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Jackie Bird: 2020 is definitely going to be my year of saying yes

Jackie Bird
Jackie Bird

For many of us, the start of a New Year provides the perfect opportunity to reassess our dreams and goals, to turn the page on a new chapter. And this year will be even more significant as, with the strike of midnight, we said goodbye to 2019 and hello to a new decade.

While the faces at our Hogmanay celebrations may have changed over the years, there was always one constant, reassuring on-screen presence guiding Scottish viewers into the next 12 months – but much-loved broadcaster Jackie Bird was missing this year as she embarks on a new journey of her own.

When the BBC Scotland news anchor announced she was standing down from Reporting Scotland in April, fans from around the country expressed their disappointment at losing their nightly contact with one of the Scotland’s most recognisable faces.

But, looking back on her career highlights and forward to the future, the 57-year-old admits she is excited at the prospect of turning her hand to new challenges after three decades of the nightly news, dubbing 2020 her “year of saying yes”.

She explained: “For the last 30 years I have been doing the same thing but now, the next decade is going to look totally different.

“I experienced some of the most fantastic journalistic events, yes, but I wasn’t able to try new things. That was the nature of the job.

“So, while, it’s a little terrifying to think that everything is set to change, it’s exciting to think about new projects, take on new challenges. It’s all about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”

She added: “The whole point of giving up Reporting Scotland was because I wanted space, time and the ability to explore. I’m in a fortunate position that I can choose what I do going forward, and that’s exactly what this year is going to be all about.

“Last year went past so quickly, and I found I was far too busy to say yes to a lot of the things, so 2020 is going to be my year of saying yes.”

After beginning her career with DC Thomson’s Jackie magazine and going on to work in radio and newspapers, Jackie came to prominence after joining the BBC’s flagship news programme in 1989, where she covered some of the country’s biggest stories.

In addition to her anchor duties, career highlights include hosting some of Scotland’s most popular TV events, such as ringing in the bells at Hogmanay every year since 1999.

© DC Thomson
Jackie in 1991, two years after joining Reporting Scotland

Despite delivering breaking news with unflappable calm and poise, and cementing herself as one of Scotland’s most trusted voices, Jackie insists she has never stepped back and assessed her career, giving herself a pat on the back. Instead, she has used each new experience and opportunity to build on her strengths and skills – something she will continue to do in the coming years.

“You never think you’re good at what you do – or at least I never have,” explained the mum-of-two. But when you’re experienced, you do learn to know your strengths. When you are starting out, or you’re in the early stages of your career, you make lots of mistakes. At times you accept work or projects that don’t play to your strengths. We’ve all done that.

“So, at this stage in your life – your 50s – you know what your strengths are, and you’re able to run a mile from things that aren’t in your skillset.

“But, it’s funny. No one tells you when you’re starting out in your 20s, wondering what you’re going to do with your career, that it’s all going to come right around again.

“Lots of doors open. All those firsts and opportunities open up again, and you have to make choices and go through the angst of wondering whether you should go down a particular road. It’s almost like a mirror image of your 20s, with the kids and big life events sandwiched in between.”

Since April, Jackie has been working with BBC Scotland on new projects and has returned to writing for the first time in years, but, she is keen to stress, her new beginning is just, well, beginning.

And the new decade could usher in any number of surprises.

Jackie on assignment with troops in Afghanistan

She said: “Last year seemed to just race past and now here we are, suddenly, at the start of a new decade. I’ve gone back to doing a lot more writing, which I’ve really loved because I didn’t get the chance when I was still reading the news, and I’ve done quite a few interviews with people I like and admire.

“I’ve been back working with the BBC on some development ideas, too, including a documentary about Scotland’s music in the 80s, and I went off to Sierra Leone immediately after my last shift to work on an idea for a documentary.

“And I was almost – almost – in pantomime last year. I got an offer but it was just too late in the day, so who knows what will happen next year!

“It’s all still early days and there’s really no need to rush.”

So, like so many other broadcasters before her, could Jackie’s next adventure see her camp out in the Australian outback or waltz into the Strictly ballroom? Well, who knows?

She said: “I would probably do I’m A Celebrity, but I wouldn’t do Dancing On Ice because I would probably end up in A&E. I wouldn’t do Strictly, either. I love the show, the costumes and the dancing, but I have the memory of a goldfish so I would step out on the floor and forget all the moves.

“I would do a celebrity version of The X Factor in a heartbeat. You don’t want to be at a karaoke evening with me. I have to have the microphone surgically removed from my hand.

“And Big Brother? Oh dear God, no. I would need to lose my mind before I entered the Big Brother House.”

© Martin McCready
Jackie hosting Hogmanay

As she looks towards the next 12 months and beyond, Jackie says she feels lucky to have the opportunity to reinvent herself, discovering new passions.

She explained: “If you ask anyone who has been working for a long time, there is a freedom to not having to go to an office every day or be held to the tyranny of the clock. I didn’t enter this new chapter lightly. I thought long and hard about leaving.

“I will try to do new things – some might be good, some enjoyable, some successful, and I’m sure some will not. But it’s all about having the chance to do it.

“I feel hugely grateful to get this opportunity. Everyone would love the chance to change but not everyone is lucky enough.

“Life is really just a game of luck – a bit of talent, but a lot of luck.”