Simeon was born in Swindon and grew up in Liverpool. His father was a vicar. He left school in 1986, aged 16, and became a City & Guilds-qualified mechanical and electrical engineer, completing a four-year apprenticeship at Timsons, a printing press manufacturer in Kettering. During this time, he joined the local hospital radio station KHBA and started volunteering at BBC Radio Northampton. In 1990, he began a full-time broadcasting career as a radio car reporter and presenter at BBC Radio Northampton.
After auditioning unsuccessfully for Children’s BBC in 1993, he was offered a job on BBC Two pop show The O-Zone, which was made by the same department. His first film, and TV debut, was an interview with Judy Cheeks, directed by Andi Peters. Other pop stars he interviewed included Tom Jones, Blur and boy band Worlds Apart. In January 1995, he became a full-time presenter for Children’s BBC, hosting their new offering on BBC Prime.
He did some birthday slots on BBC Two. Then, when Toby Anstis left, he moved to BBC One where he hosted the live afternoon continuity links with the comedic puppet, Otis the Aardvark (September 1995 – August 1996). Courtie’s sense of humour, combined with that of puppeteer Dave Chapman, led to them gaining a cult following with older viewers, and alongside pictures drawn by children they would often show fanzines featuring themselves, created by students. He presented the links on the BBC One Saturday morning spin-off Saturday Aardvark and returned briefly for a week as cover for the afternoons (10th March 1997 – 14th March 1997). He returned, with fellow ex-CBBC presenters, for the 30th anniversary in September 2015.
Between August 1996 and May 2000, Simeon hosted several CITV television shows including the live Saturday morning show Wow! (1996) and You’ll Never Believe It (1997 and 1999) – both produced by The Media Merchants – as well as Get Wet, produced by Scottish Television (1997 – 1998). He presented several BBC Education series, including: Working in… which gave advice to school leavers pursuing careers in various industries including engineering, construction and IT; the Revise Wise series on Key Stage 2 English. He narrated Space Files, a BBC Learning series on BBC Two (2001 – 2010) and in 2000, he produced and directed NZXS, a six-part series about extreme sports in New Zealand for SSVC.
He wrote television quiz and game show formats (2000 – 2005), which were distributed by Ludus Entertainment. He created the Channel 5 show ESP and the S4C game show Risg, produced by Mentorn and presented by Siân Lloyd. He was a regular presenter for the TV and radio station BFBS (1997 – 2013), broadcasting to British Forces and their families around the world. In June 2013, he won a New York Festival Radio Award, with his BFBS producer Hal Stewart – Best Radio Personality (Network/Syndicated). He was a team writer for the satirical TV comedy Have I Got News for You? (2008 – 2010), where he wrote alongside Mark Burton, Colin Swash and Ged Parsons.
In 2010, he spent a year driving around the world with his family in a VW T25 camper van. They busked Beatles songs in every country, from Strawberry Field in Liverpool to Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park – the money from which was donated to UNICEF. He wrote a humorous account of this journey called The Long and Whining Road which was published in July 2012 by Simantics Ltd. The book was the grand prize winner of the London Book Festival 2012, an international literary competition.
In November 2013, Simeon became a regular presenter on BBC Wiltshire, presenting the daily 9am – 12pm morning show. His final show for the station (in December 2015) was a live outside broadcast from the Science Museum in London, at the BBC Stargazing event, to cover the launch of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake to the International Space Station.
Simeon is married to former BBC journalist Jillian Moody – they have three children.
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with Simeon in March 2018.
Tell Us About Your BBC Days
“Congratulations on putting all this together. I wish I had the dates you’re asking for! I can give you approximations. My first Ozone was in May 1994. (Judy Cheeks, shot in the old GLC building on London’s South Bank, where the London Eye now resides. The building was empty, between being a council building and a hotel. Judy shot her pop video in there, so Andi Peters got permission for our interview to be shot in there too, meaning the two spliced together nicely). Other Ozone interviews included Tom Jones, Damon Albarn, EYC, Crash Test Dummies, Eternal (Louise Nurding (later Rednapp) seemed to be a constant guest on every show I did in the 90s!) and Worlds Apart. My first appearance on Prime was on its launch day I think, which you may be able to find. My recollection is that it was in the middle of January 1995 [editor’s note: end of January]. My first day in the CBBC office was 5th January, and I reckon I was recording links a day or two later to air the next week.”
Was It a Difficult Decision to Move to ITV?
