Local Characters: Lesley Riddoch: Broadcaster and Journalist

Lesley Riddoch

A woman with a big personality and emphatic presence Lesley Riddoch, BBC broadcaster could be the West End's prize contender for an oscar in communications. However, not only has she been very successful in her chosen career of journalism and broadcasting - in her forty years she has made her mark in a number of ways.

A interesting phenemonen in which she was particularly involved was the buyout of the Island of Eigg by the local community. Lesley worked with the Islanders to develop the community buy out plan and then became a Trustee of the Isle of Eigg Trust, which masterminded the buyout two years after its formation.

Tom Shields of The Diary, The Herald puts an interesting spin on this story:

'It is entirely appropriate that Lesley Riddoch, the Broadcaster and larger than life feminist, should be actively involved in Eigg.' He explains that: 'The other name for Eigg is the Island of the Big Woman. These were the Big Women who spurned St Donnan's Christian ways in favour of pagan pratices. Conflict was inevitable as a result St Donnan was beheaded and de-balled by the big woman. Those, who know Ms Riddoch will confirm that nothing much has changed.' (The Herald, June 14, 1999)

(Didn't stop Tom lending his support to the cause - arriving at the party to celebrate the buyout of the Island with a large supply of champagne - and glasses!)

Currently Lesley has her own daily two-hour news and debate radio programme on BBC Scotland - the show is very lively and providing it is topical no issue is too big or too small to be included. Fairly and squarely, in her own unique way, she is intrepid in putting the big boys on the spot, whilst ensuring that the little guys have their say. She traipses from topic to topic with much ease and considerable aplomb - Madonna's Scottish Wedding, Economic issues such as Scotland's Tourism Policies, Policing in Northern Ireland, Blood Transfusion Services in New Zealand, Food Safety and Coastal Erosion......

Refreshingly realistic, knowledeable and passionate - no sitting on the fence for Ms Riddoch - after each programme you feel resoundingly reasurred of who she is and where she sits in relation to a wide array of issues. However, totally serious she is not - her ascerbic wit may seem a threat to some participants but on the other hand they can rest assured that they will not be patronised. If they have something of interest to add to the discussion Lesley will tease it out and if they haven't she will not hesitate in moving along. All sorts of topics become interesting as they are considered from all angles.

Jimmy Reid (The Herald, November 13) provides a pertinent description of the broadcaster. She has "a smile in her voice and acute mind with an ease of manner that makes the complicated appear to be a bit of a dawdle'.

Brought up in Belfast Lesley moved to Glasgow in 1973, she studied at Oxford University where she got an honours degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and was the first woman and non Tory to be President of the Student's Union. After a further year of study at the University of Wales she gained a diploma in Journalism.

Lesley has worked on a number of magazines, newspapers and was Assistant Editor at the Scotsman from 1994 - 1996 and was editor for the day of the Scotswoman - an edition written and produced by the paper's female staff. Prior to this she was founder and director of the feminist magazine 'Harpies and Quines' which managed to survive court action by Harpers and Queen and despite difficulties with finance survived for three years.

Her journalistic skills and broadcasting abilities have gained her many accolades - she began her career on Radio Scotland with her own programme - the aptly named 'Speaking Out' which won countless awards including The Best Talk Show 1994 from American Women in TV and Radio, the 1992 Plain English Special Award and 1992 Norman McEwen Award for Civil Liberties. In 1993 Lesley was Cosmopolitan Magazine's Woman of the Year for Communication. In 1999 she was Contributing Editor of the Sunday Herald when this new paper was launched.

She has also been a regular presenter on TV in programmes such as Channel 4's Powerhbouse and People's Parliament and BB2's great favourite Midnight Hour. Her zest for life keeps her busy away from her career and her zeal and commitment has been thoroughly harnessed to a number of projects. I first met Lesley a year or so ago when Jim was providing Internet Consultany to the Worldwoman Project - of which Lesley is the founder - Worldwoman aims to publish a weekly paper written by women on the Internet. It is an ambitious project requiring the drive exhibited by Lesley on such a regular basis.

Since I first met Lesley we have had a few conversations - ask her what she is up to and you are immediately drawn into her own interesting concerns and unique ideas: the importance of radio to rural communities in Zimbabwe; her plans for some Winter Fair Weather Walking; and yes, she is thinking about writing a book on the topic of drink and its stranglehold on the Scots.

Lesley has also raised the question as to whether or not the West End is interesting if you are not a drinker:

'Having given up booze it may be time to reappraise the West End.....is it a drink sopped paradise.....or more buzzy and resilient than that? Have I been speeding through the shops and streets too fast to get the rest of the craic? I'll be finding out!!! And if there is a group of not too hard drinking bold thinkers and would be doers out there - let's meet'.

You could be contributing to that book and then in a programme or part of a new project ...... who knows? for Ms Riddoch the possibilities seem endless.


Your picture tempts us with the wee-est glimpse of Lesley's Lycra-clad legs...

Are the rest of them worth looking at?
--John Kelly ( johndkelly at talk21 dot com ) from Diss, Norfolk on 4.5.2003; 19:08:57 Uhr

In your ridiculous puff of the saintly Lesley, you forget to mention that she can be one awful 'pain in the arse' as I hear some in the West End say! Not sure if this is a common view but no doubt others may advise.
--Ian Campbell ( ian dot r dot campbell at btinternet dot com ) from Britain on 21.9.2002; 0:21:29 Uhr

I'vew meant to write my criticistm of L Riddoch for some time.

