BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin on leaving London behind for a new life in Chester
PUBLISHED: 19:51 11 November 2012 | UPDATED: 21:53 23 October 2015
‘Our neighbours probably thought we were all a bit mad,’ says BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin. ‘We’d moved from London to a house in the countryside with a big garden and the River Dee runs nearby. We decided to have a swim. Why not?
‘Someone we know came along in their boat and thought it was very funny that we were in there. But it was refreshing and we enjoyed it a lot, it was great fun.’
The BBC move from London to MediaCity in Salford was not good news for everyone. It’s no secret that many employees were unimpressed with the decision and felt unable to transfer their lives up North. But for 44-year-old Louise, husband, David, and their daughters Mia, 11, and Scarlett, eight, who now live in Chester, it presented the perfect opportunity. They are enjoying every minute – even with Louise’s daily 3.40am alarm call.
She explained: ‘We’re really excited to be able to do something in a totally different kind of place. Until a year ago, I’d only ever been to Liverpool in the north west when it was the Capital of Culture year.
‘Cheshire could not be more different for us. We’re surrounded by countryside and people are completely different. We have been welcomed with open arms by the locals. The first day I arrived, someone knocked on my door and invited me to the pub. That was absolutely brilliant, so welcoming and it already feels like we have a support network here. It’s just been wonderful.’
Louise lived in Hong Kong until she was five – her dad was stationed there as a major in the Irish Guards. She grew up living between Hampshire and London before studying Spanish at The University of St Andrews.
It was a love of languages that saw her travel to many places working as an interpreter. But it was living in Patagonia that sparked her enthusiasm for her career.
She said: ‘When I left university I went to Argentina for a year and then got an opportunity to go to Chile. I was there with Raleigh International. I was in Patagonia and being interviewed about the charity’s work. There must have been two listeners.
‘It was then I realised I loved asking questions. That made me realise what I wanted to do. I didn’t set out wanting a career in radio or television, I wanted to ask questions.’
Today, Louise has worked on several radio and television programmes on Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, Real Rescues, The One Show, BBC News 24 and Missing Live. She has interviewed everyone from David Cameron to Art Garfunkel, Will Smith, Sigourney Weaver and former Take That star Robbie Williams. She has also presented some of the world’s biggest news stories to millions of viewers including the capture of Colonel Gadaffi, the London bombings and last year’s wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. But there is one event that stands out in her mind.
She said: ‘I remember the first time I presented the 10 o’clock news. It was terrifying. There is a pecking order. Huw Edwards is at the top, then Fiona, George and Sophie. And then there are the rest of us. It was my night on and it just so happened that all of the big presenters were at a party with the boss.
‘I turned the news on and Saddam Hussein had been hanged. This was the first time I was doing the 10 o’clock news and it was one of the biggest stories of the century. I kept thinking, with minutes to go, that Huw would walk in and save the day. But he didn’t, and I did it. There were 7.5 million viewers. That certainly got my heart racing.’
Louise has worked hard for her important role on BBC Breakfast – a job she does not take for granted. There have also been challenges in her personal life, particularly following the birth of Mia. Louise had an emergency Caesarean section after it was discovered the baby was breech. A few days later Louise was rushed back to hospital in severe pain. Her appendix had burst and this led to peritonitis – a condition that if left untreated can be fatal.
She said: ‘It was horrible. I’d not felt right through my entire pregnancy but I was reassured by the midwives that not everyone felt like they were blooming and what I was experiencing was normal.
‘Being taken into hospital after Mia was born was horrible. I remember at one point thinking that if it was the last time I saw David and Mia then so be it, I couldn’t take the pain any longer and I just wanted it to end.
No-one seemed to know what it was and I only found out afterwards.
‘I’m definitely a glass half-full person after that and I don’t let little things worry me anymore. It’s definitely changed me.’
But Louise and her family are now focussed on the future and enjoying their new lives in the county.
She said: ‘I love my job and I know I’m really lucky. I’m very aware that if Sian Williams had decided to move I wouldn’t have this job. But I’m enjoying every minute of BBC Breakfast and our new life in Cheshire. I’ve always had a yearning to live in the country so this makes sense.
‘We chose the Chester area because the schools are so good. But we have found so much more to love. We’ve already been to a few places.
We love Hale and Chester and we went to Rhosneigr and really enjoyed it. But we’re looking forward to discovering many more places around here.’
Louise’s clothing was kindly loaned by The Editeur which has branches in Chester and Hale. Her jewellery was loaned by Boodles.