “Happy 40th birthday to #BBCBreakfast

“It was a real privilege to sit on the famous sofa for 6 years. It is a special programme, made by an brilliant, dedicated team and it continues to be an important show for the huge, loyal audience. Also… @carolkirkwood is the best”.

BBC director-general Tim Davie thanked the BBC Breakfast teams, past and present, for helping make the show a success.

Former presenter Debbie Rix, right, before going on air
Former presenter Debbie Rix, right, before going on air (Danny Lawson/PA)

He said: “BBC Breakfast is held in huge affection by the millions who watch each morning. Viewers trust and respect its journalism and daily insight into events at home and abroad.

“I know making the programme the success it is is a huge team effort. I want to thank those teams – past and present – who have helped make it the UK’s most popular breakfast show.”