INTERVIEW: Judi Spiers talks about an embarrassing start to her friendship with Michael Dobbs
IT seems Judi Spiers was destined to succeed in the world of show business the moment she stepped on to the stage as a trainee actress.
Her days at the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Sidcup helped to set into motion a fascinating career in television and radio.
After becoming a continuity announcer at Westward TV, she presented light entertainment shows, appeared on TV panel games such as Blankety Blank and covered the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival. She also interviewed celebrities from the world of music and theatre on her own BBC Radio 2 show and hosted daytime national TV programmes.
Now at Radio Devon, Judi always has an impressive lineup of authors to interview and she is particularly looking forward to appearing once more at this year's Appledore Book Festival.
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Why? Because both the stars she is interviewing at separate events are old friends.
Judi, a patron of the festival along with Martin Bell and Jeremy Vine, will be talking to top crime-writer Lynda La Plante and politician and author Michael Dobbs.
She said: "It's lovely to be in a position to interview someone who is an old friend and I've known Lynda a long time. In fact, I knew her when she was an actress and we were both working at the Coventry Rep.
"Then after she had written a couple of books she came on to Pebble Mill, the daytime TV show I was doing then, and we've been friends ever since. She's wonderful to interview – a one-woman show, very entertaining, full of funny stories and she has a fascinating background. I'm really looking forward to seeing her again in Appledore."
Lynda's brilliant TV crime dramas such as Trial And Retribution, Above Suspicion and Prime Suspect have earned her the BAFTA Dennis Potter Writers Award. She has also received the Edgar Allen Poe Writer's award and an Emmy for Prime Suspect.
Best-selling author, Michael Dobbs, who was Margaret Thatcher's chief of staff, is still an active member of the House of Lords. He has also worked at the heart of British politics with John Major and David Cameron.
But getting to know Judi proved to be quite embarrassing. She explained: "I met Michael in the early 1990s after his first book House Of Cards was published, again when I was doing Pebble Mill. I later got to know him better when he, Alan Titchmarsh and I were invited to appear on a TV chat show in Ireland. After the show we all went to a party at our hotel.
"We had all left our hotel door keys on a table and at the end of the evening I said good night to everyone, collected my keys and headed for my room.
"When I had nearly reached my door I heard a voice calling my name. It was Michael and I thought: 'Oh, no he's hitting on me. Oh dear, this could spoil a nice relationship.'
"When I told him what I was thinking Michael burst into laughter. He explained that I'd picked up the wrong keys and that he was returning mine. We laughed our heads off and have become great friends."
House Of Cards was so successful that Michael, who survived the Brighton Bombing in 1984, went on to write a trilogy with To Play The King and Final Cut. Now he is delighted that Kevin Spacey stars in the latest TV adaptation of his work.
Judi often asks authors she meets if they are going to appear at Appledore Book Festival.
She explained: "I say that they must and tell them: 'You'll love it, have a great time and increase your readership at the same time. It's a lovely way of doing things'."
Well, it is known as the Friendly Festival.
Tickets for the Festival, which runs from Friday, September 27 to Sunday, October 6, will be on sale at the Appledore Book Festival's box office, Docton Court Gallery, 2, Myrtle Street, Appledore, EX39 1PH. Phone: 01237 424949 or visit www.appledorebookfestival. co.uk.