JUSTIN LEIGH AND VICTORIA GRAHAM UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT
PUBLISHED: 16:10 02 November 2015 | UPDATED: 12:44 30 August 2017
Matt Austin Images 2013
They come into our homes at 6.30pm every week day as the anchors of BBC regional TV news show Spotlight so surely it’s time we found out more about them? Justin Leigh and Victoria Graham talk to Kate Haskell
When you appear in living rooms across the West Country five nights a week then you are, quite rightly, going to come under a bit of scrutiny: from what you’re wearing to whether you really get on with your co-presenter.
There is no faking the friendliness or camaraderie because the camera never lies and in the case of Justin Leigh and Victoria Graham, Spotlight’s main news anchors, the camera doesn’t need to as their friendship is plain to see. From the moment they meet me it’s a bit like having a chat with an old married couple as they gently tease each other and almost, but not quite, finish each other’s sentences!
Victoria has just recently returned to our screens after a break of two-and-a-half years: I thought after I left Spotlight and returned to London to be closer to my husband, I would never work again but I was blessed and ended up very busy, almost too busy, and I was finding it hard to turn work down.
In the end my husband was saying he actually saw more of me when I was working in Plymouth so it was a combination of being asked to come back, which was a total surprise but a fantastic one, and then thinking actually this would work on a personal level too.’
Time apart can not only make the viewer grow fonder but it has given Victoria a chance to broaden her career horizons: In a way it was the right thing to go away as I’ve now had so much more experience on a world news level and that has now given me confidence so I feel much more capable.
However, I have to say, I was quite frightened about coming back with the pressure of, will this work and be like old times?’ As if proof were needed Justin is quick to reassure: A day doesn’t go by without someone mentioning how great it is to have Victoria back and how I’ve got my sparkle back; I didn’t realise I’d lost it but clearly we work well!’
For an on screen partnership to work it has to be a bit like a marriage Justin says: We complement each other as Victoria is so good at the Devon County shows and location work and I enjoy grilling a councillor or the Prime Minister but we both have confidence in each other and we both know that if something was going badly wrong in the programme we have the comfort that we’ll be able to handle it together.’
Victoria adds: It has to be completely natural, we are actually friends out of work and we’ve known each other for a good 12 or 13 years. Even when I was away we kept in contact.’ This relationship is all helped by a good sense of humour to which Justin confirms that there is a long standing joke about his reluctance to put his heating on however low the temperature gets: I get teased both on and off air for that!’
Victoria’s return to the BBC fold was not without its pressures though. The site in Seymour Road in Plymouth has just had its biggest technology refurbishment in 20 years and as Justin explains it hasn’t always been a smooth transition: As Victoria returned we had a new set and new technology that hadn’t really been tested anywhere else; we’ve had a few teething problems and lost the output a couple of times but it’s been pioneering and Spotlight has always been pioneering.’
Behind the scenes the whole set-up is now very technology driven with the computer turning the lights on and off at the right time and moving cameras which, rather than making staff redundant, has actually freed people up to do the more creative stuff.
Regional news, in the West Country in particular, has seen many changes over the years but both presenters feel Spotlight is as relevant today as it has ever been. For Justin it’s clear: This region has a really strong identity and I think there is a real affinity here with the surroundings and what is happening in the viewers’ neighbourhoods. Despite many changes in news and the ability to get it from many different platforms, such as online, we still have as many viewers as before - if not more - and people still make an appointment to view.’
Living and working in the region does mean you often get recognised when out and about, as Justin recalls. I was made to feel very old recently when ordering some drinks in a bar when some young twenty somethings asked me if I was Justin Leigh and of course I said yes to which they replied “Ah yes we thought so - we grew up with you!’”
It’s obvious that Victoria is more than happy to have left London behind and to be back in Devon, All parts of the West Country are so different but I just love the lifestyle here in Devon, the sea, the moors, walking the dogs, the pasties! It’s just a nicer pace of life.’
As for the news programme, it certainly looks like it is back in safe hands although watch out for banter time’. Victoria tells me they always ask the producer to allow time for plenty of banter so they can chat away in between news items and considering none of us stopped laughing or talking throughout this interview, on a quiet news day that could be worth tuning in for!
5 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUTJustin
I was a suit advisor for M&S before going into broadcasting.
I am Honorary President of the Hospital Radio station where I started to learn about broadcasting and still pop up on their airwaves occasionally.
I am Honorary President of the Tamar Valley Male Voice choir, even though I can’t sing!
I am a keen gardener and Gardeners’ World is one of my favourite programmes.
I once explored Buckingham Palace when I was there for a broadcast. We went into areas we didn’t have a pass for. I’m still amazed I didn’t get arrested.
a funny thing happened to Justin
I was once recognised in a supermarket, but the lady wasn’t quite sure who I was. Her husband said “I think she is confusing you with Justin Leigh!”
I dislocated a toe while Cornish Wrestling at the Royal Cornwall Show. One of the wrestlers pulled it back into place.
Heading to Sark to present over a Bank Holiday, the airline lost my luggage. They got a clothes shop to open on a Sunday night so I could get some to wear on air next day.
At a broadcast for an RNLI anniversary we all had to sing the RNLI song at the end. We were so bad the sound engineers switched off our microphones.
5 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT...Victoria
I had a part-time job at McDonalds and was called Scunthorpe’s Big Mac’ girl on the front of the Evening Telegraph.
I’ve rung the bells at Lincoln Cathedral.
I have been kissed by Barry Manilow.
My big sis calls me Shirley, because I love to sing Hey, Big Spender.
I’ve always secretly been in love with Dustin Hoffman.
a funny thing happened to Victoria
When I lived and worked in Hollywood as a location scout for the California Film Commission I was approached to be an extra on an X-rated film...needless to say I turned the offer down!
When I worked as a director at Yorkshire Television I transmitted the wrong part of a film and didn’t tell anyone. (The middle part was boring anyway).
When I was working at the Weather Channel in London I was mid-broadcast live on air when the fire alarms went off and I was carried out of the studio over the shoulder of a fireman.
Whilst working as a host at a shopping channel my partner in crime was David Emmanuel who designed the wedding dress for the Princess of Wales.
Whilst interviewing a farmer at the Devon County Show his pig pooped on me...lucky?