At home with Amy Garcia as she celebrates 10 years as presenter of BBC Look North with a super-stylish fashion shoot
It was the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity that might never come again, but when Amy Garcia landed her dream job as the new main co-presenter of BBC Look North, alongside the legendary Harry Gration, she found herself in a dilemma. Her baby daughter was just six months old.
“I’m sure I was nervous on the first programme, but all I kept thinking was, I feel so guilty I’ve left her,” she said. “Straight after, I went home to breastfeed her, and came back to do a late shift.”
Next month, Amy marks 10 years in the evening hot seat at Look North. “A lot of things have changed since I started doing the main 6.30,” she said. “Behind the scenes, it’s a more slimmed down version of what it was,” she said. “Before the pandemic, there used to be two presenters, three camera operators, a floor manager and a make-up artist. And now there's just me and one, possibly two, people on the floor.
“But what we do is still the same, the heart of what the programme is hasn’t changed at all since it started 50 years ago, which is programme for our viewers, the voice for our region and also celebrating our region.”
Amy celebrates her own Look North decade here with a Yorkshire Post Magazine photo-shoot, wearing some of her favourite outfits in and around her home near York, which she shares with her husband of 13 years, Tim, a pop music writer (he has worked with S Club, Blue, Delta Goodrum, Eliza Doolittle, Toploader and many, many others), and their children Mabel, now 10, and Ren, nearly eight. They also have a little community of rather cute silkie and pekin bantams in the back garden.
Born and bred in Wakefield, Amy grew up with her parents, Yvonne and Jesus, older sister Katrina and younger brother Jimmy. Yvonne was just 18 when she met Spaniard Jesus in Majorca. “It was a holiday romance that obviously lasted,” said Amy. “We have always had that real sense of family. When we all get together, it’s very rowdy, with lots of laughter and Spanish food. My dad loves any excuse to cook a big dish so there’s always a paella or six tortillas on the go.”
Amy’s grandfather had market stalls at Castleford, and Yvonne and Jesus followed suit, becoming market traders in Wakefield, selling curtains and blinds (they made all the curtains in Amy’s house). Amy worked on the stall with them. “That’s what gave me tools to go into presenting, because in the markets, you meet people from all walks of life, some amazing characters who love a good natter.”
At Kettlethorpe High School, she began performing in stage shows - she was Annie at Wakefield Opera House and in panto at Bradford Alhambra with David Essex - and joined the National Youth Music Theatre. At 18 she got her first job, performing on a cruise ship. “It was my Jane Macdonald moment. To be able to travel the world and get paid for it was just amazing at that age," she said.
Her first presenting job was on SClub TV, and she spent three years in children’s television before presenting property and lifestyle shows on Sky channels.
She met Tim 20 years ago in London and they have been married for 13 years. Originally from Huddersfield, he is a pop music writer and has worked with S Club, Blue, Delta Goodrem, Eliza Doolittle, Toploader and many others. “I was presenting on the Disney Channel and I popped into a music studio because they needed someone to do a demo for Kylie. I sounded nothing like Kylie but I met my Jason. It turns out we had met a year before in a bar in Leeds both celebrating our birthdays. There were lots of sliding door moments. At that time I was interviewing the bands that he had written the songs for. I never thought I’d move to London and end up with a boyfriend from down the road but I guess northerners find each other.”
At 27, Amy decided to follow a new career path and paid for herself to study at Goldsmiths for a Masters in Broadcast Journalism, graduating with distinction, then immediately finding a job at Look North as a junior journalist, staying for three years. She was on attachment in Southampton when she fell pregnant with Mabel.
She is certain she could not do her job without the support of Tim and grandparents. “I am really lucky that I have got flexible working at the BBC,” she said. “Some weeks are a bit more insane than others.
“Even though things are changing a lot and it’s all about co-parenting, I think we all still feel guilty. I still feel that guilt, even now, though my children are 10 and seven, and they know what mummy does and what daddy does, and we both look after them, but there is still that guilt of not feeling like you're doing enough for both roles.”
For our fashion shoot, Amy wore clothes from her own wardrobe, and her hair and make-up was taken care of by her cousin, Anita Ashby, a professional make-up artist who used to work for the BBC and now does wedding make-up and masterclasses.
At 42, Amy loves fashion just as she always has, but she is a canny shopper (and no, there is no clothing allowance for work). “I’ll always wait for the sales or buy pre-loved,” she said. “I feel like I am more comfortable in my skin. I feel like I am in a brilliant time of my life.”
Turning 40 was not an issue and she feel much has changed for the better for women in the media. “It’s good to see older women on TV,” she said, adding: “I'd like to see more women of a certain age doing prime-time television.”
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Many of Amy’s favourite career moments of the last 10 years involve Harry Gration, who died last year, 18 months after he left Look North. Amy said: “It was almost like he only left yesterday. We still talk about him all the time. You don’t forget someone like Harry. He was a real mentor for me, and obviously a good friend, but he really guided me, especially in those early days.”
Leeds Rhinos player and Motor Neurone campaigner Rob Burrow and his wife, Lindsey, are also an inspiration. “Our children are the same age and I’m in awe of their strength and positivity,” Amy said. “I ran the first Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon earlier this year, which was an amazing event to be part of.”
Amy Garcia is hosting the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards on November 22 at Headingley Stadium.
Other key moments have included interviewing a succession of prime ministers and reporting from London on the Queen’s funeral and the King’s coronation. “It's amazing to have been part of such key moments in our history.” She will also never forget singing into a hairbrush in the make-up room with Rick Astley, or sharing her vinyl collection with Jason Donovan.
“I often get asked what celebrities I have enjoyed interviewing, and there have been lots over the years, but for me, there is nothing more satisfying than interviewing a real person, getting to know their story and giving them a voice,” Amy said. “Harry always said it was a privilege being in people’s living rooms every night, and it absolutely is - that’s what regional news is about.”