Nicholas Tresilian obituary

My friend and neighbour Nicholas Tresilian, who has died of cancer aged 85, was a broadcaster and entrepreneur who presented BBC Two’s Late Night Line-Up, set up radio stations in eastern Europe and was a co-founder of Classic FM.

It was Nicholas’s natural ease and talent on the BBC Two programme Writers’ World with Melvyn Bragg that prompted a producer of Late Night Line-Up (LNLU) to invite him to join the early LNLU team (1964-65). Presenting alongside Joan Bakewell, he interviewed many people then in the news including Barbara Cartland, Tariq Ali, Marianne Faithfull and Andrew Loog Oldham. Nicholas went on to write, direct and narrate Private Landscapes (1974), a series of BBC films on new British art, exploring the work of artists Peter Blake, Joe Tilson, Richard Smith and David Inshaw.

Moving on from the BBC, Nicholas helped set up the business channel Spafax Television, which started in one room in 1973 and was up and running by 1980, and from 1982 he was co-founder and a regular presenter on Television South West. During the 1980s, he also set up Radio FM Plus in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, while in the UK he co-founded Classic FM, in 1992, and, for more than 10 years, presented daily and evening concert programmes.

Nicholas also wrote on art history and theory, and lectured at art colleges in Maidstone, Cardiff and at the Central School of Art and Design in London (now part of University of the Arts London). He was a director of the Artist Placement Group, a forerunner to the artists residency schemes of the 80s, founded in 1965 by John Latham and Barbara Steveni, and was active in the International Society for the Study of Time, serving as vice-president for many years. In his latter years he produced videos on art’s roots and purposes, and in 2021 he published a memoir, Flints and Flashes. Volume two was published in 2022.

Born in Chobham, Surrey, the eldest child of Nancye (nee Amis) and Stewart Tresilian, chief engineer at Rolls-Royce, Nicholas attended Wellington college in Berkshire. After two years’ national service, he graduated in 1962 with an English literature degree from Cambridge. Soon after, his engaging physical presence and charm earned him a part in John Chapman’s farce The Brides of March at the Marlowe theatre in Canterbury, Kent. He then worked as a copy editor at Secker & Warburg (1962), and as a lecturer in the late 60s/early 70s.

In 1970, Nicholas married Faith Compton, and they went on to have three children, Arabella, Susannah and Alexander. Faith died in 2009. Six years later, he married Joanna Foster, whom he had met while Scottish dancing when they were both 17.

In his last years, he and Joanna lived in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, where Nicholas was a regular presence on the street, determinedly walking with two sticks, his Russian fur hat on his head, and a smartphone glowing on a string round his neck.

Nicholas is survived by Joanna, his children and eight granddaughters.