Judith was born in Stockport, Cheshire. Her sister Sandra (Sandy) Chalmers also performed on Children’s Hour for BBC Manchester and later worked in London as editor of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Judith began broadcasting for the BBC when she was only 13, after being selected for BBC Northern Children’s Hour by producer Trevor Hill. She presented many programmes from Manchester, including Children’s Television Club (1956) and Mainly for Women (1957).
Judith moved to London, taking up a role as a BBC TV in-vision announcer (1960 – 1963). Other TV presenter roles included: the regional TV news magazine programme Town and Around (BBC, 1960 – 1961); Come Dancing (BBC, 1961 – 1965); schools programme, Signpost (1961 – 1965); children’s programmes, What’s New? (1962) and Hobbies Club (BBC, January 1963 – February 1963); Henley Royal Regatta (BBC Two, 1964 – 1966, 1968). She narrated children’s programme Hikey’s Treasure (1960) and was one of the voices on Rex the Runt (BBC Two, 1998). She was a panellist on Juke Box Jury (1963 – 1967) and a team member on Celebrity It’s a Knockout (BBC One, 1975 – 1978). For many years, she described the fashion at Royal Ascot (BBC One, 1963 – 1967, 1978 and 1985).
In 1972, Judith became a regular face on ITV. She regularly presented ITV’s daytime magazine programme Good Afternoon and its successors (1972 – 1983), which included Afternoon Plus and A Plus. She also regularly appeared annually at The Derby, as well as commentating on royal premieres and at state occasions. However, she is undoubtedly best known as the popular presenter of ITV’s travel series Wish You Were Here? initially working alongside Chris Kelly and later with John Carter (1974 – 1987); in later years, she was a reporter on the programme (1988 – 2003).
In the 1980s, she was a regular host of the Miss World contest on ITV (for five years) and she also presented the associated UK beauty pageants such as Miss United Kingdom and the British Beauty Championships. She appeared as a celebrity guest on the Terry Wogan version of Blankety Blank (BBC One, 1981 – 1983) and in 2001, on Lily Savage’s Blankety Blank. She received a ‘Gotcha’ from Noel Edmonds on Noel’s House Party (BBC One, 4th February 1995).
Her television appearances in later years were more sparse: spots on programmes such as This Morning (2004 – 2005); contributor to The Way We Travelled (BBC Two, 2003); Castle in the Country (BBC Two, 2005); panellist on Through the Keyhole (BBC Two, 2006); Hot Property (ITV and Channel 4); she featured in an edition of the series Celebrity Antiques Road Trip (BBC Two, 2013) with her son Mark; she took part in Channel 5’s Celebrity Taste of Italy (2017).
In the 1960s, she presented two major BBC radio programmes: Family Favourites and Woman’s Hour (c. 1967 – 1971); she also appeared as the original Susan in The Clitheroe Kid and was a foil for Ken Dodd in his radio show. Judith was a presenter on BBC Radio 2 (1987) and she also presented its mid-morning show (1990 – 1992), taking over from Ken Bruce, who resumed this slot again following her departure from the station.
She married fellow broadcaster Neil Durden-Smith in 1964 and their son Mark has followed in their parents’ broadcasting footsteps. The couple are both long-term supporters of the Lord’s Taverners cricket charity.
Judith was awarded an OBE in the 1994 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to broadcasting and The Holiday Care Service. Other awards include The British Travel Awards for outstanding contribution to travel and tourism (2002) and The British Guild of Travel Writers presented her with their lifetime achievement award.
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: Judith Chalmers. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: FremantleMedia.