Charles was born in London and lived in Glasgow from an early age. He is the son of the Soviet historian Alexander Nove. In 2016, he celebrated 40 years behind the microphone. His first foray into broadcasting was at Glasgow’s Hospital Broadcasting Services in 1976. Two years later, he was signed up as the BBC’s youngest presenter for the launch of their new station, Radio Scotland. He was a regional television announcer on BBC Scotland for a while in the early 1990s.
Charles was a member of BBC Radio 2’s presentation team – announcing and newsreading on the network – and also a stand-in for regular presenters (1981 – 1998). He presented Nightride and the weekly film magazine Cinema 2. He had two attachments with BBC TV Presentation as an announcer in London (1987 – 1989) and he also voiced BBC TV programme trails.
From 1999, he pursued a freelance career and the same year founded the A1 VOX audio recording studio, as managing director. In February 2007, he became a regular member of the highly successful BBC Radio breakfast show Wake Up to Wogan, until it ended in 2009. He was technical cover whenever Wogan decamped from his usual studio and presented his shows from other locations, including the annual Eurovision song contest. He was renowned for being a useful and versatile man to have around in a crisis and was an obvious choice for the BBC’s crack ‘Y2K’ team of Millennium bug busters, who were on duty in a bunker as the year 2000 arrived, poised for action if the dreaded bug bit. It didn’t, so they opened the champagne like everyone else! During the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Charles was part of the team providing commentary for the international feeds of the shooting events.
His familiar Scottish tones were heard on programme promotions on a range of channels, including The History Channel, along with former BBC TV colleague David Allan. He also hosted in-flight audio entertainment shows for the world’s leading airlines. He was commentator on Come Dancing (1985 – 1986 and 1988 – 1995), the popular snooker quiz show Big Break (1998 – 2001) and Wipeout (1995 – 1997). He commentated on the Lord Mayor’s Show (1991) and has covered for Alan ‘Voice of the Balls’ Dedicoat on the National Lottery live draws.
Charles was a founder director of thisbus.com and enjoyed driving the Routemasters in his spare time. On Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show, he did a very good impression of the infamous bus inspector Blakey from On the Buses. The company wound up at Christmas 2018 and Charles still enjoys driving buses occasionally.
Charles has been an amiable audio tour guide around some of the world’s finest museums and art galleries, including collections at Buckingham Palace, the Tate Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Louvre, Pompidou Centre, the famous historic Abbey on Iona and the museum devoted to Tintin creator, Herge, in Belgium.
Until late-2002, Charles presented the afternoon show on London’s Jazz FM, as well as shows on Magic FM. From May 2011 he presented on BBC Radio Oxford, waking up listeners on his early morning show (May 2011 – December 2018). He was a BBC Radio 4 continuity announcer (August 2018 – March 2019) and on 4th March 2019, he joined the newly launched classical music station Scala Radio, as its breakfast presenter.
Paul R. Jackson met up with Charles in central London in June 2019, to chat about his long career.
Tell us about your early career in Scotland
“I owe Tony Currie a lot as I was an anoraky young boy and wrote to him when he launched Radio Clyde. He recognised a fellow anorak and invited me in to have a look at the studios. He even let me sit in on some night shifts – and when I was aged 15, once allowed me to read the weather. I knew Ken Bruce from Glasgow hospital radio, where I showed him the radio desk when he joined in 1976 and we worked together again in 1978 at BBC Radio Scotland.
“BBC Radio Scotland began in November 1978 and they advertised for presenters. I applied but got a rejection letter. Luckily for me, a few weeks before the launch, someone quit. I made a demo tape and had a brief interview and with my radio hospital experience and needing minimal training, I was taken on three days before launch day. I was on long-term contracts, never staff, until March 1981.”
Who were your colleagues on BBC Scotland TV and how did you end up on BBC Radio 2?
