Pic © Ed Stone, REX
Breakfast TV fans love Carol Kirkwood’s sunny disposition and her banter with newsreader Bill Turnbull. She brightens our dreariest mornings, so we’re pleased to report that Carol is just as funny and down-to-earth in real life. She comes straight from work to chat, insisting “you’ll discover I’m really very boring in about two seconds.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s nothing boring about Carol (52), or her job. So what’s a typical day like?
“I’m up at 2.45am and work starts at 4.45am, but I’m not a morning person! I need a whole pail of caffeine, or I’d be in an absolute trance. When my alarm goes off, my cat Donald usually has his face plonked on my cheek and his tail curled around my head like Davy Crockett’s hat. It’s not a good look.”
But you’d never know, seeing her live on air. “I have to multi-task to be ready on time,” Carol explains. “Once I’ve prepared my first bulletin, it’s off to hair and make-up at about 5am. While someone’s doing my hair I’ll be on a conference call to the Met Office... I’m so ensconced in the conversation that I’ve no idea what else is happening!” Then it’s 20 minutes in make-up before Carol rushes off for a sound check.
Carol, who recently joined Chris Evans on Radio 2 to present the weather, buys all her own outfits for Breakfast, but mustn’t wear polka dots or fine lines, because these can ‘strobe’ on camera. And anything blue or green simply blends into the computer screen behind her. “I once wore a blue watch but the strap ‘disappeared’, so my hand appeared to be floating in mid-air. I had to take it off before the live broadcast!”
Her bulletin information is sent from the London studio to the Breakfast team in Salford (based there since 2013) while Carol keeps tabs on any updates. “I have to follow the Chief Forecaster’s lead,” she tells us. “He’s been studying the weather all night.”
Carol stays in touch with the Met Office between bulletins, even when doing outside broadcasts. “It’s very important to have the very latest information. People set so much store by the weather,” she says.
But it’s her ability to engage with viewers that’s key to Carol’s success. As a young woman with a degree in Commerce, a career in front of the isobars wasn’t something she dreamed of. It was only after a stint fronting ITV experiment The Weather Channel, following other presenting roles, that she trained with the Met Office in 1998 for the BBC. When she arrived on the weather scene, Suzanne Charlton and Penny Tranter were the two ladies on the job. They were already friends of hers and the world of television was rapidly becoming less sexist. So, unlike Barbara Edwards in the Seventies, Carol had no reason to fear criticism as a female weather presenter.
“My previous telly jobs meant I didn’t feel so much of a fish out of water,” she explains. “Someone once told me that the hardest thing is to find your confidence, but when you’ve found it you can be yourself.”
Even when things don’t go to plan, Carol remains level-headed. “I do the best with the information that I have. But though I want to be professional, I do sometimes get the giggles!”
Happily, any on-screen high jinx only strengthens her working relationships. “It’s like being part of a club,” Carol smiles. “I’m part of two lovely teams – weather and breakfast.”
And though Bill and Louise are in Manchester while Carol is in London, the physical distance is easily bridged by video-link technology. Everyone’s so busy that the only time the presenters can chat is when they’re on camera. “The camaraderie is real,” says Carol. “I’ve known Bill for 17 years and call him Billy, as we Scots do.” She’s also still in touch with ex-Breakfast presenter Susanna Reid, who is a good friend.
But friendships are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to work. “I love my job! It’s the best on telly,” Carol gushes. “I visit so many fab places – Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games, Royal Ascot, the Chelsea Flower Show, the Edinburgh Festival…”
Though she sometimes finds herself up against some tough challenges, including a recent skydive with the Red Devils, “things are never as bad once you get going outside of your comfort zone,” she says. “I was so nervous when I had to make a presentation to the Queen at Sandringham, but it turned out to be an amazing experience and she was the loveliest lady.”
‘Mum watches my broadcast every morning’
Her family is understandably proud. “Mum watches my broadcast every morning,” says Carol. She recalls her Highland childhood with mum Ann as “free; in the days when people didn’t lock their doors.” Her confidence stems from being part of a large family – five sisters and two brothers – where “whoever shouted loudest was heard.” But, “there was always respect at home. My parents were firm and education was paramount, but we still had a good laugh.”
Ann, along with Carol’s late father Malcolm, must have had the right idea because there’s not a touch of diva to be found in their lovely daughter. “I don’t think of myself as famous, to be honest,” she says, “I’m always tickled pink when anybody asks for a picture, or a chat – it’s a real compliment.”
And finally: what is Carol’s favourite weather? “I love the sun, wind and snow and I’m hugely interested in hurricanes and storms. But I don’t like rain. I know it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it!”
- Breakfast airs on BBC1 daily, from 6am. Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show airs from 6.30am
There's more star chat in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday