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BBC presenter and director David Whiteley’s Essex

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 January 2016

David Whiteley

David Whiteley

Archant

In his new monthly column for Essex Life, BBC presenter and director David Whiteley shares his insightful view on stories from across the county of Essex

Sorry… I beg your pardon. You want me to be a what? A columnist? Did I hear you right?

But apparently I did. The editor of this fine institution of a magazine asked just that. Asked me to be a columnist for Essex Life.

So how did that happen? Well, I’m an Essex boy for starters, and proud of it too.

It seems like only yesterday I walked into the offices of Essex Radio in Southend on Sea, fresh faced and wearing a terrible tie, to embark on, what I didn’t know then, would be the start of my career in broadcasting.

I’ll never forget that phone call. ‘Hello, David. We’d like to offer you a week’s work experience in the newsroom.’ Of course to the very official sounding lady on the phone, I appeared highly delighted, but in reality I was crest fallen. The newsroom? How dull, I thought. I wanted to be a DJ! Who didn’t? This was 1995.

So I went along for my allocated ‘week’ of work experience. Day one. I interviewed a well known local band at the time, The Hamsters. A solid, guitar-based rock band was covering (very well) the hits of Jimi Hendrix. And, knock me down with a plectrum, it goes on air that night. Yes, on air! OK, I only asked three questions, three basic, scripted questions. But I asked them and they are ON AIR!

After working for a year, full-time for free at Essex Radio, I get taken on as a trainee journalist.

Now, I was raised in Leigh on Sea. And while ‘working’ for free at Essex Radio, I actually was paid money to work at a boatyard and peel spuds at a chippy when I wasn’t ‘working’ at the radio station. And I distinctly remember my last ever job at the boatyard. It was to paint a marker buoy that had been relieved from duty. It was to sit, on land, as the ‘Old Leigh Bouy’. It took me forever. And it took me days to wash the green out of my hair. But that was it. My swan song at the boatyard. So after two-and-a-half years at Essex Radio, I joined the BBC, firstly in radio and then TV.

Working in regional TV has taken me to live in Norfolk, but I get back to Essex as often as I can. And the last time, I went to see an old mate down the Old Town in Leigh. As I walked over the flyover, what did I see? Sitting there, on dry land as a marker, a welcoming sentry into the Old Town — The Old Leigh Buoy. Still there and still green (ish).

Now the last brush stroke I put on her was over 20 years ago and in that time so much has changed. The boatyard has moved (in its place a posh restaurant) and much of Leigh on Sea has changed. But we meet again. The Old Leigh Buoy and this Old Leigh Boy. It still feels like home, but one thing’s for certain, both me and the other Leigh buoy are a bit less green. w

A bit about David

David Whiteley is the presenter and a producer of the award-winning BBC 1 current affairs programme, Inside Out. David has fronted the programme since 2003 and is now the series director. David also presents Look East and other programmes for the BBC. In his spare time, he surfs the North Sea and runs. David was born in south Essex and cut his teeth in radio in Southend and Chelmsford. David lives in Norfolk with his TV presenter wife, Amelia, and their two daughters, Annabel and Cleo.

To get in touch with David with any stories you have about life in Essex, you can contact David on Twitter @david_insideout or email him at david.whiteley@bbc.co.uk

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