My Mentor: Nick Robinson on Brian Redhead

Some of my earliest memories are of listening to Today while eating my cereal at the kitchen table, and of PM when I came home from school. I got to know Brian Redhead because I was best friends from the age of eight with his younger son, Will. Their house was on my route home from school so, quite often, as a little lad in shorts, I would pop in for a glass of milk and a slice of chocolate cake.

Brian was a Newcastle boy originally but Manchester became his adopted home. He was editor of the Manchester Evening News and deputy editor of The Guardian before working for the BBC. For a while he presented the Today programme from Manchester.

I remember the variety that Brian had in his life. He got the chance to ask questions of very important people and make programmes about philosophy, religion or history. It seemed a very nice way to earn a living.

One of the joys of Brian and one of the reasons he is an inspiration is that he was very interested in "ordinary people". Maybe towards the end of his career people thought he was a bit grand, because he was presenting this very important programme, but he was always genuinely interested in their stories and in what they thought and felt. One of the things he cracked was being both an insider and yet still somehow remaining an outsider and not being of a clique.

I was in a very bad car accident in 1983 in which Will died, but in later years Brian and I became close again. I started at the BBC in 1986 and he was very encouraging about what I was doing. When he died in 1994 I was the deputy editor of Panorama, and it makes me sad that he didn't live long enough to see that I followed his path and went in front of the microphone. Long after his death I got the chance to present the Today programme for a couple of days, and it was a very emotional moment for me to sit in his chair.

Nick Robinson is the BBC's political editor. Brian Redhead was a Today programme presenter from 1975 to 1993

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