Kay Burley at Wigan Youth Zone

6/8/2018

Another great Business Breakfast at Wigan Youth Zone with Roger Draper interviewing Sky's Kay Burley, who was born and brought up in the Beech Hill area of Wigan just a few hundred yards from our offices.

She talked about a career which saw her progress from her first job as a junior reporter at The Wigan Evening Post and Chronicle on to Red Rose Radio and then TV as a newsreader, reporter and occasional stand in on TV-AM back in the 80s. Her big break, which at the time must also have been her biggest gamble, was joining a new broadcaster Sky and the first 24 hour news channel where she's been for the last 30 years.

Her career has clearly been underpinned by self-confessed tenacity, which I guess comes with the territory for a reporter especially as she's very petite, just over five foot tall and female so would've had to sharpen her elbows in many a media scrum to get to the front. This drive and determination was evident throughout the interview, right from her first job in fact. Having received dozens rejection letters from numerous local papers, she eventually got in to see the Editor of the local Evening Post - just for a chat, not an interview - but made sure she made the most of the opportunity with some thorough planning and preparation. She mentioned a maxim I share and which is framed in her office: 'fail to prepare, and you're preparing to fail'. She made such an impression she was offered a job on the spot.

As a junior reporter she learned her trade through typical local news stories - fetes, store openings and court reports - but one day picked up a call in the office about someone's neighbour who'd left their washing out. She decided to go and investigate discovering the scene of a double murder which became national news. The press descended and she made lots of contacts which she exploited when moving onto London and the Nationals.

Her list of interviewees and stories covered are almost endless, the most unforgettable being 12 hours on air during the Twin Towers attack and the death of Princess Diana. Her happiest, reporting on London's award of the 2012 Olympics. Our bid was given little or no chance, but she 'had a feeling' things would turn out well so she cajoled her boss into letting her go to Singapore for the announcement. She shared her memories of the night with her interviewer, Roger Draper, who was in the bid team and is a former Chief Executive of Sport England and the Lawn Tennis Association. They talked about last minute pitches in the venue's elevators and how the French Prime Minister unwittingly tipped the bid away from Paris, the favourite, to London by denigrating Finnish food and the Finns who switched their allegiance.

Her feisty and tenacious attitude was again, literally, at the fore when trying to interview Trump, this was back before he'd even announced his Presidential bid. Waiting with the Press pack she shouted an awkward question only to be blanked and told by his PR team to never go near him again. She then noticed a group of supporters who were getting autographs. So she forced her way to the front, hid her microphone under a notebook (mindful that security wouldn't think it was a gun), and then whipped it out to ask her question when he signed her pad. She managed to get a 10 minute interview.

Both Kay and Roger are proud Wiganers who clearly 'done good' and it's great to see them taking the time to come back to their home town. Their hugely successful and inspirational careers are testament to what drive, determination and making your own luck can lead to... when combined with talent.

Author

Will Bentley