Amy Garcia is the new Look North presenter preparing to join Harry Gration on the sofa on Monday. Jayne Dawson talks to her.
The Look North sofa – or who is sitting on it – is one of those things that forms a comfortable backdrop to our lives.
Because, there is no doubt, the person with their bottom parked there every night becomes a familiar face in our Yorkshire living rooms.
New girl Amy Garcia is about to become that person, for it is she who has been appointed to sit alongside co-presenter Harry Gration, after many months of uncertainty.
We have seen several broadcasters fill the role since the sudden departure of Christa Ackroyd – of which more later – but now Amy is to be the permanent replacement.
She will start the job on Monday and, from the moment she joins Harry in the studio, her life is bound to change, because the job is a high-profile one.
Amy knows this very well, and is looking forward to being that friendly person in the corner, the one who becomes part of our evening routine.
“I remember watching the programme when I was growing up, so to be presenting it is quite surreal. Harry was on it then, and Clare Frisby. “But I am used to working in television so I don’t think being a more recognisable face will be a problem for me. I like stopping and chatting to people. Really, I’m so excited I can’t wait.”
Amy, 32, is also nervous – who wouldn’t be? It is a big job and she is fresh off maternity leave having given birth to daughter Mabel eight months ago, but she is busy rehearsing and preparing for her debut.
And, in fact, she is not new to the show, having worked on it before as a general reporter and occasional stand-in for Christa on that sofa before leaving to work in London.
But now she and her husband Tim , a songwriter and music producer, are moving back and have bought an old semi-detached cottage in Wakefield .
They are not able to move in yet though so for the first few weeks they will be camping at their parents’ homes, dividing their time between the two.
So when you see Amy on television on Monday looking the complete professional, spare a thought for her home life which will be not quite as calm as her appearance suggests.
Living with mum and dad does have its advantages though.
“Mum cooks for me; she rings me up at work to find out what I want for dinner. When I came up the other week, she sent me home with a packed lunch.”
Amy is a local girl through and through. She grew up in Wakefield and attended Wakefield College. Her mother Yvonne and her Spanish father Jesus run a curtain business in the city called Welcome Home. It is her Spanish heritage that accounts for her lovely Mediterranean looks.
She even met Tim locally, in Brown’s Bar in Leeds on her 21st birthday, though they didn’t get together until a year later when they met again in London. They married three years ago in Spain.
She says she is now pleased to be moving back home.
“Once I had Mabel I realised the value of having your friends and family around you, and it is great for my parents because they will have their grandchild nearby.”
Amy is the only member of the family in broadcasting: her sister Katrina works in international business and her brother James studied economics but is now a chef and, in fact, Amy’s route into television journalism was not a conventional one.
She studied media and performing arts but – prepared to be surprised here – her first job was as a singer on a cruise ship.
She did it for six months on a round-the-world trip, thus neatly combining earning a living with achieving her teenage travelling in style.
“I always loved performing but I cried all the way to the docks when my mum drove me down there, I was in floods of tears, but it was a good life experience, and I saw so many fantastic places”
After that, Amy answered an advert in Stage magazine for a children’s television presenter, and got the job.
She stayed in children’s television for three years, working on S Club TV in the days of the band S Club 7, then CBBC and finally the Disney Channel.
Children’s presenters have a short shelf life though, so Amy stepped sideways into travel programmes and other light entertainment shows on Sky.
She seemed to be carving out a career in that field but, at the age of 27, packed it all in and went back into education.
“My work had included a lot of live interviews with guests and bands and I was becoming more interested in that type of work. “
Amy spent 18 months taking an MA in TV journalism, and then landed her first job on Look North.
“It was a fantastic experience for me. I did reporting, producing, all the different shifts and I stood in for Christa occasionally.”
After that, Amy moved to London to a job on BBC South Today, and also presented the 60 Seconds new bulletins on BBC3, before taking leave to look after Mabel.
But it wouldn’t be the full story without a final mention of Amy’s predecessor. The Look North sofa has been a bit of a hot seat since Christa Ackroyd left earlier this year job under mysterious circumstances after 12 years in the job and the controversy kept Yorkshire gripped for many months. There were demands for information from the unlikeliest of sources, including a Yorkshire MP.
It eventually emerged that an investigation was under way into her tax arrangements and that her job had been brought to an end because of a “breach of contract”.
Christa has not been in touch since Amy was appointed to the job but Amy said: “Christa was great and we became friends when I worked here before. She was a big character here and I wish her well.”
Christa and Harry were a successful presenting team and, with weatherman Paul Hudson, they were a hit with viewers who enjoyed their relaxed and jokey relationship.
To find a replacement, the interview process for Amy’s job was rigorous and took weeks. After being shortlisted ,she was interviewed by a panel of four, then did a screen test with Harry and Paul, and then another panel interview.
Amy was thrilled to be offered the job but she is being paid a lot less to fill the role. Christa received around £180,000 while Amy’s job was advertised at £30,00-£50,000.
She said: “It is not my business what anyone else was paid. I would never ask anyone their salary and I wouldn’t expect them to ask mine.”
But her appointment draws a line under the controversy of earlier this year and Amy is looking forward to providing that familiarity, and the banter between the people we think of as “our” presenters. She will work four ten-hour days and Mabel will be looked after by her grandparents while she and Tim are at work.
“I like working with Harry and Paul. Harry is wonderful and he has always been very supportive, he just wants everyone to be able to do their best.
“The first time I stood in for Christa I went home and said ‘I really want that job, I would love that job’ so this is a dream for me.”