Remembering Mike Neville

I had the privilege of producing many Look Norths during Mike’s final years at the BBC.  He was a generous, kind and humble man who had time for everybody regardless of their job or status.     images2iw4khnn

His departure for Tyne Tees in 1996 was handled in a typically clumsy way by the local BBC management.  All staff had been summoned that morning to hear details about broadcasting’s bright new digital future.  At the end of the presentation – almost as a throwaway line – came the announcement that Mike was leaving.  There was a sharp intake of breath, but the presumption was that he was retiring.  Then came the bombshell.  He had been recruited by the opposition.  The reaction was like that scene from Airplane! when the passengers panic after being asked whether anybody could fly a plane.  Well that’s my memory of it anyway.   

Mike continued, of course, to be the complete professional during his last few weeks presenting Look North.  One afternoon we were chatting about that day’s programme – or probably something else – when he lowered his voice and asked me to follow him out of the newsroom.  I was relatively young, certainly naïve and had a high opinion of my talents.  This was it, I thought.  Mike’s going to offer me a pile of cash to follow him to Tyne Tees.  As we made our way through reception all I could think of was the likely size of my transfer fee.  Mike went outside.  I followed.  “There,” he said.  “What do you think of it?” As I looked at his shiny new car, I uttered an utterly unconvincing “Lovely.  Great colour.” as my hopes were dashed.   

I produced his final week of shows and still consider it a great honour.  I wrote the last words he delivered as a BBC Look North presenter, thanking the viewers and colleagues, etc, but obviously making no reference to his new job on the other side.   Mike was known as a great ad libber but – to be honest – the serious style of the programme in the mid-1990s cramped his style.  However, he rightly had the say as he threw in “But I’ll be back” to my carefully crafted and final goodbye.