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Michael Vestey (Read 7089 times)
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Michael Vestey
Aug 27th, 2006, 9:08am
 
It's reported that Michael Vestey has died at his home in Dorset.  It's understood he was out walking when he had a fall and a seizure of some kind.  He was 61.

Michael joined the BBC in July, 1970, in the Radio London newsroom.

But he soon became a Radio News reporter and remained in that job - at least nominally - until he left the BBC in 1994.

Much of the time he was attached to the World Tonight, which he frequently presented.  He also presented other programmes, including Today.  

He also had attachments as Defence Correspondent and Foreign Affairs Correspondent.

In 1995, he published his comic novel about the BBC, Waning Powers.

In recent years he has been the Radio critic of the Spectator.  He used his column to mount withering critiques of what he saw as BBC follies.  This included the whole of the John Birt era and much of the trend toward digital distribution.

More details as they emerge.

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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #1 - Aug 30th, 2006, 6:04am
 
This is taken from the Daily Telegraph:

Michael Vestey
(Filed: 30/08/2006)


Michael Vestey, who died on Friday aged 61, was a BBC radio correspondent in the 1970s and later became the trenchant radio critic of The Spectator magazine.

His column was an instant success - perceptive, authoritative, witty, sometimes caustic and opinionated, but always immensely readable.

Tall and languid, Vestey wore a vaguely patrician air and could be difficult to deal with; colleagues at the BBC dubbed him "Colonel the Lord Vestey", although he was not related to the wealthy landowning family, a fact he once personally verified with Lord Vestey himself. But despite a sometimes offputting manner, Vestey was regarded as an effective reporter when he arrived in the newsroom at Broadcasting House from BBC Radio London.

In 1996 Frank Johnson, then editor of The Spectator, appointed Vestey as the magazine's first (and so far only) radio critic. Readers (who tended also to be avid Radio 4 listeners) immediately took to Vestey's prickly tone and his instinctive antipathy to the direction in which he saw the BBC heading.

For Vestey the corporation changed forever when John Birt took over as director-general, ushering in what he called the era of "BC" - Birtian Correctness. "Panorama on BBC1 seems to have partly shaken off the dead hand of the DG," he noted in his first Spectator column in January 1996, "but Analysis is still numbingly producer-led and structured. I once knew a young producer recruited to the programme who left with a near nervous breakdown and an ulcer. He went off to teach journalism - a sure sign of desperation and mental turbulence."

Michael John Vestey was born on March 7 1945 at Bournemouth. After the war, his family moved to south London, where he attended Tulse Hill School. Aged 16 he left to join the South London Advertiser as a cub reporter, moving to Tunbridge Wells in 1963 to work for the West Kent News Service.

In 1965 he got a break into Fleet Street with a job on the Daily Sketch; this was followed by assignments for the London bureau of Newsweek and London Life magazines, and in 1967 he was hired by John Junor as a reporter on the Sunday Express.

Moving into broadcasting, Vestey took a job with BBC Radio London in 1970, and in 1973 joined BBC Radio News as a reporter. After a stint as arts correspondent on the Today programme, he was assigned to the BBC's diplomatic staff in 1978; among other foreign assignments, as a roving correspondent he covered the Rhodesian elections in 1979 and 1980, and the Iran-Iraq war of 1980.

He left the BBC in the early 1990s to go freelance. He worked for Meridian Television as a reporter, and took a particular interest in conservation issues.

Vestey espoused increasingly Right-wing views. In private, and in his column, he reserved his sharpest vitriol for the BBC, and what he viewed as its descent into mediocrity. He explored this theme in his satirical novel Waning Powers (1995), in which many of his former colleagues were thinly, and sometimes uncomfortably, disguised.

Michael Vestey spent the last years of his life living in a rented cottage on a friend's estate in Dorset. He was a popular figure at his local pub. He also had a flat in Italy.

