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Look North’s Amy Garcia on Presenting

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Past & Present

Look North’s Amy Garcia reflects on a decade of presenting the TV show, her highs and lows and what Christmas holds in store for her

With her naturally warm approach to interviews and glamorous looks, Amy Garcia is one of the most recognisable faces in Yorkshire, having presented BBC’s Look North for over a decade. During that period there’ve been many highs such as interviewing huge stars and taking part in charity challenges, and lows, including having to inform viewers about the sudden sad loss of her much-loved colleague, Harry Gration.

Born in Wakefield, Amy is a proud Yorkshire girl through and through and commands the helm of one of the UK’s biggest regional news programmes with ease. Speaking exclusively to Absolutely Yorkshire for this special Christmas edition, Amy takes a break from being a TV anchor to tell readers about her special plans for the festive season with her husband Tim and children, Mabel, and Ren.

A very happy Christmas to you Amy, what are your plans for celebrating the festival season this December?

I love the build up to Christmas, so I like to cram a lot into December! Ice skating, panto, a Christmas singalong, visiting a decorated stately home, nativity, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day with family. And then we all fall into a shattered heap! 

Do you have any family traditions?

Yes, there’s a few. Firstly, choosing a tree from the local Christmas tree farm in York –  the children take it very seriously and have different opinions on the perfect tree! 

When I left home my mum started to buy me and my sister a decoration for the tree wherever we were at the time, usually with a special theme or connection. I’ve kept them all and added over the years, ranging from a handmade decoration when I visited Kenya as a teenager to a velvet guard from Buckingham Palace. I love decorating the tree with the children and telling them about each one. My favourites are crystal snowflakes engraved with the year of their first Christmas and baubles with their tiny footprints on. 

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My husband is a musician, so a Christmas singalong around the piano is a must, as is ice skating at Somerset House in London. My husband and I met in London 20 years ago, it was a time when my sister and brother lived there too so we’d all go to Somerset House ice skating every December. My brother now has a restaurant rink-side in the winter, so we like to take the kids to skate and eat cheese fondue. It really gets us in the festive mood.  

What’s your favourite Christmas memory?

As a child, making up Christmas shows with my sister and all the cousins. My kids do the same now which is the cutest thing.

Has there ever been a disaster?

Oh goodness, one year I cooked, and the turkey was as dry as old sticks. I cooked mignon tenderloin for about three hours – I got confused with what cut of meat I’d bought. You can imagine how hideous that tasted. Even the dog turned his nose up at it!

And there was the time my dad’s hair caught fire on a candle at midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Fortunately for him he has a lot of hair, but the whole church stank of singed hair. 

You’ve lived in the beautiful city of York for many years now, do you manage to spend time in the city over Christmas such as visiting its Christmas fair or world-renowned Minster carol services?

I love attending a service at York Minster, anytime of year is beautiful, but at Christmas it’s so magical especially with the choir. We have visited a couple of carol services over the years followed by mulled wine at the Christmas market. 

Do you prepare Christmas dinner and what do you cook?

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We take it in turns, but it’s usually turkey and all the trimmings. I tend to pre-make the stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and red cabbage and freeze it, Nigella style! Jamie Oliver carrots and Brussel sprouts in pancetta on the day followed by Christmas pudding, a yule log and my mum’s award-winning trifle – it’s very boozy! I’m a big fan of a leftover festive sandwich too. 

You and your husband Tim have two young children, how do they plan for Santa’s arrival?

It’s a month worth of planning, starting with the elf on the shelf. Last year Mabel and Ren made little houses for them from boxes complete with a silver foil TV, sofa, and bed. There was even a Christmas tree with pompom and button baubles – they chopped the top off an artificial tree and stuck it into a cork.

On Christmas Eve they do a children’s nativity in the village church and then it’s home to put on Christmas pyjamas, and lay out brandy, cookies, carrots, and oats in front of the fireplace. Oh, and then we sprinkle magical oats on the lawn so they can see us from the sky. It’s the only night of the year they go to bed early without a fuss. I’m fully embracing these magical years.

It’s your ten-year anniversary of presenting Look North, one of the most watched regional news programs in the country. How do you feel about reaching such a milestone?

Amazed that they’ve kept me this long! A decade feels like such a milestone and it’s a huge privilege to be in people’s living rooms every night sharing their stories and meeting remarkable people from across our region. Behind every presenter is a talented team and I work with the best at Look North – many have been here since my first day, so we’ve been through the big stories, life changes and babies together. But I couldn’t do this job without an incredibly supportive husband and grandparents, I am so lucky.