“Ken Bruce, Bob Christie, Alasdair Hutton and James O’Hara. Peter Gourd was running presentation when I later returned as a freelance. In April 1981, I went for a look round BBC Radio 2 and was asked to record a short demo. Len Jackson said ‘When can you start?’ which I wasn’t expecting. Len was running the department as Jimmy Kingsbury, who was head of presentation, was off on sick leave. I resigned from BBC Radio 2 in 1989 and the next day went freelance and continued working on the network until 1998.”
How did you get the job with BBC TV presentation? Any particular memories of former colleagues?
“Head of Presentation was Malcolm Walker, who originated from Glasgow. At my board I made a joke which he thankfully laughed at. I liked the different discipline to radio, like the technical side which was interesting to learn. I recall how they were very exact in their scripting – I once said ‘You’re watching BBC One’ rather than ‘This is BBC One’ and got away with it after much questioning and consideration at the afternoon meeting! In those days Presentation was the hub of the television network. I was once away working on a circus OB and a message came via the production team from someone wanting to get in touch, way before mobile phones. One of the editors commented that Presentation had contacts for everyone and knew where staff and crews were at all times.
“You would come in for the midday to 6pm shift in continuity then write scripts for the next day in the large open planned announcers’ office and then do the OU announcements. Sometimes Martin King would say get your scripts written quickly and we could go to the bar. I was working with the true greats of television continuity – David Allan, Peter Brook, Andy Cartledge, Martin King.
“David Allan: a right rascal, which came through in his superb voice. A real personality voice. Peter Brook: he had a wine importing business on the side. He was always on the phone doing wine deals. I recall he was an honourable man, as he always asked switchboard to put the calls through and bill his staff account. Pam Masters, when she became head of Presentation, wanted more modern voices. Peter suddenly adopted an ‘estuary accent’ and told everyone he’d been rewarded with a bonus for the first time.
“Andy Cartledge: lovely guy. One of the most gorgeous voices, especially evenings on BBC Two, he sounded so companionable. Martin King: tremendous voice. He was very kind to me as a non-staff announcer and when he left and was looking for voiceover work he talked to me about future work opportunities. He and David Allan were a dangerous combination. I was doing a BBC Two daytime schools shift and it was a shift change with David and Martin. I was using the theme from Shaft as fill music, and someone had written ‘scratchy’ on the cartridge to signify it had a few sound issues on it. Martin playfully questioned using a shaft scratchy and David added playfully ‘Ooh no, you don’t want a scratchy shaft!’ – just as I was trying to introduce the next programme.
“Francis Lyne: he joined on attachment the same week as me. One network director kept getting us mixed up and called me ‘Frank’, so I invariably called her Elsie, rather than her real name, Janet. Vikki Marriott: she had done some announcing on BBC Radio 2 and BBC World Service. She was the producer of the Christmas 1988 or 1989 campaign that I voiced the trails for. Roger Maude: always appeared entirely unchanged and never aged. Nothing agitated him and he was cool as a cucumber. Cathy Stewart: she had one of those beautiful voices and a lovely wry sense of humour.”
Did you namecheck at closedown?
“Yes I did. I thought it was nice to say, especially for those who had bothered to stay to the end that you gave your name. However, I’m not keen on the current fashion on BBC One where it’s very matey and they now introduce themselves at the start of the shifts.”
Any memorable moments during your time with BBC TV presentation?
“I was doing a late BBC One continuity shift on the night that PanAm 103 crashed on Lockerbie (21st December 1988).”
For reference, the schedule that evening was:
7.00pm Wogan – Terry in Pantoland.
7.35pm Dr Who.
8pm The Les Dawson Show.
8.50pm Points of View.
9pm Nine o’Clock News.
9.30pm – 11pm Poison Candy. Starring John Hurt.
“There were high level discussions about when to break in with the newsflash. Pauline Langfield was the highly experienced network director. We always had talkback from the live studios. We heard a commotion going on in the news studio and on the preview monitor we saw an empty chair with no newsreader. This was as the closing captions came up on screen and literally on the last credit we heard ‘Don’t come to us’. Hasty rearrangement of junction! We did end up breaking into Poison Candy when the true scale of Lockerbie started to emerge, and then I remember having to adlib a quick recap of the story so far before rejoining it. Always a good idea to pay attention to the programme that’s on!