She has one paticular area of poor communication and thats when she is trying to talk the Scots, or the local, to seem chummy, you see.
Fact that its a mixture of Irish and Glaswegan means for non west-coasters much of the nuance is often lost.
At times ther's the falling into young speak- such as the use of 'well'.. this and that.

For an Oxford Hons Graduate and journalist her frequent failure to get to the correct word for a thing or idea is disconcerting- so many times its the 'thingy' for example.
To be fair she is lively but too often, gets carried away with breathless opinionated sentences that last as long as a paragraph and no doubt lose half the listeners.
Self-opinionated - yes, the enthusiasm is forced to arrive with stong self opinion, which too often drowns out the phone-in person.
I can enjoy when Lesley gets the most out of someone in the studio, the 'cut the crap' approach, and I suppose its often justified.

However, I prefer the programme when she's on holiday or off on a jaunt, the presenter today, was excellent and his skill in handling the programme format and the correspondents was more mature and thus, rewarding.
I'd favour any move to get rid of Ms Riddoch, BBC could do better.
ian Dick
--Ian Dick ( iandbuzz at hotmail dot com ) from Scotland on 9.9.2002; 21:07:11 Uhr


I've seen my 2002 post got some stick. Note I revised it later on this thread in 2005 when I had revised some of my views to the positive. On long reflection, my original criticisms stem from what I have come to see as there being many differing Scottish perspectives which don't suit us all, rather than focussing on what I didn't like about L-R in 2002. Regrettably we are still mired in and East-West, Catholic-Protestant, world view in many pairts. Edinburgh has become anglicised/cosmopolitan, Glasgow still more gutsy but still also more biggoted. The coming possible crash in public services and 2-3 more years of recession will test all our nerves and see some political battls here and with Westminster , escallate. There will be much for L-R to get here teeth into. I also share a countryside and wilderness view of our lovely country, and I appreciate Lesleys' campaigning and perspectives on this. Ian Dick

Ian Dick | Sat Oct 24 2009

I am no-one ( a snr mgr in "a "coucil)and was inspired as a "fighting woman" /by a guest spot at a "womens network "at least 20 yrs ago when she "bore all" and was stroppy by the standards at the time - god that - they need stroppy- time has moved on - I could do with your help now and so could lots of other womwen Can you speak again in Oct 2006 ? or any other date ? we will comply ?- my email will be attached to this - you were / and are good - give us a hand here ? CF

christine.feechan | Tue Aug 15 2006

Firstly, is the Iain Campbell who describes Lesley as being a pain in the arse the same Iain Campbell who often lives, and mutters under his breath, on the Isle of Eigg? If so I sincerely congratulate him on coming out and taking a stand, far the best approach. I only hope he continues to engage in open dialogue, as a supporter of Lesley and the Eigg buy out we need him to do so. Lesley's greatest contibution has been in teaching people to firstly say bugger off and then secondly to listen to the reply. Iain's getting there at last. Maxwell MacLeod

Maxwell Macleod | Sun Jan 01 2006

As someone who listened in from Northern Ireland, where I now live, I think the beeb has made a big blunder. When I heard the show (usually through Listen Again on the internet) I often found it informative,entertaining and sometimes provocative - not a mix we often get from the radio. The replacement, like the stand-in's when Lesley was away, would be better employed in another kind of show. Bring the big wummin back!

Frank Rafferty | Thu Jun 30 2005

Will someone tell me where Lesley has gone - and why did she desert the best programme on Radio Scotland?? Yes, Lesley MADE that show her own - Alex is very good but unfortunately not a patch on Lesley when it commes to incisive questioning. Has Mr Jack, our First Minister, had her removed??? I THINK I SHOULD BE TOLD.

isobel e. mclean | Sat Apr 02 2005

Alex Bell is good and has a good listenable approach to the established programe format.However, Lesley is just to hard an act to follow.Bring Lesley back.

Jim Ross | Thu Feb 10 2005

Well now Les has gone to make way for Garry, you can see that its a more professionally presented programme. But what is the reason for a good! interaction news show? At times she could provide better incisive journalism in the manner of extruding the real feelings of contributors, which so far, Garry has not really attempted. So in spite of her ethno-centred quasi --Belfast -Cathness- Scotland that is some Riddochese Brigadoon, that even so seems to come to life on her programmes! I'm more inclined to ask her back! But I know the cynic in me says she is now away like the Pied Piper for more money. We never see the real Lesley. The Next Lesley will be a BBC subcontractor, a consultant. She'd given in to more money, but shafted the listeners. More fool her, more loss us. Ian.

Ian Dick | Thu Feb 03 2005

The sudden death of Lesley's midday- treat, easily the best of its genre, leaves me inconsolable. Lesley WAS the show - no other will do! John Andrews

John Andrews | Mon Jan 31 2005

I would agree wholeheartedly with Douglas. What has happened to the Lesley Riddoch show? This show was, without doubt, the best current affairs show on Radio Scotland presented by an extremely intelligent, capable, quick witted and professional presenter. The current replacement, I would have to say, falls far short of the mark - talk about dumbing down the BBC!!

John Telfer | Thu Jan 13 2005

Ian Dick, thankfully, seems to be in a minority. Whilst entitled to his opinion, I take an opposite view. I tune into Radio Scotland at noon just to catch Lesley's programme....and am disappointed when there is a 'stand-in.' It just doesn't have the same 'buzz'in Lesley's absence. I am a big fan! She is fiesty, no-nonsense, and cuts to the chase.

Douglas A. Yates | Thu Apr 01 2004

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