“Yes, it was. There’s a story behind it. I’d been wooed by Neil Buchanan and Tim Edmunds at Media Merchants in April, secret meetings in hotels, that sort of thing, trying to get me to front the new ITV Saturday morning show that would launch in September. This wasn’t unusual. Most CBBC presenters got offers for other work on other channels. Initially I said no. I had my sights set on Live and Kicking. But a couple of things happened. First, Neil and Tim wouldn’t give up! They kept in touch and kept improving the offer and telling me how much creative freedom I could have. And when Zoe Ball was cast as the new Live and Kicking presenter they had Rick Adams in mind as her co-host. My contact on that team said Chris Bellinger (the editor) was all-in for Rick. I also had a friend who was Zoe’s manager, who helped me negotiate deals from time-to-time. The night before I had to commit one way or the other to ITV, I phoned him from our Pres A dressing room and he assured me the L&K gig was Rick’s. So, with some trepidation, I signed with ITV. This was in June/July time. Then, shocker, two weeks before I left Rick declined the job! I never asked him why, but I’d love to know. So, literally in my last week at Children’s BBC in August 1996, they held ‘panicked’ auditions for a Live and Kicking male host. Tim Vincent was one they looked at, but as you know they went for Jamie Theakston. It was a great success for CBBC, of course, as they’d both come through our department.
“Jamie found out he’d got the job on my very last day. In fact, we all went out to mark my leaving, and it was a sort of co-celebration as we were both going to be against each other on Saturday mornings! Very weird. Funnily enough, I met Simon Parkin when I was brand new at CBBC at an event somewhere and he said to me: ‘Don’t ever leave the BBC. I did and I regret it.’ It became a joke. For years whenever he saw me, he’d say, ‘What did I tell you?’
“My strongest memories of working in the Broom Cupboard (Pres. A as it was known to us) are of breakdowns or mistakes. I was doing a live afternoon on my own when a fire alarm in the Newsround studio meant they cut back to me and I had to fill for five minutes! I’ve never been so grateful for Alistair Hughes, our legendary producer, who ran into the studio clutching a pile of pictures viewers had sent in! Instant content! And during the summer of 1996, prior to my leaving, Children’s Pres were responsible for a live Saturday morning sequence which we called Saturday Aardvark. It was Otis, Kirsten (O’Brien) and me. It was loads of fun because the three of us were good pals and made each other laugh. But the vibe was so relaxed that during one of the first shows we were talking about what we’d all done on the Friday evening, and I turned to Otis and said ‘What did you get up to, Dave?’ Kirsten’s face was a picture – horror and laughter combined. My eyes widened as I realised what I’d said and Otis looked behind him, then back to me and said ‘Who’s Dave?’ I think we got away with it. People seemed to love all that – live TV and seeing the cracks.”
How Did You End Up Back on CBBC for One Week in 1997?
“I was asked to return for that strange week simply because Paul Smith (the editor back then) had a staffing crisis! I’d already done Wow! and was about to shoot Get Wet for ITV, but he didn’t seem to mind. I was happy to be asked back, although I remember everyone thinking it was a bit odd. Dave Chapman (Otis) and I were such good pals though, that we were delighted.”
Tell Us About Your Writing Credits
“Yes, I wrote on four series of Have I Got News for You [editor’s note: his first on-screen credit was 1995]. I was writing topical gags for radio shows, some my own, some for other people, and decided I wanted to be a ‘proper’ comedy writer. So I approached them, sending them a whole bunch of my best topical jokes. Initially I was invited in on a try-out day with a few other newbies, but I didn’t feel it went very well, so I contacted the producer afterwards explaining that I could do better! I sent in a fresh bunch of ‘picture’ gags (like they have at the start of the show) and she booked me. Your research is correct on the partners I wrote with. The only reason I stopped is that I went round the world for a year and when I returned the producer who liked me (Jo Bunting) had left to go to Avalon. I contacted her replacement twice, but got nowhere! Them’s the breaks. I had a book to write, so felt I was moving on anyway, from short-form to long-form.”
Any Particular Memories of the 2015 CBBC Reunion?
“It was such enormous fun. The live show went by in a blur, of course. It was frenetic and my role was tiny. But the party we had afterwards stays with me. It had three locations, mainly because we kept being moved on around the various drinking holes of Salford’s Media City! I know I wasn’t the last to leave. I went to bed at 3.30am but remember Dick and Dom were still very much awake! Dick was pointing at one of those overnight gambling shows on a hotel TV screen and shouting ‘Dom! Get your phone! We need to bet on this!’ In the morning he’d vanished. Genuinely, no-one could find him. To this day, I don’t know where he went. Dom found him a day or two later back in London, I assume. They’re such fun those two. Richard McCourt was the work experience kid when I was at CBBC. Paul Smith asked me to mentor him as he had ambitions to be a presenter, so I took him under my wing for a few weeks before I left. He’s done quite well, don’t you think?!
“Regarding photos from that era, I’m so sorry, I don’t have any. Literally what you find online is it. It didn’t ever occur to me to archive anything, which drives me mad now! I have one VHS of me and Otis at the Big Bash in 1995 and that’s about it.”
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: Simeon Courtie. SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: Simeon Courtie