My Mentor: Nick Knowles on Peter Hayton

'The BBC thought I was too laddish, but peter kept on at them and won them over'

I've hopped around a lot and worked for lots of different people but the one sustaining relationship I've had throughout my career was forged when I was working in regional news and got to know Peter Hayton, one of the managing directors of Topical Television, who make City Hospital. It was Peter who picked me out from regional news and got me to make a few more unusual pieces, and he's championed me all the way through.

Peter gave me an enormous amount of confidence. He would tell me to believe in my ideas. I worked on TV Weekly, which Anne Diamond presented, did a history motorbike series, a sex advice show and then worked with Carol Vorderman on Put it to the Test. That was Carol's first breakout programme from Countdown and Peter picked her out to do that. He was good at spotting people and saying, "If you give them more, they'll be better."

My father died 10 years ago and he was there for me as a sort of surrogate father. Whenever I was frustrated and the work wasn't coming in, he would say, "You're strong in journalism and you're good with people. You'll be fine."

When City Hospital kicked off, the BBC commissioners didn't want me on the programme because they thought I was too laddish, but Peter kept on and on at them and in the end he won them over. I've now got this huge contract with the BBC.

Peter is a jack-of-all-trades in terms of knowledge. We can have a conversation which will go from 16th-century Jacobean poetry, through baseball and on to Iraq, and he's one of the few people I can have a conversation about quantum physics with, but we also laugh a lot. Peter has been there for me at every stage. But he will also ring up and say: "I saw the programme and you were looking a bit disinterested. You need to up your game."

Nick Knowles presents 'Mission Africa', Wednesdays on BBC1 at 8.30pm

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