He was twice divorced, and is survived by both former wives, three children of his first marriage, and by his long-term partner, Katie Byrne.
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #2 - Aug 30th, 2006, 2:28pm
 
This was Michael's final Radio column for the Spectator, last week:

Kill joy
The Spectator  -   26/08/2006
by Michael Vestey


A slice of social history was aired last week in The Archive Hour: Remember Last Summer (Saturday). The programme looked back at the rise of the package holiday in the 1950s which, like the small family saloon in the 1960s, liberated so many people who normally couldn't afford to travel abroad or own a car. It was Thatcherism before Thatcher, just like the budget flights of today. A woman from the East End of London said that the package holiday meant a lot to her as she came from a deprived area and being able to go to Italy when she was 19 had been wonderful. She hadn't been abroad before.

She also recalled nostalgically the attentions of the local Italian youths at San Remo on the Ligurian coast. Italian girls were still chaperoned in those days, 'so, it really was true, we really were getting our bottoms pinched everywhere we went. It was fantastic!' At night on their hotel balcony they were serenaded by the youths below who would sometimes take them up into the hills on the backs of their Lambrettas. She discovered the cappuccino and when she returned home swankily asked her baffled mother for one.

The pioneer of package holidays was the late Harry Chandler, his wife Rene and son Paul. He started The Travel Club of Upminster. It seems the very first package tour was in 1947, when people yearned to escape postwar austerity. The flight was Bournemouth to Basle at a cost of 42 guineas. The then state-owned (bizarre though it seems now) Thomas Cook travel agency kept an eye on the growth of the package tour, and their archivist Paul Smith said most Britons holidayed at home as paid holidays from work were fairly new and summer breaks were shorter.

There was huge growth, with Majorca and the Costas becoming the leading resorts. In 1958 Peter Bath started his own airline, Palmair, and created a charter business at Bournemouth that still exists today. He used Vickers Viscounts and recalled the printed menus for meals.

Having established the names of each passenger from the seat booking, he would personally write on each one that he hoped they would enjoy their flight. Rene Chandler discovered the Algarve and bought a house there. Of course there were some drawbacks: over-development of coastlines and later the overcrowding at airports but on the whole the package holiday broadened people's horizons.

But there's always snobbery and puritanism lurking within the British, particularly among the political and bureaucratic classes, the moment they spot someone enjoying themselves. Now that Steve Norris, the leader of the working group advising David Cameron on transport, has finally taken leave of his senses one can only hope Cameron is immune to his recommendations.

Norris was quoted as saying it was 'exactly right' that car owners should pay more in petrol duty and car tax. The crazed Norris is also said to be considering extra taxes on air travel that will have the effect of stopping the less well-off flying and damaging the no-frills airlines. If Cameron listens to him, he really will be committing political suicide.

Perhaps Norris will call for a tax on mistresses next. I gather that the Tory leader is also being advised by that obsessive environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, a son of the late billionaire Jimmy Goldsmith, a man who no doubt wouldn't even notice the cost of a first-class air ticket but who wants to stop other people using no-frills airlines.

Test Match Special on Radio Four longwave last Sunday unexpectedly found itself with an unfolding live-radio scoop when the Pakistan Test team childishly refused to play after being accused of ball-tampering, a practice the Pakistanis pioneered long ago. It was dramatic broadcasting against the background of a booing crowd.

When the Pakistanis finally did take the field, Jonathan Agnew wondered, 'What on earth is going on? They're walking off again!' Now it became apparent that the umpire Darrell Hair wasn't participating as he had followed the rules and had declared the match forfeited, though typically no official information was forthcoming.

Agnew, rightly, added that you cannot condone a team's refusal to play.

