Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

OO old. Too fe­male. Not paid enough. We hear an aw­ful lot about the in­equal­ity be­tween men and women on TV. But at 77 years of age, it might sur­prise you to hear that Glo­ria Hun­ni­ford doesn’t feel she’s ever en­coun­tered ageism or sex­ism dur­ing her ca­reer.

“I’m quite sure big­wigs would have said they wanted a younger per­son – or a man – for the job, but I was never made con­scious of it,” says the North­ern Ir­ish ra­dio and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter.

And while Glo­ria might be diminu­tive in stature, her bub­bly per­son­al­ity and Ir­ish charm has un­sur­pris­ingly car­ried her well at work. “I’ve al­ways felt that I’m a hard worker, and I think my ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion al­ways stood me in good stead,” she ex­plains mat­ter-of-factly.

How­ever, she never comes across as big-headed, and con­cedes she has been in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate through­out her life. “Luck and be­ing in the right place at the right time plays a ma­jor part,” she ad­mits, “but once you’ve got your luck, you’ve got to work hard to re­tain it.”

Glo­ria is tak­ing a look back at that luck and hard work in her book My Life. A fol­low-up to Al­ways With You, which was an ex­plo­ration of grief af­ter los­ing her daugh­ter Caron in 2004, this lat­est re­lease ex­plores a life that’s taken her from North­ern Ire­land be­fore the Trou­bles, to a glit­ter­ing en­ter­tain­ment ca­reer in Lon­don.

As en­gag­ing and af­fa­ble in per­son as she is on Loose Women, it comes as no sur­prise that Glo­ria has been some­thing of a trail­blazer in the me­dia, as the first fe­male to land her own nightly pro­gramme on Ul­ster Tele­vi­sion and the first woman to nab a day­time show on BBC Ra­dio 2.

Her up­bring­ing was un­usual, to say the least. She gig­gles over wild tales from her child­hood in Por­ta­d­own, North­ern Ire­land, where she started singing pro­fes­sion­ally at the age of seven – some­times per­form­ing five nights a week and com­ing home at 2am to get up for school five hours later.

For Glo­ria, re­count­ing this time came nat­u­rally: “The early part of my life was easy,” she smiles. “Be­cause it was dif­fer­ent, and I had so many dif­fer­ent kinds of lives within that.”

From early on, Glo­ria had a love of per­form­ing and en­ter­tain­ing – whether it was singing, or later on the ra­dio. Her pas­sion was so strong that very lit­tle could de­ter her, even be­ing put on an IRA death list in 1969.

There were many close calls dur­ing her time re­port­ing in Ire­land. One anec­dote that par­tic­u­larly stands out tells how, when daugh­ter Caron was sick from school, Glo­ria took her took her along to work – re­port­ing on the Trou­bles. But Glo­ria was still caught off guard when they found them­selves in the midst of a street riot in Lon­don­derry. Need­less to say, Glo­ria didn’t take her kids (she also has two sons) along to any jobs af­ter that.

Glo­ria never brags about her brav­ery, but it’s ev­i­dent when you meet her and read her book. In the mid-Seven­ties, she was ready to go on air in the BBC stu­dios in Lon­don when she was told that a car bomb was about to go off right next to the build­ing.

Your av­er­age per­son would prob­a­bly take this op­por­tu­nity to run for the hills, but not Glo­ria. In­stead, she and a few oth­ers stayed in­side the build­ing and the pro­gramme ran smoothly – even when the bomb went off and the air was thick with dust.

And that wasn’t the only is­sue she seemed to breeze through in the work­place. Glo­ria thinks her ca­reer flies in the face of all ac­cu­sa­tions of ageism and sex­ism in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. “When it comes to ageism, I just laugh, be­cause here we are, three women of a cer­tain age, be­ing recom­mis­sioned for Rip Off Bri­tain un­til 2019,” she says.

She is, of course, re­fer­ring to the vastly suc­cess­ful BBC One show that she presents along­side 70-year-old Ju­lia Somerville and 72-yearold An­gela Rip­pon.

“I’ve al­ways been re­al­is­tic,” Glo­ria ex­plains. “I’ve al­ways known that I wouldn’t be prime time ev­ery night. Where I think I’ve been able to suc­ceed is the fact that I am pre­pared to go in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.”

This is proven by the sheer num­ber of hats Glo­ria has worn dur­ing her ca­reer – from hard news to chat shows and en­ter­tain­ment.

It also helped that she never had the pres­sure to pro­vide for her fam­ily – her ca­reer was just some­thing she en­joyed do­ing. “I wasn’t the bread­win­ner of the fam­ily, so it was all just a bonus,” she says with a smile.

It’s this pas­sion for her work that’s helped Glo­ria through some of the tough­est mo­ments of her life; namely, the loss of daugh­ter Caron to cancer at just 41 years old.

She set up the Caron Keat­ing Foun­da­tion in her daugh­ter’s mem­ory, which sends money to cancer char­i­ties in the UK and helps fi­nance pro­fes­sional car­ers and sup­port groups.

“Caron’s char­ity work is my heal­ing,” she says qui­etly. “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have that in my life to be re­ally pos­i­tive about.

“Work for me has al­ways been solid ground,” Glo­ria says. “It’s al­ways been a con­stant in my life be­cause I’ve been do­ing it since I was seven – and the foun­da­tion fits into this as well.

“I think Caron would be very proud.”

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