Amy Garcia Celebrates 10 Years On The BBC Look North Sofa
Wakefield's Amy Garcia is celebrating 10 years on the BBC Look North sofa
Born and bred in Wakefield, Amy worked for her parents on Wakefield Market, on their curtain and soft-furnishings stall, and at 18 she got a job singing on a cruise ship for six months, which she calls her ‘Jane McDonald moment’. At 19, Amy went straight into presenting children’s TV programmes including S Club TV for CITV with Holly Willoughby, then CBBC and The Disney Channel. ‘That was how I got onto television,’ she explains. ‘Then I went onto more factual shows for SKY.’ When Amy was 27 she studied for an MA in TV Journalism at Goldsmiths, University of London, and, as she says, ‘the rest is history’. ‘I became a junior journalist at Look North and worked my way up. Time’s flown.’
Having already had TV experience, as a junior journalist Amy’s editor would send her out on feature reports, such as for Children in Need. ‘Behind the scenes, I was being trained up to do bulletins,’ she tells us. ‘Back then, we used to have shorter bulletins and so I started on the shorter ones then built up to be the 6.30pm cover. At that point I got an attachment to go to Southampton as a senior journalist to report and present there, and I was also working on 60 Seconds in London for BBC Three.
‘The main gig [at BBC Look North] came up when I was on maternity leave. I got a call from my editor saying it had been advertised and I thought okay, it’s the dream job, I’ll go for it because I don’t want to regret not having gone for a once-in-a-decade opportunity. I thought, I probably won’t get it and maybe that’s for the best because I’ve got a three-month-old baby – but of course I got the job! Everything was thrown into chaos as I started the job when my daughter was around seven months old. It was a massive change for everyone because not only did we have a new baby but we were also relocating back up to Yorkshire. There were quite a few years of to-ing and fro-ing between London for my husband’s job and Wakefield for mine, and lots of handing my little girl over on train station platforms so I could work a shift and she could be looked after by her grandparents in Wakefield.’
Amy now lives in York with her husband and their two children. ‘There have been huge challenges in the fact that I’ve got a young family,’ she says. ‘Behind the scenes that’s always been such a juggle. I’m lucky that the BBC are so flexible with their working hours. When I first started I think a lot of women had to choose between having a career and being a mum and I was really lucky that my husband also had flexibility, and I had grandparents who were really hands-on and could help. I’m so lucky to have had a really brilliant family around me who’ve always picked up the pieces when I’ve not been able to.
‘When I first started I don’t think many of the presenters had young families for that reason. I tended to be around presenters who had children who were in their teens – the women anyway (it was very different for the men). But I’m seeing more and more women my age with flexible working hours. That’s great because you reflect the audience that you serve and there are plenty of mums out there who watch Look North who often come up to me and say “I love the fact you can balance it all”. I’m proud I’ve got the job for that reason, and I’ve made it work for me, and for my family as well.’
No two days are ever the same at BBC Look North. ‘Yesterday I was in Chesterfield (so I was driving for almost four hours) doing a piece covering a month since the floods hit North Derbyshire and South Yorkshire,’ Amy says. At other times, she is in meetings, preparing for interviews, tailoring them in the edit suite, and preparing for the programme by putting scripts together and watching the packages. ‘On busy days I’m often in the edit suite in my curlers doing my makeup while someone’s editing alongside me, then running up and down the studio doing different pre-records. It’s brilliant, I love it because no day is ever the same – I guess that’s what’s so exciting about it. And I get to meet some amazing people! People often ask who are my favourite celebrities who I’ve interviewed, but for me it’s more about interviewing normal, everyday people and getting the best out of them. I get far more joy out of that and telling their stories than I do sharing a record collection with Jason Donovan (although that was fun!).
‘I get to meet some amazing people! People often ask who
are my favourite celebrities who I’ve interviewed, but for me
it’s more about interviewing normal, everyday people and getting the best out of them’
‘Yorkshire people are so friendly. I was in London over the weekend and I love the bright lights of the city, it’s an exciting place to be, but there’s a real friendliness and familiarity you get with Yorkshire people. You walk down the street and people will always say good morning. They always have done since I was little, and I’ve always loved that. Yorkshire people have got a really good sense of humour too, and I think it’s a humour you don’t find anywhere else.’
Amy never thought she’d be celebrating a decade at BBC Look North. ‘To be honest I thought I’d get found out after about six months then that would be it, and they’d say “no, she’s not for us”,’ she laughs. ‘So I’m gob-smacked I’m still here 10 years on.’ Over that time she has covered plenty of major moments, from the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the King’s Coronation, to the Tour de France's visit to Yorkshire in 2014. ‘That’s been amazing to be a part of,’ she reflects. ‘Obviously we lost Harry Gration.’ Harry was one of the main anchors of BBC Look North, an all-round Yorkshire legend, and Amy’s co-presenter until his retirement in 2020. ‘That was really sad,’ she continues. ‘He was very much the heartbeat of Look North, and when he died it was a huge shock to the whole team. I think it’s really testament to how the team really are a family. I’m so lucky that I look forward to coming to work. I love my job and I really love the people that I work with.’
The things Amy has enjoyed covering most have been the challenges. Recently, she took part in the Children in Need job swap week. Throughout the week Amy took on the role of bin woman, high rise window cleaner, farmer, teacher, chip shop worker and fisherwoman before rushing back to the studio to bring locals the main stories of the day. ‘Harry and I did silly things like that over the years to raise money for charity but also to give the viewers a laugh,’ she says. ‘I think it’s nice for them to see behind the prim and properness of being a news presenter and see the real person. I’m just a normal Wakefield girl and I think it’s nice for people to get a glimpse of that sometimes.’
Being bitten about 10 times by crabs means Amy might not be too keen to rush back onto a fishing boat, but she does enjoy paddle-boarding in good weather. How does she spend her downtime? ‘Tidying the house,’ she laughs. ‘I did The Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon earlier this year so my downtime was spent trying to clock up ridiculous amounts of miles, but I’ve ticked that box now so I might have to find something else to fill my time!’
Maybe we’ll see her elsewhere on screen. ‘We’ve had some amazing programmes over the last 10 years that have been made in Yorkshire,’ she says. ‘Yorkshire is really up there with the top locations in terms of filming dramas. It’s been great to see those growing but also being a part of them.’ Amy was in the first series of Happy Valley, as a cameo news presenter. ‘I’ve lost count of the amount of people who’ve said to me recently that they’ve seen me i
‘I think sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to take
a huge leap forward and to find a new route.
It’s all about hard work and being nice to people’
While Amy never thought she’d end up as a journalist, on reflection she realises she’s always been interested in people’s stories. ‘Even when I was working on the market stall and meeting loads of different people,’ she says. ‘I think my advice to my younger self would be don’t worry, it will all work out in the end. Just work hard. I think that’s probably my message to aspiring journalists as well. You’re going to get knock-backs like I did, but focus on what you want and go for it. When I went to uni, I was 27 and actually it’s my husband who said “you’re going to be working for a long time, so what is it you really want to do?”. Taking a year out in the grand scheme of things is nothing. I think sometimes you’ve got to take a step back to take a huge leap forward and to find a new route. It’s all about hard work and being nice to people.
‘For me, success is about having a job I love and a work-life balance and I think if I can carry on doing that then I’m onto a winner. This is my dream job so I’m happy where I am, but it’s about keeping it going, changing with the times and growing the programme for a new audience.’
Watch BBC Look North on BBC One and iPlayer.