10-YEAR PROJECT

AS CARRIE BICK­MORE PRE­PARES TO RE­TURN TO THE SHOW SHE’S AN­CHORED SINCE IT DE­BUTED, JUST IN TIME TO CEL­E­BRATE ITS 10TH BIRTH­DAY, SHE TALKS FAM­ILY LIFE, THE LOGIES AND THE EARLY DAYS OF THE PROJECT

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | BIG READ - WORDS: SEANNA CRONIN

Carrie Bick­more has a new phi­los­o­phy as she pre­pares to re­turn to the grind of the daily news cy­cle. The much-loved news­reader and TV per­son­al­ity will be back be­hind The Project desk on Mon­day night, af­ter eight months’ ma­ter­nity leave.

As the last re­main­ing orig­i­nal an­chor of the award-win­ning cur­rent af­fairs show, which will mark its 10th an­niver­sary later this month, Carrie has poured her heart and soul into the show’s mantra of ‘de­liv­er­ing the news dif­fer­ently’.

“I’m some­one who in­vests ev­ery­thing into ev­ery­thing I do,” she says.

“I’m so pas­sion­ately in­volved with things; I’m there in all the con­ver­sa­tions, meet­ings, de­briefs, plan­ning – some­times it’s not phys­i­cally pos­si­ble to ride the wave to that in­ten­sity (any­more). My phi­los­o­phy is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff ’ – to skim along the top and not feel the highs and lows too much. It’s worked re­ally well for ra­dio so far and I’m tak­ing a sim­i­lar ap­proach for The Project.”

Carrie and her part­ner Chris Walker wel­comed the ar­rival of their sec­ond daugh­ter, Ade­laide, in De­cem­ber.

“With every ad­di­tion to the fam­ily, life changes and ad­justs,” she says. “Every time my con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions roll around I think ‘OK, is what­ever I’m do­ing right for my fam­ily?’ I only ever do it if it feels right for my fam­ily, and it feels right now – but speak to me a few weeks in (laughs).”

If the 38-year-old looks re­freshed for a mother of a six-month-old, four-year-old and 11-year-old, it’s not be­cause Ade­laide’s been let­ting her sleep through the night. The news hound rel­ished the op­por­tu­nity to un­dergo a self-im­posed dig­i­tal detox while on leave.

“I did take a big break away from the news cy­cle,” she says. “In a job like ours you need to be tap­ping into ev­ery­thing that’s hap­pen­ing in the world. It all moves so fast. I took a chance to step out of it, which was good for me. In terms of my phone use, I’ve re­ally tried to cut back. I try to keep the phone in the other room when I’m with the kids; I try not to al­ways have it on walks; I try not to take it to brunch or din­ner with friends. I don’t nec­es­sar­ily think we’re al­ways try­ing to pick it up to avoid what’s hap­pen­ing in front of us. It’s ha­bit­ual; it’s a hard ad­dic­tion to break.

“It’s not some­thing I’ve cracked but I’m def­i­nitely get­ting bet­ter. It doesn’t have to be long to make a mas­sive dif­fer­ence.”

The mum-of-three has al­ways been can­did about the chal­lenges of par­ent­hood, both in in­ter­views and on so­cial me­dia, and ad­mits her third stint at moth­er­hood hasn’t been easy.

While she has been able to co-host her Hit Net­work ra­dio show with Tommy Lit­tle from home for the past four months, her re­turn to tele­vi­sion has taken a lit­tle longer than ex­pected.

“Ad­die was a re­ally tough baby,” she says. “She had re­flux and we couldn’t put her down for months. We were ex­hausted. She’s just a snug­gly lit­tle mon­key and not the sort of baby to cope (with be­ing away from me). In a weird way I’m glad I’ve had the time for the other kids. I get to be part of that nor­mal

routine I (usu­ally) miss out on and those nor­mal con­ver­sa­tions and those tit­bits you pick up on. It’s quite a pre­cious time. I’ve al­ways loved my job, but I know it’s go­ing to be tough go­ing back.”

Carrie re­united with her co-stars Waleed Aly, Peter Hel­liar and Lisa Wilkinson at Sunday’s TV Week Lo­gie Awards.

It was her and Chris’s first night to­gether with­out the kids since she gave birth to Ade­laide.

“It was my first night away from the bub. I was more ex­cited about the sleep than any­thing else,” she laughs.

“It was nice to have some time to­gether with Chris. I’m some­body who loves the Logies; I al­ways have. It’s a time to catch up with peo­ple from not just my own net­work but the in­dus­try. I still stayed out un­til 4.30am last year (when I was preg­nant). I’ll be hon­est, when I heard about it mov­ing to the Gold Coast I was like ‘What?’ Now I think it’s rein­vig­o­rated it.”

She’s not sur­prised by Gold Lo­gie win­ner Tom Glee­son’s an­tics, even though she was bar­rack­ing for her good mate Amanda Keller to win Aus­tralian TV’S top gong.

