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.

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This section: People: Local Glasgow West End Characters

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Avatar of JimByrne West End based web Developer, writer, songwriter and musician. And the person who takes lots of photos for the Glasgow West End website.

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