Lives Remembered: Catherine Gilbey
Friday 12 June 2009
There aren't many middle-aged mums who are able to successfully combine bringing up three delightful children while putting pop groups like Take That and the Spice Girls on the road to international stardom, but my wife Cathy Gilbey did. Working as a freelance radio journalist in the 1970s, Cathy, who has died aged 72, did an interview for Radio 4's Woman's Hour on the Blue Peter team. It was so well received that she was invited to work for 10 weeks on a new Saturday morning children's television show, Noel Edmonds' Multi-Coloured Swap Shop. She realised that this was what she wanted to do, so she continued to work on various incarnations of this ground-breaking three-hour live show, Saturday Superstore, Going Live and Live and Kicking. This turned out to be more than 22 years of producing highly successful Saturday-morning children's programmes.
Indeed, Saturday morning became a mightily competitive part of the BBC's schedule. One of Cathy's roles as producer was to secure the best possible guests, be they actor, astronaut, pet expert or world leader, and Cathy was highly successful, due in large part to the influence and respect she had with agents, record companies and with the pop music industry in general. Exclusive followed exclusive and usually unobtainable A-list guests would clamour to get on the programme, be it Elton John one week, Margaret Thatcher the next.
Rival Saturday-morning shows came and went. Yet all the BBC shows over that 22-year period were able to maintain high ratings since Cathy would never patronise her audience and never compromise on quality. Her ability to spot pop potential became almost legendary: the list of those groups who were given their big break by her is a long one.
Less obvious but equally important is how Cathy was part of the unsung team that paved the way for women and mothers in the industry, during a time when it was dominated by men. This was recognised in 1995 when she was honoured by the music industry's Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her colleagues recall that her office was generally filled with record promoters, laughter and loud music. Noisy but wonderful! She was considered to be the wise producer to whom they all turned for a second opinion - not just about work, but often about life and love as well. Her judgement was always spot-on and her cool common sense was invaluable. She just knew instinctively what it was that children wanted to see on a Saturday morning.
In recent years Cathy had been suffering from cancer, the seriousness of which she kept from many of those around her, but she fought the disease with determination and fortitude. Cathy is sorely missed by by all those who ever knew her, for her love, sense of fairness and her undying friendship. She is survived by our three children, Carolyn, Adam and James.
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