Amy Garcia is the new Look North presenter preparing to join Harry Gration on the sofa on Monday. Jayne Dawson meets her.
The Look North sofa – or who is sitting on it – is one of those things that forms a comfortable backdrop to our lives.
The person whose bottom is parked there every night becomes a familiar face in Yorkshire living rooms. New girl Amy Garcia is about to become that person, for it is she who has been appointed to sit alongside co-presenter Harry Gration, after many months of uncertainty.
She will start the job on Monday and, from the moment she joins Harry in the studio her life is bound to change, because the job is a high-profile one.
“I remember watching the programme when I was growing up, so to be presenting it is quite surreal. Harry was on it then, and Clare Frisby. But I am used to working in television so I don’t think being a more recognisable face will be a problem for me. Really, I’m so excited I can’t wait.”
Amy, 32, is also nervous – who wouldn’t be? It is a big job and she is fresh off maternity leave having given birth to daughter Mabel eight months ago, but she is not new to the show, having worked on it before as a general reporter and occasional stand-in for Christa Ackroyd on that sofa before leaving to work in London.
But now she and her husband Tim, a songwriter and music producer, are moving back and have bought an old semi-detached cottage in Wakefield.They are not able to move in yet though so for the first few weeks they will be camping at their parents’ homes, dividing their time between the two.
A local girl through and through, she grew up in Wakefield and attended Wakefield College. Her mother Yvonne and her Spanish father Jesus run a curtain business in the city called Welcome Home. She met Tim locally, in Brown’s Bar in Leeds on her 21st birthday. They married three years ago in Spain and she says she is now pleased to be moving back home.
“Once I had Mabel I realised the value of having your friends and family around you, and it is great for my parents because they will have their grandchild nearby.” Amy is the only member of the family in broadcasting, although her route into television journalism was not a conventional one. She studied media and performing arts but – prepared to be surprised here – her first job was as a singer on a cruise ship.
“I always loved performing but I cried all the way to the docks when my mum drove me down there. I was in floods of tears, but it was a good life experience, and I saw so many fantastic places”
After that, Amy answered an advert in Stage magazine for a children’s television presenter, and got the job. She stayed in children’s television for three years, working on S Club TV in the days of the band S Club 7, then CBBC and finally the Disney Channel. Children’s presenters have a short shelf life though, so Amy stepped sideways into travel programmes and other light entertainment shows on Sky.
She seemed to be carving out a career in that field but, at the age of 27, packed it all in and went back into education, taking an MA in TV journalism, and then landed her first job on Look North.
After that, Amy moved to London to a job on BBC South Today, and also presented the 60 Seconds new bulletins on BBC3, before taking leave to look after Mabel. But it wouldn’t be the full story without a final mention of Amy’s predecessor.
The Look North sofa has been a bit of a hot seat since Christa left earlier this year under mysterious circumstances.
It eventually emerged that an investigation was underway into her tax arrangements.
Christa has not been in touch since Amy was appointed but Amy said: “Christa was great and we became friends when I worked here before. I wish her well.”
Christa and Harry were a successful presenting team and, with weatherman Paul Hudson, they were a hit with viewers who enjoyed their relaxed and jokey relationship.
After a rigorous interview process, Amy was thrilled to be offered the job but she is being paid a lot less.
Christa received around £180,000 while Amy’s job was advertised at £30,00-£50,000.
She said: “I would never ask anyone their salary and I wouldn’t expect them to ask mine.”
But her appointment draws a line under the controversy of earlier this year and Amy is looking forward to providing that familiarity, and the banter between the people we think of as “our” presenters.
“The first time I stood in for Christa I went home and said ‘I really want that job; I would love that job’ so this is a dream for me.”