Weather girl turned film-maker
Wednesday 14 November 2007
Patricia Noble Williamson, television presenter, producer and director: born Newcastle upon Tyne 3 January 1955; married first 1981 David Devaux (marriage dissolved 1986), secondly Cameron Maxwell Lewis (marriage dissolved), (two sons); died Weybread, Suffolk 9 November 2007.
Plucked from her job as a researcher at TV-am, ITV's first breakfast station, Tricia Williamson seized her chance to appear on screen when she took over as a weather presenter from Wincey Willis, who famously left after no longer being allowed to contribute items such as "Wincey's Pets" to Good Morning Britain.
The new face of the weather became familiar nationwide as "Trish" Williamson – the name suggested by the company's managing director, Bruce Gyngell – and helped to mould the fledgling fashion for "weather girls".
Just two years later, in 1989, she joined the original ITV National Weather team, which – although it is hard to believe today – for the first time presented nationwide forecasts after the channel's news programmes. At the same time, she was employed by ITN as a reporter. Later, she moved into documentary-making, following in the footsteps of her father, Harold Williamson, who was best known for his "Children Talking" feature in Braden's Week and That's Life!, and for his many Man Alive reports.
Although she made programmes for various ITV regional companies, Williamson found a more permanent home at BBC East, in Norwich, five years ago. She became a formidable presenter, producer and director of documentaries for the regional current-affairs series Inside Out.
Inspired by one of her father's television reports on the Appleby Horse Fair and trotting races in the back streets of Newcastle in the 1960s, she started with "Trotters", a short film about how travellers were continuing their tradition of racing harness horses on Britain's roads. She persuaded some in Hertfordshire to allow her to film this illegal activity and was given a glimpse into a secret world. "Suddenly, mayhem," she commented in her voiceover. "Without warning, a cavalry charge of cars and horses, and the race was on."
Williamson – a lifelong Christian – also made an Inside Out report titled "Salvation Army Girl", about a 16-year-old's dedication to her work with the Central Norwich Corps. It won the top honour at the 2004 Andrew Cross Awards, organised by the Churches' Media Council to recognise achievements in religious broadcasting.
Last year, she won the Ruby Award for an Inside Out film about the long-term effect of the prescription drug Ritalin on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Earlier this year, she took the Ruby Diversity Award for a report on the gipsy community that she made for the BBC's Look North programme, taking her back to the region in which she had grown up.
Born in 1955 in Newcastle upon Tyne, where her father worked as a reporter for the BBC, Patricia Williamson graduated in Middle Eastern Studies from Durham University. In 1984, while she was living in St Lucia with her first husband, the businessman David Devaux, Michael Parkinson – a friend of her father – arrived to work on a behind-the-scenes documentary about the film comedy Water, starring Michael Caine and Billy Connolly. He asked for her help with some research and the following year, after Williamson left her husband, helped to secure her a job as a researcher at TV-am, the ITV breakfast station launched two years earlier, for which Parkinson had been one of the original "famous five" presenters.
Switching to presenting the weather in 1987, she also filled in as host of TV-am's After Nine show. Then, following a short stint in 1988 as a weather presenter at TSW, the ITV company in the South West, Williamson joined the ITV National Weather team.
She began to branch out as a presenter by fronting regional programmes, including two for Anglia Television, Sailaway (1989-90) and the rural series Countrywide (1993-94). With Anne Gregg, she hosted the ITV travel series Getaways (screened in the Meridian and HTV regions, 1993-98) and, in 1994, returned as a weather forecaster for ITV in London, for which she also presented the magazine programme After 5 with Trish Williamson (1995) and the travelogue Breakaways. This led her to write and produce her own travel programmes and, by this time, she had chosen to replace "Trish" with "Tricia" as her professional name.
Then, Williamson produced the Trailblazers series (1998) for the Discovery Channel and Dream Ticket (1999) for the ITV company LWT, before working on Inside Out. She recently finished producing Born Survivors, a new BBC3 series about teenagers that is due to be screened next month.
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