You’ve had an incredibly successful career, from working on Saturday morning TV, to breaking TV news. What’s been your most memorable moment on TV?

Disney channel is where I learnt about live TV and interviewed the big pop bands at the time from Blue to S Club 7 and Busted. It’s also where I met some of my best friends. 

I’ve had some wonderful experiences at Look North and met the most amazing people along the way. So much has happened in 10 years – three general elections, a pandemic, death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Coronation of King Charles III. It’s amazing to have been part of such historical moments with our viewers. When I was working with my parents on Wakefield market as a teenager, I never dreamed I’d be allowed into Downing Street to interview the PM. Stand out moments would have to be the challenges with Harry – from a 250-mile tandem bike ride to pushing the red sofa around Yorkshire, wing walking, abseiling, caving under the Yorkshire Dales. We always had such a giggle. The main highlight was meeting our viewers on the challenges, they came out in their hundreds to line the streets and support us even in horrendous weather. On the sofa challenge Paul, Harry and I were struggling to get it through the snow at the top of Stanage Edge, when suddenly a group of viewers who’d been following our progress on the programme appeared from nowhere and helped us lift it over big boulders.

It’s also been fun having a few TV presenter cameos too – I was in the first series of Happy Valley and loved seeing how drama worked behind the scenes.

Who’s been your favourite celebrity guest?

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David Harewood

I’ve lost count of who I have interviewed over the years, but I’d say actor David Harewood is up there, James Norton at the premiere of the third series of Happy Valley as well as singing into a hairbrush in the dressing room with Rick Astley and sharing my Kylie and Jason vinyl collection with Jason Donovan!

And who’s been your worst?

There’s been a couple of divas along the way, but my lips are sealed. There’s been some live TV blunders obviously – once a pygmy goat weed on the sofa – the poor farmer was mortified, and Harry and I were in pieces. Another time I took a sip of water, and it went down the wrong way – it splattered all over the guest, thankfully it was pre-recorded, and they saw the funny side.

Yorkshire is full of iconic, famous people from Dame Judi Dench to Sean Bean, do you have a favourite?

Dame Judi is a legend isn’t she – I’d love to share an afternoon tea with her at Betty’s in York. Michael Parkinson was the most amazing broadcaster – the way he interviewed people was a masterclass for any presenter.  

If you have a spare day to roam the county over the festive season, where would you visit?

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Castle Howard

Castle Howard for the Christmas house and run down the hill to the adventure playground. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is always lovely for a crisp winter walk – my extended family all live over Wakefield way, so we usually meet for a big group walk to blow the cobwebs off!  

And where’s your favourite place for Sunday lunch?

If it’s a fancy occasion, then the Alice Hawthorne in Nun Monkton, or a big family roast at home. The weeks are crazy with work and kids’ clubs so on a Sunday being able to regroup, have lunch and play board games is perfect.

You’re originally from Wakefield. What are your memories of celebrating the festive season there?

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We lived on the same street as my cousins who were all the same age, so Christmas Day was an exciting, sugar and gift-fuelled extravaganza with about 30 of us. My whole family were market traders in Wakefield, so December was the busiest time of the year – my uncle sold toys and my parents made curtains and blinds. Dad would deliver his last order on Christmas Eve and then cook a big Paella. December 24th is Noche Buena in Spain, so we’d phone our Spanish relatives and wish them a happy Christmas.   

The sudden death of your former colleague Harry Gration really shocked the county. How have you coped with his loss?

Harry was my mentor and friend – he was the heart of Look North for nearly three decades, so his loss was huge for the whole team. Breaking the news of his death to his loyal viewers is the most difficult broadcast I’ve ever done – I was given the option to go home that day, but I felt it was my duty as his co-host and friend. I was taught by the best and I know he would have done the same for me. In my head I could hear him saying, ‘get on with it lass and we’ll have a stiff drink afterwards’. The hundreds of tributes and messages were overwhelming. Harry always said it was an honour to be in people’s living rooms every night, and clearly the feeling was mutual. The way he connected with the audience was unique. He really was one of a kind.

Do you ever feel that he is still close to you?

Yes, all the time. When I am writing a cue or doing an interview, I often ask myself – what would Harry do? What would he ask? He always seemed to hit the right note. 

What would you love Santa to bring you? 

It sounds a cliché, but I’ve got everything I want. I’m over expensive gifts – I know this year will be really hard for many families across Yorkshire, so I just want to wish them all a happy and healthy Christmas and year ahead. 

Amy was photographed by Lyndon Smith (lyndonsmithphotography.com), with thanks to Pam and the team at Käthe Wohlfahrt York

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