<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Devon Life today click here

Angela Rippon: I’m proud to be from Devon

PUBLISHED: 14:06 19 February 2015 | UPDATED: 14:06 19 February 2015

Angela Rippon: a determined Devon maid who became one of our most loved, trusted and respected broadcasters

Angela Rippon: a determined Devon maid who became one of our most loved, trusted and respected broadcasters

Matt Austin Images 2013

Her story started in Devon and has seen her report the news from around the globe, but Angela Rippon is still proud to hail from these parts, as she tells ALEXIS BOWATER

Photography by Matt Austin

Angela Rippon: 'Perhaps in a way, I make things happen as a journalist and maybe that, if I have a skill at all, that’s what it is' Angela Rippon: 'Perhaps in a way, I make things happen as a journalist and maybe that, if I have a skill at all, that’s what it is'

Dawn light seeps over Penzance Bay. There’s a beautiful young woman in a sports car, speeding past the Mount. The water is preternaturally flat - and black. Here and there boats bob and people pluck from it feathery oiled bundles.

This is Angela Rippon on her way to report on the Torrey Canyon disaster. It’s 1967 and this terrible tableau vivant is the story of her life. It was the worst environmental catastrophe this country had ever seen.

“A phone call at 4 or 5 in the morning and being told: ‘Get yourself down to Penzance, a tanker’s gone aground’,” she recalls over coffee in her immaculate Devon home.

“In those days I had a red MGB convertible and I remember getting in the car, and driving down with the roof off to keep me awake and haring down there. I did the story I think for three days in tandem with everyone else at the BBC in Plymouth and getting it for The World Service, for national news, for local news, for everybody.

Angela Rippon: 'Perhaps in a way, I make things happen as a journalist and maybe that, if I have a skill at all, that’s what it is' Angela Rippon: 'Perhaps in a way, I make things happen as a journalist and maybe that, if I have a skill at all, that’s what it is'

“That was my first big national story; that was the first big, big story that I worked on and I remember that vividly. I think that is the brilliant thing of working in news, you are at the sharp end of it, you really are at the sharp end.”

And she’s been at the sharp end of it ever since: an extraordinary career spanning nearly 50 years in a notoriously cutthroat industry. A determined Devon maid who went from wanting to be a photojournalist, to becoming one of our most loved, trusted and respected broadcasters.

“I wanted to be a photographer, from when my father put a Box Brownie in my hand when I was seven years old,” she says.

So, with the natural instinct of a true news reporter, she began making breaks for herself. Opting out of a suggested career as a teacher and a degree in Cardiff she landed a job in the picture department of the Western Morning News, badgered the Plymouth Herald editor for a job and, when he couldn’t help, landed a traineeship in the newsroom of the Sunday Independent. It was a world of learning about newsrooms, about ‘hot metal’, copy going ‘onto the stone’ and the real meaning of ‘hot off the press.’

From there, having scoop after scoop led her to being scooped herself by the BBC in Plymouth, the transfer to screen and the photojournalist she always wanted to be: “I suppose in a way working in television is the ultimate in photojournalism. A combination of words and pictures,” she says. Now a visiting Professor of Journalism at Lincoln University, she tells her own students with a laugh that she didn’t even go to uni.

Those years may have been half a century ago, but the importance of this Devon training ground is as fresh and vital as ever it was. Her first contract, on a salary of six pounds and ten shillings, has been kept and treasured, as has the script from her first report, on the Saltash oyster beds.

It catapulted her to national stardom but also gave her a priceless professional grounding: hard-knock lessons learned in a real working environment.

It’s not hard to see why news editors and programme makers still come to her for outstanding reporting with warmth and gravitas. Her achievements are frankly boggling. She’s covered some of the biggest stories in the world. She jokes that she’s been around so long that she’s done four weddings and a funeral for the Royal Family. She’s now one of an award-winning trio of investigative reporters fronting the BBC consumer show Rip Off Britain.

The depth and wealth of her experience is absolutely priceless. As the first female journalist to present the BBC national television news on a permanent basis, I ask her what she thinks about ageism in TV now and whether women in the industry should fear a short shelf life. She’s clear: it’s not gender, rather attitude that defines career options.