Interestingly, some former players, now pundits, both on the programme and in the newspapers the next day, blamed the umpire for his handling of the incident whereas Christopher Martin-Jenkins of the Times took a more Corinthian view, 'To me it seems a gross overreaction by Pakistan.' He thought the matter could have been sorted out at the post-match hearing that evening. Unfortunately, Pakistan have now set a dismal precedent.
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #3 - Sep 1st, 2006, 8:03am
 
This is taken from the Death notices of the Times, August 31, 2006:

VESTEY Michael, journalist.  Suddenly at home on Saturday 26th August 2006 aged 61.  Deeply mourned by Katie, his many friends and his family, especially Corin, Ros and Nick.  Funeral at St Mary's Church, Donhead St Mary 11am Friday 8th September.  Memorial service at St Bride's Fleet Street, date to be announced.
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #4 - Sep 3rd, 2006, 12:59pm
 
Adrian Porter, former BBC foreign correspondent, was a friend and neighbour of Michael's.  He has written this obituary for The Times:

Michael Vestey, who died on August 26th, aged 61, was a prominent BBC radio correspondent from the 1970s to the 1990s, during which time he moved from local and national reporting to foreign coverage.

The story he most prized was his exclusive report on the secret operations of British SAS troops in ‘neutral’ Chile during the Falklands war in 1982. These were uncovered when a military helicopter crashed, killing all the SAS men aboard, near the southernmost port of Punta Arenas where Vestey had been posted on a watching brief and was beginning to feel ‘rather out of things’.

In the six weeks he reported from Chile, however, he had managed to cultivate such a close liaison with local naval officers, who had no great liking for their Argentine neighbours, that he was taken aside one day and given the longitude and latitude coordinates of the latest position of the Argentine cruiser ‘Belgrano’, which was reported to be steaming near the Falklands.

Vestey immediately contacted the British Embassy in the Chilean capital and passed on the information. The ‘Belgrano’ was subsequently torpedoed by a British submarine which had already been briefed independently by Royal Navy intelligence and, sadly,Vestey had to disassociate himself from his growing reputation as ‘the man who sank the Belgrano’.

After leaving school in Tulse Hill at the age of 16, Michael Vestey began his career in journalism on the South London Advertiser and, in the 1960s, he joined Bob Friend – who also joined the BBC later – in his West Kent News Agency. Vestey later described this period as ‘the best working time of my life’. In 1965, he moved to Fleet street, and worked at various times for the Daily Sketch, Daily Mail, and Sunday Express. He joined the BBC in 1969 and worked for Radio London, the World Tonight, and the Today programme.

He accumulated experience as a regular duty reporter in Northern Ireland and then went ‘foreign’ in the 1980s with more than a year in Rhodesia and a spell covering the Iran-Iraq war.

Vestey possessed a rich, melliflous broadcasting voice and, with a deep love of the English language and the beauty of its ‘received’ pronunciation, he was appalled at its misuse by some young recruits to the BBC’s broadcasting staff and the increasing intrusion of harsh regional accents. It was his perception of such ‘lowering standards’ plus the overall changes in broadcasting being brought about by ‘Birtism’ that led to his disenchantment with his place in it and his subsequent resignation in 1993.

He achieved some catharsis for his distaste by writing ‘Waning Powers’, a novel which thinly disguised his experience at and growing sentiments about the BBC. Soon afterwards, he joined the Spectator as its first columnist on radio affairs and became known as the ‘burr under the corporate saddle’ with his fierce but well-informed criticism of BBC’s actions and attitudes. He also worked until a few years ago as a freelance reporter with the Meridian TV channel in southern England.

He was an amusing and gregarious man and a popular member of the the Reform Club as well as the various ‘hostelries’, as he called them, in his Dorset-Wiltshire catchment area. With his tall, gangling stature and fine articulation, he possessed a polished persona which exuded ‘class’ although he seemed to be uncertain of his own roots.

Michael Vestey was married – and divorced – twice and is survived by his former wives, three children and his companion for the past eleven years, Katie Byrne. He was born in Bournemouth on March 7th, 1945 and died at Sedgehill just north of Shaftesbury. He will be buried in his local parish church in Donhead St. Mary, Wiltshire, on Friday, September 8th.
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #5 - Sep 4th, 2006, 7:18am
 
Donald Trelford, in his column in The Independent, September 4, 2006, makes this passing reference to Michael Vestey:

THERE was a wonderful line in The Daily Telegraph's obituary of Michael Vestey. The late BBC reporter was quoted as saying of a colleague: "He went off to teach journalism - a sure sign of desperation and mental turbulence." I'm sure this will amuse my friends in the journalism department at Sheffield University.

