Claudia Winkleman is coming to Yorkshire but don't expect any sequins just plenty of eye-liner and a fringe trim

She may be best known for presenting Strictly Come Dancing or hosting her own Sunday morning BBC Radio 2 show, but now Claudia Winkleman is going on tour with her own live show. Catherine Scott finds out what audiences can look forward to.

Claudia Winkleman with husband   Kris Thykier  
(Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Claudia Winkleman with husband Kris Thykier (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Claudia Winkleman says it was turning 50 that made her want to do something different. That “something different” is her first ever live show touring the UK. Behind the Fringe will open in Guildford on April 25, before travelling to Bradford, Brighton, Birmingham, Basingstoke, Folkestone, Leicester, Dorking, London and Buxton. “I got the idea while interviewing guests on my Radio 2 show,” says Winkleman. “Everyone from Stacey Dooley to Joe Wicks seemed to be going on tour. I’d just turned 50 and I thought ‘why not?’ I fancied doing something different, although now I’m not so sure. I’m completely terrified, but I like being scared. It’s good to be scared sometimes – that’s what I tell my kids.” Winkleman has three children with her husband Kris Thykier, Jake, 18, Matilda, 15, and ten-year-old Arthur.

It is hard to say exactly what guests can look forward to when they take their seats for Behind the Fringe. “Anyone who is expecting ballroom dancing will be severely disappointed,” she quips. “I won’t be wearing anything glittery, although I will be wearing enough mascara to sink a battleship.

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“There will be live fringe cuts on stage,” Winkleman adds enthusiastically – she is known for her overlong fringe, hence the name chosen for the tour. “It won’t be me, we are inviting hairdressers to join us and cut people’s fringes, like mine.

Claudia Winkleman (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

“I just want people to have a good time, although they may just come and think how old and orange I look and that I wear far too much eye-liner.

“It’s more of an ‘evening with’ than anything else. Some chatter at the beginning – boots, eye-liner, the wonder of melted cheese, why holidays are awful, the importance of a man who doesn’t

believe in star signs, how to keep a boyfriend and how to dump a boyfriend and why people who name their cars should be avoided. I know, it sounds absolutely horrendous,” she adds with a laugh.

“There will be a Q&A and then I will interview members of the audience. It will be very unpredictable but that’s how I like it. It’s why I love live television.”

Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly presenters of Strictly Come Dancing (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images)

Winkleman’s parents, journalists Eve Pollard and Barry Winkleman, separated when she was just three years old. It is not really surprising then that she ended up in the media, but that hadn’t always been her plan.

“I wanted to work in an art gallery,” she says, having studied History of Art at Cambridge University.

“I then wanted to work in fashion which I did for a bit and then a friend of mine from university called a few of us one day and said the people he was working with were looking for television presenters and would we pretend that we were interested. And so I did and six months later I got offered a job.”

That job was working with broadcaster Janet Street Porter on cable channel Live TV, which also launched the careers of Richard Bacon, Julia Bradbury and Charlie Stayt.

Claudia Winkleman is heading to Bradford Picture: Matt Monfredi Ltd

“I am sure Janet won’t mind me saying this, but the great thing was that no one watched it and so it was a great place to learn about presenting and interviewing. We just spent hours and hours doing it. I’d do TV work at weekends and magazine work during the week. I always wanted something to fall back on when people got sick of the sight of me,” says Winkleman who still writes a column for a national newspaper.

In 1996, she hosted two Granada TV programmes, God’s Gift (taking over from Davina McCall) and Pyjama Party. “I owe a lot to (Leeds-born) Stuart Murphy, who is now chief executive of the English National Opera. He really believed in me,” she says.

Winkleman’s first major television job was in 2001, on the regional discussion programme Central Weekend.

She then hosted the BBC Three entertainment update show Liquid News, taking over from Christopher Price on the now defunct BBC Choice. She shared the presenting duties with Colin Paterson, and later Paddy O’Connell. The show featured celebrity interviews.

In 2003, Fame Academy appointed Winkleman to present a daily update show on BBC Three, in conjunction with its second series. She repeated the show in 2005 for the much shorter celebrity version, Comic Relief Does Fame Academy.

She also began hosting Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, a supplementary programme to Strictly, taking over from Justin Lee-Collins.

In 2010, Winkleman became co-host of the Sunday night Strictly results show, presenting alongside Tess Daly, and in 2014 her role expanded to presenting the main show, following the departure of Bruce Forsyth.

It is a role she clearly enjoys and she has nothing but praise for the show’s production team, especially during the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“They were incredible,” she says. “We managed to get two series out in the middle of a pandemic. We had no audience and that was strange, but the production team led by Sarah James meant that we kept on going. She was really strict about the bubbles and testing but it meant we stayed on air. It felt a real privilege to do it.”

Winkleman says she refuses to moan about lockdown. “There were so many people having a really terrible time that I am not going to complain. We were at home safe and no one we loved got it [Covid] badly and so I am really really thankful for that. I did some really bad cooking but we all seemed to survive even that.”

Although she likes to keep her private life just that, Winkleman has spoken about feeling bereft when her eldest son Jake left home to go to university.

“It was probably made worse as we had had him at home during lockdown when the poor boy was forced to be at home playing jigsaws with his mum. He needed to spread his wings. I just wish he’d ring home occasionally.”

Claudia Winkleman will be at St George’s Hall, Bradford, on April 28. For tickets visit Behindthefringe.live