CV - Chris Cowey Producer, `Top of the Pops'

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The Independent Online
I come from a village to the south of Sunderland, where what you usually did was work down a coal-mine or off-shore on an oil rig. But at school in the late Seventies, I developed an interest in drama, and was quite keen on the idea of teaching too. Television wasn't something I'd ever considered, but then Malcolm Gerrie, who was my English and drama teacher, got a job as a researcher with Tyne Tees TV. So, suddenly, there was this link with the world of TV - and Malcolm would often drag me into the studio and show me off as one of his star pupils.

At that time, Tyne Tees was making a music show called All Right Now, and they came down to film at the local Mecca ballroom one day. I met the head of the Tyne Tees children's department, Andrea Wonfor, and she said she'd like me to audition as a TV presenter. Much to my amazement, I got the job, and so dropped any thoughts of acting, teaching or going to university.

There was no formal training: I basically just watched what everyone did and learned from it. Although I enjoyed presenting, I soon realised that the real power was on the other side of the camera. And, when The Tube started in 1982, I became a trainee researcher on it.

Sometimes, I would go off and work on current affairs programmes, too, and I would still be presenting when The Tube was off the air. I also started to become skilled at big events, working on outside broadcast specials from bands like Queen and Dire Straits.

I decided to carry on specialising in music programming, and doors just kept opening. And, in 1987, just before The Tube finished, I went freelance, becoming an associate producer, and very quickly, a producer. Andrea Wonfor had by then left Tyne Tees and started a production company called Zenith North, and then Malcolm Gerrie left to form Initial Film and Television, so I got involved making programmes for both of them. I also started directing, doing stuff like The White Room for Channel 4.

Then, in 1992, Jonathan Ross asked me to produce and direct an interview with Madonna he was doing for Channel 4.

In 1994 and 1995, I produced Channel 4's coverage of Glastonbury, and then spent a lot of time working with Malcolm Gerrie again, doing the Brit Awards last year. After that, I started developing The Pepsi Chart show that's just started on Channel 5 with Initial, and while doing that I was asked if I wanted to do Top of the Pops. It took me maybe 10 seconds to say yes: Top of the Pops is the Holy Grail of music television, and I'd loved it since I was a kid.

It was a huge challenge - it needed a lot of things doing with it - but I never thought I would be able to derive so much sheer joy from a job. It's like being paid for a hobby - my job is to get the best bands and artists that are available, put them on TV, and make them look and sound good. The programme's got a big grin on its face right now, and I feel we're heading in the right direction.

If I get Top of the Pops exactly the way I want it, and I'm thinking "What next?", the only logical thing for me to do would be to go and make a Tube/White Room/TOTP-style programme in America. There's nothing quite like that over there. But I don't really have a plan. I just want to carry on doing what I enjoy doing, which is making programmes.