I nearly gave Vestey a job when I was on the news desk of The Observer 40 years ago, and I followed his career with interest. Another budding reporter I couldn't find room for at the time was called Jonathan Dimbleby. I wonder what happened to him.
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #6 - Sep 5th, 2006, 7:07am
 
This is taken from The Guardian:

Michael Vestey
BBC journalist who articulated the loathing of Birtism
by Tim Llewellyn
Tuesday September 5, 2006


Michael Vestey, who has died suddenly aged 61, was a consummate broadcaster, one of that generation of journalists who in the 1960s brought district reporting cunning and Fleet Street knowhow to the BBC's high-minded newsrooms, but were as articulate and erudite as the corporation alumni they so often elbowed aside. Like many of his era, he met his nemesis in John Birt and the rolling revolution the authoritarian director general imposed in the early 1990s.

Unlike many, however, Vestey enjoyed revenge, and indulged it both in his roman a clef, Waning Powers (1995), a novelistic scourge of BBC news managers, and also in his radio column in the Spectator, which broadcasters turned to with trepidation. His comment, in the BBC house magazine, Ariel, that Birt "stifled much of the creativity of the BBC, wasted huge amounts of money on management consultants and constant restructuring, and disposed of many older but talented people who knew radio and television well", exemplified the sort of acerbic intervention he would make.

Vestey's disdain for inadequate superiors was palpable, but to his peers - whose praise the genuine journalist values more highly than that of bosses - he was a masterly reporter, foreign correspondent and current affairs presenter with an elegant turn of phrase and a convincing, resonant, unmannered delivery. His prose was tough and alive but never maudlin, and he refused to be "involved", a modern fashion he hated.

Vestey was born in Bournemouth, and brought up and educated in south London, joining the West Kent News Service in Tonbridge Wells at 17. Its then owner, Bob Friend, also later a BBC foreign correspondent, remembers him crashing two cars in his first week (Vestey was a lifelong motor racing aficionado), and sums up those days as "lots of fun mixed with fairly hard work".

In 1965, Vestey went to the Daily Sketch as a reporter, and then to the quintessentially 60s magazines, London Look, London Life and the London Magazine, before joining the Sunday Express diary team. It was perhaps mingling with the gossip fodder of Belgravia and the shires, and amid the jeunesse dorée with their Vidal Sassoon haircuts, Biba smocks and Mary Quant mini-skirts that he acquired the gloss that slightly daunted us at Broadcasting House when he arrived as a radio reporter, via Radio London, in 1973.

There was a patrician quality leavened with high Toryism that appeared to set "the Colonel", as he became known, aside. Yet he quickly proved that this was a style behind which there was hard professional substance. Reporting assignments in Northern Ireland; a dangerous and successful year in southern Africa, including Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; a tour in Iraq for the early stages of the conflict with Iran; and an assignment in Patagonia during the Falklands war (where, to his delight, he found British spooks consorting at General Galtieri's expense with the Chilean military) all demonstrated that he was among the finest BBC foreign correspondents. But largely for family reasons, he did not apply for a posting overseas.

Later, in the mid to late 1980s, Vestey was temporarily a foreign affairs and a defence correspondent at Broadcasting House, and was attached to the World Service correspondents' staff at Bush House. He found the most amenable niche of his middle years, however, at the World Tonight, on Radio 4, his natural home, where he was able to indulge his foreign affairs experience, produce analyses and occasionally present the programme.

His love and care for the English language was reflected in his admiration of Orwell, Greene, Waugh and of his own BBC heroes, Charles Wheeler and Alistair Cooke. But in the age of the worship of "accessibility", such skills and sentiments counted for little, and, inevitably, Birtism did for him. Vestey watched with alarm as the corporation began to change from a worthy, if eccentric, institution into the multi-faceted, streamlined provider of 24-hour information and crass entertainment that it largely is today, pace his havens of Radios 3 and 4.