“And the golden moment, when I put the BBC Two symbol up on screen and cheerfully announced ‘This is BBC One’.
“I returned to BBC Scotland as a freelance and did some TV shifts there. I recall a Sunday daytime shift when Scotland’s farming and countryside programme Landmark (first transmitted on 3rd April 1976) was the opt-out for the Countryfile programme being shown on network. You had to run it so as to meet the network timing for the weekly, in-depth weather forecast for farmers. I did a lovely symbol intro into Landmark, being played on the VT output from Aberdeen. Only problem was I’d forgotten to put BBC Scotland into circuit, so the only people actually seeing Landmark were me and the VT operator in Aberdeen. I apologised and restarted things, but being in a region, this gave major timing issues and we wouldn’t get the networked weather forecast for farmers. Nowadays they get a clean feed of programmes regionally and have the options to timeshift things using their local servers. I had half an hour to sort it. I went and got the best details from the 12.55pm radio forecast and put together some accompanying graphics. It was not the national forecast that viewers were expecting and I finally collapsed into the next show (EastEnders omnibus) with relief.
“All the lights on the con phone panel lit up and I was informed that the head of television was getting lots of calls from the farming community. The second call came from duty press officer. I told her what had happened and she replied ‘Sounds like a computer fault to me!’ – so that’s the explanation that appeared in the papers.
“I enjoyed the technical side of getting sound and vision working together. Breakfast opt-outs wanted to include the football results from the previous night. Somehow I wiped them with less than a minute to go, and had to hurriedly redo them using an ancient Ryley caption operator machine.”
Were you at the Come Dancing venues and in the studio for the entertainment shows?
“Yes, I went to the venues to gather information on the contestants and got to know Len Goodman and Shirley Ballas long before Strictly Come Dancing. It was a great fun show to do. Production people would specifically request to work on it although they were long production days. I recall one year we were at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool for two weeks and had a day off during the run, as the Tower was needed for something else. One of the team, a very keen golfer, enthusiastically organised a golf tournament, but the majority of the team stayed in the bar until the early hours and the next day we all arrived on the course in our evening clothes feeling like death! We did the commentaries later when dubbed in post production. For the circus shows and Variety Club awards, I would be live at the venues on the day.”
How did you get the job on the BBC Radio 2 Wogan show?
“They were looking to refresh the team, so I joined with Alan (Deadly) Dedicoat and John (Boggy) Marsh, alternating for a week at a time.”
Any interests outside of broadcasting?
“During the 1990s, I learnt to fly. On my radio communications I sounded calm, but during my first solo cross-country flight for my qualification process, I went astray and got lost. I radioed Birmingham airport, but they thought I was a seasoned flyer due to my calm voice. I had to make a call on the international distress frequency and a Civil Authority investigation followed.”
What about the bus company?
“I was reunited with old TV Centre colleague Malcolm Eynon. He already had a coach driving licence before and was a great driver for us and became our transport manager. We did have a surreal moment one day when we headed up Wood Lane in a Routemaster, with Malcolm driving and me conducting. As we passed TVC, Malcolm remarked that nobody could have predicted that he and I would be going around this building again in these circumstances! Also of interest may be the attached photo, showing the day we took two buses into the Horseshoe Car Park at TVC for an outing for TV Pres staff past and present.
“Far left of the frame you’ll see me with Malcolm and Ken Bruce. Lots of others there, including Matthew Jackson, Peter Offer, Michael Fish, Patrick Lunt, Richard Straker and Nick Spilman to name but a few.”
Does TV presentation still hold reunions?
“We’ll hopefully have one later this year, organised by Malcolm Eynon.”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Charles 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.
Charles voices a programme trail for Thursday evening on BBC One.
Charles on Christmas continuity duty in 1987.
PICTURED: Charles Nove. SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.