I said goodbye to one of the most important people in my life this week. Rosemary Gill, the brilliantly intelligent and wickedly rebellious woman who invented SwapShop and Saturday Morning Television, died on Tuesday evening.
I owe everything to Rose- not only my BBC career – but also, because she introduced me to my future husband, my daughter who is named after her.
Unusually for people working in TV, she was completely self-effacing, refusing to take credit for her sheer genius in putting together the first truely interactive television show.
Typically, in this picture, taken on the set of the very last Swap Shop, you can hardly see her but she’s the woman just to the left of John and behind Noel’s hair.
There’ll be official obituaries in The Times and in Ariel; Rose’s career went right back to the days of live drama at Alexandra Palace and she was hugely respected in the BBC.
But I first met her in April 1978, when she interviewed me for that fabulous job on Saturday mornings. The only problem was I hadn’t the faintest idea what the job was, as Rose had deliberately placed a box numbered ad , not mentioning the BBC or indeed the name of the show. Years later, I asked her why she’s taken a punt on that raw student from Manchester and she said, “Well I asked you one question about your boots and you talked for twenty minutes, so I thought you’d probably be alright”
She was astute, intuitive, with an enormous sense of fun. The planning meetings took place on Friday lunchtimes over a bottle of Frascati and the show was completely unscripted . Only the first 30 seconds, with it’s complicated series of ten second cues to trails were ever rehearsed. Noel remembers the way she would walk across the studio floor, giving him the thumbs up no matter how badly that sequence had run. He suspects she then tore up to the gallery to give some unfortunate a complete bollocking.
She was an inspiration. And over the last thirty years has been a very great friend.
Thank you Rose,for everything.