Eased out in early 1994, Vestey, by this time living in Dorset, near Shaftesbury, worked for Meridian TV in Southampton, but concentrated his writing and literary talents on his Spectator column. From 1996 onwards, he excoriated Birt and his apparatchiks for inaugurating "a decline in morale and consequently the quality of programmes" (as he once put it in a book review). He kept watch on broadcasters' increasing unfamiliarity with the writing and pronunciation of English and indulged his quirkily conservative view of the world and his antipathy to the European Union.

In my view (that of a reader, God forbid, of the Guardian) Vestey was to some extent a tongue-in-cheek rightie, provoked into baiting his prevailingly pinkish colleagues at BBC current affairs. It is also to his credit that my obsession with - and his loathing of - the Middle East never came between us.

As for Europe, he was most vehemently not of it, but was never happier than when in it. He and his partner of the last 11 years, Katie Byrne, spent much time at his apartment in the Umbrian village of Panicale, near Perugia. He remained on good terms with his first wife, Lorna, whom he married in 1968, and was devoted to their three children, Corin, Rosalind and Nicholas. A second marriage, to Sarah Beddington in 1989, also ended in divorce. They all survive him.

· Michael John Vestey, journalist and broadcaster, born March 7 1945; found dead August 26 2006
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Re: Michael Vestey
Reply #7 - Sep 9th, 2006, 9:15am
 
Tim Llewellyn has contributed this report on Michael's funeral:

Michael's funeral took place at St.Mary's Church, Donhead St.Mary, Wilts.,near Shaftesbury, on the morning of September 8 in brilliant sunshine, lighting the scattered villages and their thatched roofs, pubs and Norman churches, all set in the rolling English countryside Michael adored and had lived in so happily, close to his much-loved partner, Katie Byrne, for the past eleven years. Katie was at the funeral, which was conducted by Michael's good friend Father Tom Curry, as was his first wife Lorna. Michael and Lorna's elder son Corin read from the Book of Revelation, a memorial note of Michael's childhood days from his half-brother Barry was read by Barry's wife, Elaine, and Michael's old friend Tim Hedges, a neighbour both in the Shaftesbury area and in Panicale, in Umbria, gave a good-humoured and heartfelt tribute to Michael which reviewed his long, varied and successful broadcasting and newspaper lives as well as his strongly held views,his loves and his antipathies. Michael would have appreciated the final hymn, William Blake's Jerusalem, with its echoes of English grandeur, Imperial posture and the Tory Party.

Former BBC BH newsroom colleagues and old friends Paul Burden, Stephen Claypole and Tim Llewellyn attended, as did colleagues from Radio 4's the World Tonight, where Michael had spent such happy and productive years in the late 80s and early 90s: Margaret Budy, Marifi Chicote, Jeremy Hayes, Janet Cohen and her husband Peter Mayne, also a former BBC reporter, like Michael, and later a news intake executive. Adrian Porter, a neighbour and former BBC Latin America and South-east Asia Correspondent, was also there. Lorna and two of her and Michael's children,Corin, with his wife Rowena and 1-year-old daughter Jessica, and Rosalind, led the cortege to the graveside in St.Mary's churchyard, where Michael was laid to rest.

After the funeral, the mourners, most of whom were Michael's neighbours and friends from the Shaftesbury area of Dorset and Wiltshire, repaired to Katie's house, Winchcombe Cottage, a half mile or so away, for drinks and sandwiches and fond reminiscences of Michael in this setting that had been so central a part of his later life.

It is sad but also a reflection of how wide BH news cast its net to learn that Harriet Cass, the Radio 4 announcer, driving through Umbria near Michael's Panicale holiday apartment, had first learned of his death from a wall-poster carrying his picture and the announcement of his bereavement in typical Mediterranean format. Many of the local people in Panicale paid their condolences to Tim Hedges and his wife Yvonne Barton, remembering with affection the eccentric, patrician but warm and friendly Englishman who had fitted so well into their Continental midst.


A Memorial Service for Michael will be held at St. Bride's, Fleet Street (the journalists' church), at 1130 am on Thursday November 16, 2006.
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