“If you are not very good at what you do whether you are a man or a woman you will not survive,” she says. “There are some people (men as well as women) who work in television who have such grand ideas about themselves that they think they can be divas and you can’t any more.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you are unpleasant to work with then people are not going to work with you,” she adds.

I want to stand up and cheer. This no-nonsense clarity pervades everything she says. It’s the perspicuity of a trained reporter - and she’s bringing that to her latest campaign: to raise awareness about dementia.

As Ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society she opened Exeter’s five star dementia care home Green Tree Court in November and I watched as she gave a powerful and moving speech about how her mother’s Alzheimer’s triggered her campaigning drive to raise awareness.

At the time, seven years ago, insensitive journalists had asked her, twice, whether she was ‘embarrassed’ to talk about it - which brought her to question why anyone might think that, to turn a journalist’s eye onto the subject, and to realise that there was a massive gap in understanding.

“Dementia is one of the great medical and social challenges of the 21st century and it’s a challenge that requires a whole community response,” she says. “It is only when people are prepared to talk about it and to get the message across that you are going to make a difference.”

Spearheading this drive she is working with the government, teams of medical professionals, campaigners and communicators to create a ‘dementia-friendly’ generation and in just three years is well on the way to doing that.

I wonder aloud why she never went into politics. “No, good heavens above, no. Perhaps in a way, I make things happen as a journalist and maybe that, if I have a skill at all, that’s what it is. Maybe if I had gone into politics I wouldn’t have had such an influence.”

Or maybe if she had, we’d have already had another female PM by now.

1 comment

  • I remember as though it were yesterday, collecting Angela from school for her dear Mum and driving her home to Whitleigh Estate. It must have been 1956 or7 I think. What happy memories.

    Report this comment

    Bill Humble

    Thursday, March 12, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

More from People

Yesterday, 12:03

A very familiar face from our television screens is coming to the county soon in a completely different guise to his acting work

Read more
Friday, March 9, 2018

Devon has produced some of the world’s best talent when it comes to film, music, sport, TV or pretty much any other field you can think of. Here are 18 celebrities that have shaped popular culture in their own unique way

Read more
Thursday, March 8, 2018

From nurses to TV stars, chefs to campaigners and runners to cider makers, Devon’s women are some of the most inspirational people you’ll meet in day-to-day life. We celebrate 12 who’ve made a mark on our county’s cultural and social landscape

Read more
Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A unique steamship is being restored at Bideford for a new educational role, writes Owen Jones

Read more
Friday, March 2, 2018

Rural communities throughout the UK could be eligible to receive funding via the Calor Rural Community Fund from energy provider Calor

Read more
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Photographer Lee Pengelly urges everyone to get out onto our moors at night and looks upwards with their camera

Read more
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Branscombe residents have seen it all over the years: smugglers, ghosts and one of the most extraordinary shipwrecks the world has ever seen. Chrissy Harris meets a woman helping to preserve the history of this fascinating village…

Read more
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The South West Coast Path has led to romance for many couples. Now Becky Millington wonders, will she be next?

Read more
Thursday, February 8, 2018

We reveal the finalists of this year’s Devon Life Landscape Artist of the Year. All finalists will now display their work at Mayne Gallery in March with the winner revealed on opening night

Read more
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A new fashion exhibition at a landmark Devon National Trust property will give a timely insight into the links between fashion and suffrage

Read more
Monday, February 5, 2018

A century after the Representation of the People Act was passed, author Tracey Glasspool reveals how the campaign for women’s suffrage had been bitterly contested in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

They get to pose the difficult questions and put interviewees on the spot every day in ITV’s regional news programme, Westcountry News, but especially for Devon Life Kate Haskell turns the tables and gets the lowdown on presenters Ian Axton and Kylie Pentelow

Read more
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Recently we covered 13 celebrities you never knew were from Devon, because Devon is home to so many famous faces here are eight more that we missed…

Read more
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Founder member of Police Dog Hogan, James Studholme, tells Judy Spiers the story of how the country band got their most distinctive moniker

Read more
A+ South & South West
Great British Holidays advert link
Pure Weddings advert link
South West Life advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Devon's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search