Mark was born in Bradford. He began broadcasting, aged 17, at BBC Radio Leeds, where he presented a series of features about community life called Down Your Street, mentored by producer Peter Byrne. On finishing his time at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Yorkshire, he had been expected to take a place at Leeds College of Art, but instead was offered a trainee-ship at the BBC. He was the drivetime presenter at BBC Radio Cleveland from c. 1977, and was a familiar voice across the North, presenting news on Look North in Newcastle and BBC Radio 4. He was also regularly heard on Radio Humberside and Radio Newcastle as a voiceover artist.
Mark was a BBC TV network staff announcer in London (1983 – 1986). He was recruited by the then senior announcer John Glover. He had the privilege of being the first BBC One announcer to use the new COW (Computer-Originated World) symbol on Monday 18th February 1985, introducing the first edition of the new thrice-weekly Wogan show, at 7pm. Incidentally, Mark was also the duty announcer for the final closedown use of the mechanical BBC One globe symbol the previous evening. In the 1980s, the concepts of diversity in employment were less well developed than they are today – when Mark started in Presentation, there was only one part-time female announcer and none had regional accents. Mark told us: “At the end of my first year, I had an annual report which began ‘Mark has a slight northern accent, this is not unpleasant’ which made me feel quite proud actually.”
In 1986, Mark moved on to direct and assistant produce on Songs of Praise. In 1988, he moved to BBC TV in Leeds as a relief presenter of TV news bulletins; he also directed documentaries and features for both regional and network output. These included: Look North in Leeds; political programmes, including North of Westminster; Settle; Carlisle Railway; The Restoration of York Minster.
In 1990, Mark returned to the BBC Broadcast announcing team and later became a transmission director for BBC One and BBC Two. He left in 1992. In the years that followed, there would be a rapid growth in the number of digital channels and Mark was involved in the launch of various new services including BBC World, BBC Prime, BBC News 24, BBC Four and BBC Parliament.
For ten years he worked as a creative producer for BBC Broadcast, and later Red Bee Media (2005 – 2007), leading a team of promotions directors making radio and television spots for the English regions, which won many accolades including a number of Royal Television Society awards. He also travelled widely delivering production training for the BBC World Service.
In 2007, he moved back to Yorkshire, intending to change career and become involved in community development and charity work. He was hired by ITV Yorkshire to launch ITV Local and develop the use of user-generated content. Since 2010, he has devoted his time to education and community development and since January 2019, Mark has been CEO of a new charity, Wellsprings Together, which is a joint venture between the Church Urban Fund and the Anglican Diocese of Leeds.
Paul R. Jackson spoke with Mark in June 2019.
Tell us a bit about the early days of your broadcasting career
“At BBC Radio Leeds, I helped on the early morning shift and in winter the main presenter didn’t turn up. I was asked to step-in and it was really exciting to be asked and I was then given odd presenter spots. My first BBC staff job was at Radio Cleveland. On Look North I worked with fellow announcers John Kyle and Tom Kilgour. Pam Tibbetts was a great network director, who went on to do newsreading and announcing in Scotland. Mike Neville was the main news presenter and he had a habit of walking out of the studio whilst I was reading the news, which could be quite off putting. Local band Lindisfarne visited the studio and a large crowd formed outside, with them all chanting ‘We want Mike’, which rather disappointed the band as they thought they were there for them. Viewers didn’t want to hear a Geordie accent, apart from Mike’s. They wanted all authority to come from RP (Received Pronunciation) and those from London and university backgrounds. I recall there was a debate about how to pronounce Redcar – either as locals would or as someone from out of the region would.”
What are your memories of John Glover?
“John was the senior announcer. He wrote annual reports, recruited announcers and took his job very seriously. Some felt insecure about their contracts and he had to make the schedule work if they needed time off on an emotional level. For example, when Mike Maine died, John kept in touch with his family.”
Any memories of other continuity colleagues?
“Lu Thomas was the only female when I joined. The Midsomer Murders actress Jane Wymark was there for a short time and Heather Lynn was freelance, but it just seemed dominated by the men who were all full-time. When Reg Sanders joined, his appointment was felt to be a brave choice, because he had a distinct northern sound.
David Allan – it was really interesting to meet him. I had long wanted to do the job and when at school I had listened to his Radio 2 country music show. When I joined I told him that I was pleased to meet him, but he was mortified that he was working with someone that had listened to him at school. Malcolm Eynon also did network directing.”
Did you notice any difference between your two spells in the announcer’s chair?
“Malcolm Walker was head of the department and very old school, which was not very representative at that time. I recall I was asked if I had gone to either Cambridge or Oxford University. Pam Masters returned to the BBC from Channel 4 when I first joined. I was later asked to return and the team had changed but some were jubilant that part of the old school was returning, so it wasn’t all bad news.”
Did you note any significance in the launch of the new BBC One globe symbol in 1985?
“It was an excitement but I wasn’t really aware of how big a thing it was in the public gaze. However, launching Wogan and EastEnders was new stuff.”
Any programmes or technical faults from your announcing days that stick in the mind?
“One of my scariest on-air moments, was when the ill-fated live Brit Awards (produced by Michael Hurll) fell off air with six minutes to go before the Nine o’Clock News. I had only expected to speak for 30 seconds, but something went wrong and the network director screamed at me ‘say something’. I had to rabbit on for quite some time. I used the Radio Times to talk about programmes coming later that evening, whilst the director frantically tried to find programme trails to use. It must have gone OK, because channel controller Michael Grade phoned up immediately to thank me for covering it so smoothly.
“My worst experience was due to my strong public service sense. I was introducing Ghostwatch (BBC One, 31st October 1992). It was a Screen One special drama for Hallowe’en by Stephen Volk and starring Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Mike Smith and Craig Charles. I had reviewed the programme in the office. I thought it’s a drama masquerading as fact. In writing the script to introduce the programme, I felt my primary role was to make the distinction that it was a drama written by…and Michael Parkinson turning his hand to acting. I was told not to use such an introduction and to make it sound like it was factual. There were meetings with the head of presentation and a real fudge when the production team specially wrote the introduction. The BBC received loads of complaints and The Guardian newspaper piece said it didn’t offer a proper warning by the announcer, although I had wanted to change what had gone out.
“I think I remember Alexi Sayle’s comedy office was near the announcers’ office. He did a sketch called The Announcers and the two characters were reputedly based on David Miles and myself. The BBC One announcer (David) booking skiing holidays between programmes and the BBC Two announcer was a bit serious. There was a goldfish in a bowl called Waddington-Miles. I really enjoyed announcing, whether for BBC Radio 4 in Newcastle or networked in London, but it didn’t seem like a real job. I was part of the digital revolution and it was an exciting time being part of the launches of new channels. My big interest was the arts and I liked the creative side of doing storyboards and scripts and it was also a joy leading a team of promotion directors.”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Mark which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
Late-night Christmas Day continuity from Mark (1984).
Mark closes down BBC One for the night in December 1992.
PICTURED: Mark Waddington. SUPPLIED BY: Mark Waddington. COPYRIGHT: Mark Waddington.