Messages of thanks to ‘legendary’ BBC presenter retiring after 37 years
- Credit: BBC
The co-workers of reporting legend, Stewart White, have led the way in paying tribute to his remarkable 37-year career, following his shock retirement announcement.
Thousands of viewers took to social media to leave heartfelt sentiments after the 74-year-old revealed he would be leaving the BBC’s regional news programme, Look East.
In an emotional and moving statement, he surprised not only the programmes viewers but also his co-workers who were unaware of his departure.
Presenting his final show on Thursday, September 30, Mr White said his last goodbye at the end of the 6.30pm programme.
Co-presenter, Susie Fowler-Watt, said the news was “still sinking in”.
“It’s the end of a very special era. A master of his art and a wonderful co-presenter for 23 years. Live TV only works if you have each other’s backs and I knew he always had mine. It was an honour to sit beside him.”
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Mr White, who lives in south Norfolk, has won multiple awards including the Royal Television Society's award for Regional Television Presenter of the Year in 2013, and again in 2014 for his work on BBC Look East.
During his career, he has interviewed people such as former prime minister Edward Heath, actors Joan Collins, Sophia Loren, and Dirk Bogarde, as well as singer Michael Jackson - the last journalist in Britain to do so.
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He was also the first human to appear on Spitting Image and interviewed American actor Jimmy Stewart, about flying B-24’s from Norfolk during the Second World War.
While his first-ever job may have been a school holiday one in an old-fashioned grocer’s shop, he soon followed his dreams to become a studio manager at the BBC before moving in front of the microphone.
His first live broadcast for the BBC began with a short announcement to introduce a programme in Vietnamese on the BBC World Service. Following this, he moved to BBC Radio Brighton and then BBC Radio Derby, where he produced and presented a variety of news and entertainment programmes.
When Mercia Sound launched in Coventry forty years ago, he presented a popular weekly country music show there before joining BRMB Radio in Birmingham, where he presented the daily mid-morning programme.
It was around this time that Mr White made the move from radio to television and joined ATV (later to become Central Television), working on a number of programmes including Star Soccer, Something Different, and several network documentaries.
In 1984, He became the presenter of BBC Look East and also worked on weekly programmes for BBC Radio Norfolk. For many years he was also the voice behind the BBC Radio 5 Live football coverage in East Anglia.
Many of his BBC co-workers have thanked him for his years of service to broadcast.
News producer, Matt Precey, revealed how Mr White’s announcement had been top secret, right until the final moment.
"We weren’t expecting it either,” he said.
“Running order changed at the last minute to insert his farewell speech at the end of the show. So long to the fellow music nut in the newsroom and a brilliant broadcaster. Go spend more time with your guitar, bro.”
Helen Thomas, BBC England director, said: “Stewart is a broadcasting giant. He’s had an incredible career at the BBC and achieved many, many things but most importantly earned the trust, respect and affection of our viewers.
“It’s typical of Stewart that he has asked to keep his final programme a quiet affair but I do want to pay tribute to a talented broadcaster, a brilliant journalist, and a kind colleague. We all wish him well for the future and thank him for his immense contribution over four decades.”
Look East reporter, Mike Liggins, added: “So, it's farewell to a legend. A broadcasting hero. Thanks, Stewart for everything.”
And the programme’s assistant editor, Ben Kendall, said: “He’s one of the people who made me feel most welcome, taught me a lot and I admire him enormously.
“We’ll miss him enormously.”
A host of household names took to Twitter to pay tribute.
Writer, presenter, and actor, Stephen Fry, said: “Norfolk evenings will never be quite the same. Farewell, old boy. You will be sorely missed.”
Norwich City’s, Paul McVeigh, added: “What an absolute legend.”
And Norfolk-based presenter Simon Thomas said: “Legend. What a career Stewart White. Look East will never be quite the same.”
David Whiteley, who worked alongside Mr White, described it as "the end of an incredible era.”
“When I was at the BBC, Stewart was kind, supportive, and always gave me the most brilliant advice and guidance. Guidance and friendship that I will always treasure.”
Mr White will also be missed by the hundreds of people he interviewed over the years.
GP Lucy Henshall recalled being interview by him two years ago.
Dr Henshall said: “Stewart White conducted my first and only live BBC TV interview – about the rising pressures on GPs and their increased risk of suicide. Such a good interviewer, capturing the essence of it all.”
Local teacher, Cheryl Faery, recalled her students meeting with him.
“He was wonderful when my students took over BBC Look East as part of BBC School Report a few years ago. A real gentleman and an inspiration to them.”
And Maria Plumb added: “One memory I have is going into Radio Norfolk early one Saturday morning to be interviewed about a new young carers’ helpline, with some young carers, to talk about their experiences.
“After talking about the new service, he proceeded to politely ignore me, instead interviewing the young carers with such care and professionalism. His attention and compassion were amazing.
“When the interview finished, he got a producer to look after the music and spent ages talking to each young person and having photos. I stood back and watched some magic happen. Top bloke, he made those young people’s day.”
Finally, the Chartered Institute of Journalists added: “Many thanks and huge appreciation to Stewart White for his brilliant contribution and service to broadcasting at BBC Look East for 37 years. One of the very best.”
Mr White leaves both his roles presenting the 6.30pm evening news on BBC One and the weekly regional political programme on Sundays.