For nearly forty years Alan Titchmarsh has remained an ever-present face on our television screens and in the last decade has extended his talent to incorporate novels and poetry. Beginning his television career in 1979 as the horticultural reporter for the BBC’s heavyweight current affairs show Nationwide, Alan quickly became accustomed to the television studio and producers began to realise his natural flare in front of the camera. Such popularity coincided with the launch of daytime television in 1985 and Alan was put forward to present the entertainment series Open Air alongside relatively unknown presenters including Eamonn Holmes.
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In 1991 following his success on Open Air, Alan secured a presenting spot on the lunchtime talk show Pebble Mill At One which later became shortened to Pebble Mill as the time slot changed to accommodate the BBC One O’Clock News. This was where Alan’s talents as a journalist and broadcaster really came to the foreground as he was tasked with interviewing a diverse array of stars on live television. Sharing the scheduled daily episodes with showbiz reporter Ross King and TV Legend Gloria Hunniford, Alan was determined to put his own unique stamp on the show. This formula proved popular for over five years until the BBC sadly called time on Pebble Mill. Yet the experience of presenting a daily chat show would stand him in great stead for the latter part of his career.
Returning to horticulture in 1997 with the BBC’s gardening make-over series Ground Force, Alan enjoyed huge success alongside his co-hosts Charlie Dimmock and Tommy Walsh. It took him a while to get his head around the concept of the show as with just two days to renovate a garden from scratch, Alan couldn’t see how this would be possible under such tight circumstances. Yet when he saw the extensive team and careful precision which surrounded the show he realised that this was something very special. Averaging ten million viewers per episode at its peak, Ground Force became appointment to view television for the whole family. For the best part of seven years Alan presided over some extraordinary feats of horticulture as the team always successfully transformed stereotypical backyards into gardening paradise.
Although Ground Force merely ran for eight years (Alan stepped down from presenting duties for the last series and Charlie Dimmock was promoted), it was to have a huge influence on the interior design shows of the early 21st century and helped to spawn many of Britain’s DIY shows which still dominate the television schedule. Popular shows such as DIY SOS owe so much to the impact which Ground Force made two decades previously. Yet Ground Force wasn’t the only horticultural show which Alan became synonymous with as in 1996 Alan replaced Geoff Hamilton for BBC2’s long running gentle educational programme for people with green fingers. This was tinged with the sad news of Hamilton’s deterioration of health and sadly died not long after Alan took over. This was extremely difficult for Alan as Geoff Hamilton was a dear friend who he shared many things including contributing to his horticultural magazine. So to follow in his footsteps gave Alan have a mixture of emotions. Alan presented Gardeners World for six years until 2002 when he promptly handed the series to Monty Don.
Such an association with all things green made Alan the perfect candidate to preside over the BBC’s coverage of the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Originally merely a one off half hour programme on BBC2 in 1979, the popularity of the event grew and grew and it wasn’t long before the BBC broadcasted nightly programmes across the BBC. For over thirty years Alan anchored the event which combined his two great passions for horticulture and presenting live television.
A move to ITV in 2007 reunited Alan with the daytime chat show format. Over a decade after leaving the BBC’s Pebble Mill, The Alan Titchmarsh Show reminded television audiences of his flair for live entertainment and chat. A glamorous array of celebrities sat on his sofa for a non-confrontational easy going conversation. Like all great broadcasters, Alan makes his guests feel as if they are in his lounge talking solely to him. This is something which looks easy on screen but is so difficult to perfect and only the best can pull it off. The Alan Titchmarsh Show ran for seven years and saw Alan get up close and personal with some of the cream of entertainment.
In 2016 ITV had the vision to update the gardening makeover show for modern audiences and launched Love Your Garden which followed a similar structure as Ground Force but with a bigger emotional element. With its mission being to transform gardens for those living challenging lives, Love Your Garden is a makeover show with a conscience and this may be the secret of its success.
Setting his gardening credentials aside, Alan has also published over ten novels about life and relationships. As someone who writes every day, prose and creative writing is something that comes second nature to Alan. His most recent novel,The Scarlet Nightingale surrounds seventeen-year-old Rosamund Hanbury as she leaves behind the endless summers of her coastal Devonshire home for the fast pace of high society and under the supervision of her aunt she learns how to act like a lady. Alan is now embarking on a marketing campaign to promote the book and has been unveiled as a speaker at this year’s Isle Of Wight Literary Festival which no doubt will be a roaring success. It was a great privilege to speak with Alan and wish him all the very best for the rest of his glittering career.