Goodbye, after 42 years: Broadcasting legend Harry Gration to leave BBC following cutbacks

13 Oct 2020 @ 5.06 pm
| News

BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration has decided to leave the broadcaster after 42 years.

The legendary presenter of BBC One’s Yorkshire bulletins will have his last evening on the iconic red sofa on Wednesday, October 21.

His departure follows cutbacks to regional programming brought in by Helen Thomas, the director of BBC England, which meant Look North could only have one presenter.

Harry joined the BBC in 1978 and has presented Look North since 1982. Following his decision to leave, his co-presenter, Amy Garcia, will continue as lead presenter.

Helen Thomas called him a “broadcasting legend”, adding: “He is a true professional, a Yorkshire treasure and it has been a privilege to work alongside him.”

Harry said: “For the past four decades, it’s been a privilege to meet the people of the county I love. Make no mistake, these good folk are the heartbeat of the programme.

“I’ve worked with the best of the best and leave Look North in the good hands of Amy and the team, although I don’t know how Paul Hudson is going to cope without me checking his forecasts!

“Seriously though, I’ll miss my good old mate.

“I’m looking forward to some new broadcasting adventures and some special time with my family and a certain one-year-old!”

Top talent

Harry Gration, Amy Garcia and Paul Hudson hop aboard the sofa in York ahead of another fundraising challenge in 2018. Photograph: Richard McDougall

York resident Harry was born in Bradford, and brought up in Leeds and York, attending St Peter’s School in the city.

He began filing match reports for the BBC while working as a history teacher in the mid 1970s. He joined BBC Radio Leeds as sports editor in 1978, before going on to commentate on the Olympics and Paralympics and present ionic shows such as Grandstand, Sportsnight and even Match of the Day.

He has covered nine Olympic Games for the BBC and won two Royal Television Society awards for his sports documentaries: White Rose in Africa in 1992 and Dickie Bird: A Rare Species in 1997.

He won the prestigious RTS Best Presenter award twice. 

Harry has completed several exhausting challenges for BBC Children in Need and BBC Sport Relief, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes. These included pushing a sofa around Yorkshire and walking 120 miles with one leg strapped to weather presenter Paul Hudson.

Harry continued: “I’ve interviewed every Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher, covered every major Look North story even at the expense of my holidays, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“I’ve always lived the story. Horrendous events such as the devastating news of Jo Cox’s death, the disastrous floods of recent times, the Bradford Riots, Hillsborough, have always affected me. They were always an assault on my county.

“Stand-out moments include raising over £800,000 on a tandem, pushing a sofa and being tied to Paul: three challenges my body will never forget!

“And then to be awarded an MBE for Services to Broadcasting. I know I served each and every one of you.”

‘He will be missed’

On the famous Look North red sofa

Amy was among those who praised Harry for a long and distinguished BBC career.

She said: “It has been an absolute honour to share the red sofa with Harry for the past seven years:  a Yorkshire legend, a mentor and a dear friend.  

“Look North is a family and Harry has been at the heart of it for so long.  He will be missed by the whole team and our loyal viewers.”

Director of BBC England Helen Thomas worked with Harry for 15 years.

She said: “To call Harry a broadcasting legend would be an understatement. Over the past 40 years he has been a constant and reassuring presence on our screens, and it is testament to his skill that he has been as much at home interviewing the people of Yorkshire as he has prime ministers and royalty.

“Despite his extraordinary tenure, Harry never lost his passion for news, particularly regional news, and that shined through every evening.

“His professionalism, journalistic talent, sense of humour and kind nature around the newsroom will be greatly missed, but he will always be a friend of Look North.

“I’d like to pass on my personal sincere thanks to Harry for being the trusted voice and face of Look North for so many years – he is a true professional, a Yorkshire treasure and it has been a privilege to work alongside him.”

Under plans to make £25 million in savings, the BBC is to cut 450 jobs in its English regional TV news and current affairs, local radio and online news.

It meant the end of some popular presenters on BBC Radio York – and that regional news bulletins like Look North would be presented by one person instead of two.

Amy Garcia will be lead presenter for the 6.30pm evening news on BBC Look North, which reaches more than 2 million people in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire each week.