“I think Tom is do­ing ex­actly what you’d ex­pect Tom to do,” she says. “It must be hard for a co­me­dian to ac­cept be­ing part of an awards process.”

Win­ning the Gold Lo­gie in 2015 was a water­shed mo­ment for Carrie. Wear­ing a bright blue beanie, she ded­i­cated the award to her late hus­band Greg, who died of brain can­cer in 2010, in a pas­sion­ate and emo­tion­ally-charged ac­cep­tance speech.

That beanie has be­come the sym­bol of her char­ity Bean­ies 4 Brain Can­cer which, along­side her ser­vices to broad­cast me­dia, earned her an Or­der of Aus­tralia Medal last month.

“Every step along the way has taken me by sur­prise. I re­mem­ber my first ever Logies, and then win­ning Best New Tal­ent a few years later. I would have been happy if that was my peak,” she says.

“I um’d, and ah’d about whether to men­tion brain can­cer in my Logies speech, but I’m so glad I did be­cause that started an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney for me with the foun­da­tion. We’ve now raised al­most

$11.5 mil­lion. I could never have ever dreamed of that on that night of the Gold Lo­gie.

“I had the op­por­tu­nity to do a full spe­cial on The Project launch­ing our cam­paign a year later and within one hour live on air we raised $2 mil­lion. I re­mem­ber think­ing at that time that we have the most spe­cial au­di­ence who have been on this jour­ney with me. I felt so touched by that.”

The Project will cel­e­brate a decade on air on Fri­day, July 19, with a spe­cial 90-minute episode.

When it de­buted as The 7pm Project in 2009, few ex­pected the half-hour show – pro­duced by Rove Mcmanus’s Roving En­ter­prises – to last the year.

“I was ac­tu­ally re­ally ner­vous about leav­ing Rove for this new show be­cause I loved work­ing on Rove and I had no idea what to ex­pect from this new show,” Carrie says. “Weirdly, I had no ex­pec­ta­tion the first night we went to air. I was happy if we got one night away, maybe we’d be given the chance to do a week’s worth of show.”

On that first night, Dave Hughes, Carrie Bick­more and Char­lie Pick­er­ing sat be­hind the desk in a very ‘brown’ stu­dio, while Ruby Rose and James Mathi­son were roving re­porters. They were so caught up in hit­ting their cues, they for­got to sign off at the end of the broad­cast.

“Af­ter the first show I re­mem­ber think­ing ‘oh, that wasn’t great’,” she says.

“Af­ter the show we had a de­brief that went for about three hours dis­cussing what we’d do dif­fer­ently the fol­low­ing night. We were all in a state of shock. Those first few weeks were so ter­ri­fy­ing for me.”

With the brave back­ing of Chan­nel 10 and some early tweaks, the show found its foot­ing. One of its stand-out fea­tures, com­pared to other cur­rent af­fairs and evening news shows, is the stu­dio au­di­ence, which helps the hosts and guests gauge the suc­cess of their jokes.

“I re­mem­ber dur­ing the day of our first show hear­ing Hugh­esy talk to our bosses about need­ing an au­di­ence and I didn’t fully ap­pre­ci­ate why it was so im­por­tant at the time,” Carrie says. “I was think­ing, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’ll deal with it to­mor­row or the next day.’ But Hugh­esy couldn’t have been more right. The stu­dio au­di­ence has been one of the fun­da­men­tal parts of our show – it en­ables the guys to be funny, it en­ables in­ter­ac­tion and now I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate why he was so in­sis­tent on hav­ing a big live au­di­ence.”

Now a prime-time sta­ple, The Project has been a spring­board for Char­lie, Hugh­esy and Tom Bal­lard, all of whom have gone on to their own TV projects.

The show it­self has made plenty of head­lines over the years, whether it be for an out­spo­ken guest, Waleed’s pointed

‘some­thing we should talk about’ seg­ments or poach­ing Lisa from the To­day show in her highly pub­li­cised de­par­ture from Chan­nel 9.

The line-up, stu­dio, format and hair­styles may have changed over the years, but Carrie has been the one con­stant.

“To be here 10 years later is so awe­some and so un­ex­pected,” she says. “The show has evolved and changed so much over the years. With every new per­son who joins the show and every per­son who leaves, the show shifts slightly. That’s what’s beau­ti­ful about it – you can’t have a show on air for 10 years with­out it grow­ing and chang­ing. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. I still pinch my­self I’ve been given the op­por­tu­nity.”

The Project airs Mon­day at 7.30pm on Ten.

“THE SHOW HAS EVOLVED AND CHANGED SO MUCH OVER THE YEARS. WITH EVERY NEW PER­SON WHO JOINS THE SHOW AND EVERY PER­SON WHO LEAVES, THE SHOW SHIFTS SLIGHTLY.”

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