Daring 'Blue Peter' presenter with a 'shabby chic' style
Thursday 15 April 2004
In 1986, aged 24, Caron Keating became a presenter of the BBC children's television institution
Blue Peter, and her four years on the show made her a household name.
Caron Louisa Keating, television presenter: born London 5 October 1962; married 1991 Russ Lindsay (two sons); died Sevenoaks, Kent 13 April 2004.
In 1986, aged 24, Caron Keating became a presenter of the BBC children's television institution Blue Peter, and her four years on the show made her a household name.
Her daring escapades for Blue Peter included abseiling down a 200ft building while dressed as Snow White (accompanied by seven dwarfs), diving with sharks and jumping under a freezing waterfall - and she was known for a "shabby chic" fashion style that outraged some of the programme's primmer viewers. Keating said,
There were loads of complaints at first. They thought I spoke funny and looked funnier - but, fresh out of university, I didn't have much money to spend on clothes. Mum bought me a couple of very, very fussy outfits, which she assured me was what I should be wearing. I walked on to the set and mouths just fell open until the producer said, "What on earth have you got on? Just wear what you normally do . . . please?"
Born in Fulham, south-west London, in 1962, Caron Keating was the daughter of the BBC producer Don Keating and the broadcaster Gloria Hunniford, and was just a few months old when the family moved to Northern Ireland. She grew up near Hillsborough in Co Down and, as a teenager, presented programmes for BBC Northern Ireland, such as Green Rock and Channel One, before going to Bristol University, where she gained a degree in English and Drama.
Keating's big break came in 1986 when she was chosen to join the team of Blue Peter presenters. Asked about the programme's enduring appeal, she said,
It is so successful because it caters for all those children who are not desperately trendy. It is such a constant. It has always been there in our living rooms twice a week. And no matter what is happening in a child's life - disasters at school or parents splitting up - their three favourite presenters will be there to say hello to them.
She decided to leave the show in 1990 because she feared being typecast, and followed it by hosting the daytime show Summer Scene (1992) and royal film premieres, as well as teaming up with her mother in two series of Family Affairs (1992-94), about parenting and families. Asked why she had never appeared on screen with her mother before, Keating explained, "Well, there were enough people talking about nepotism. I knew I had to get my jobs on my own terms." Then, she joined ITV in London as entertainment correspondent for its regional news programme, London Tonight (1993-94), and host of After 5 with Caron Keating.
In 1991 Keating married the show-business agent Russ Lindsay, with whom she had two sons, but she experienced post-natal depression, panic attacks and anxiety. The birth of her second son had come only a few days after the sudden death of her father from a heart attack, and, suffering from depression, Keating took a year-long break from television. "Some people get through grief by throwing themselves into their work, but it didn't work for me ," she said. "In a way, it was a wonderful year, albeit for terrible reasons, because it gave me the chance to reassess my life."
Between 1996 and 1999 Keating acted as a stand-in presenter for Judy Finnigan on the ITV daytime show This Morning and, in 1999, she took over from Finnigan on the peak-time consumer programme We Can Work It Out.
Then, still battling ill-health, Keating decided to retreat again from the pressures of show-business life and with her husband and children moved from London to Fowey in Cornwall. The relaxed surroundings seemed to offer new hope. Keating said:
The time of my father's death was awful but it produced a whole new person. I didn't willingly go through that change, I simply had no choice. I thought I had a charmed life before but somebody said to me, "No, I think your charmed life is just beginning." I hope it is.
In 2001, she appeared to have recovered her health and relaunched her career with the celebrity news and gossip series Rich and Famous (2001), which included her interview with George and Alex Best at their home in Co Down, where the football legend talked about his addiction to alcohol.
Two years ago, again forced to abandon her television work, Keating and her husband emigrated to Byron Bay in Australia. She had recently been receiving treatment for breast cancer in Switzerland, but returned to Britain during her final days.
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