Arts Q&A: Bangor-bound Michael Parkinson on The Beatles, George Best and Bible reading

Jenny Lee puts people on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, broadcaster and talk show host Sir Michael Parkinson

Broadcasting legend Sir Michael Parkinson will be in Bangor, Co Down, next week

1.When did you think about a career in television and what were your first steps into it?

I was born into a world without television so broadcasting wasn’t an option. Though the many hours spent watching Hollywood movies with my Mother in the Rock Cinema Cudworth meant that I did have ambitions way beyond the confines of the mining village I was born into.

I began my career in the media as a journalist on local papers and then some years later found myself in that den of iniquity Fleet Street via the Manchester Guardian which had acted as my university.

Later, I was working on the Daily Express and after a while we had a falling out. Whilst licking my wounds I received a call from an old friend called Barrie Heads who was recruiting journalists to work on a nascent television company called Granada. The rest, as they say, is history

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Too many to pick a favourite.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

It would have to be The Beatles, as long as Paul played Yesterday and The Long And Winding Road, followed by The Buddy Rich Big Band and his wonderful arrangement of Love For Sale. If I had an unlimited budget and could be greedy I would then have Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, sing the Nelson Riddle arrangement of I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

The duet between Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald of Summertime from Gershwin’s modern opera Porgy And Bess. It has and never will be sung or interpreted better.

5. And the book?

My autobiography, so if the memory went at least I could still remind myself of who I was and where I came from.

6. Top three films?

Casablanca because I wanted to be like Bogart and I, like every other man, fell in love with Ingrid Bergman the first time she appeared on screen.

Citizen Kane, the towering achievement of modern film-making and one that still has influence and importance today. I also was lucky enough to interview Orson Welles on two occasions. I found him thrilling and fascinating and this film would remind me of those memorable occasions.

And Saving Private Ryan in tribute to the film-making skills of Spielberg and the acting skills of that gentlemen of Hollywood Tom Hanks. It would also remind me of that generation shaped by a war who went on to be some of the most impressive people I met, interviewed and worked for.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?


8. Favourite authors?

I just admire respect and enjoy anyone who can write well enough to draw me into the world they’ve created.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

Barnsley and Manchester United for football and Yorkshire for cricket. My love affair with Manchester United came in 1963 when I saw a whip-thin kid from Belfast called George Best in his debut against West Bromwich Albion make a fool of their nuggety left back Joe Williams.

Being born in Yorkshire and being a half decent cricket player, my sole ambition was to wear the white rose of the county. I got close. My opening batting partner Dickie Bird and I were asked to the Yorkshire nets. I was given a torrid going over by Messrs Trueman, Close and Illingworth and my dreams were promptly shattered

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Headingley on a balmy summer's day watching England thrash the Aussies to win the Ashes followed by a slap-up meal of haddock, chips and mushy peas at the Graveley’s fish emporium in Scarborough.

11. Pet hate?


12. What’s your favourite dinner, dessert and drink?

I love good food and great wine but, more importantly, it’s who you share it with.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other

My wife Mary. This year we will have been together for 60 years – enough said.

14. Is there a God?

I’m in WC Fields's camp on this issue. Fields was a notorious hell raiser who had a hatred of dogs and small children and was once quoted as saying that he "regarded all religions with the suspicion of a seasoned conman". However, it was reported that on his deathbed he was visited by a friend who was amazed to see Fields reading a copy of the Bible. He asked him what he was doing, to which Fields replied: "I’m looking for loopholes!" I’m sure it isn’t, but I really hope that that it’s a true story.

An evening with Sir Michael Parkinson is being held on August 29 at Clandeboye Lodge Hotel, Bangor, as part of the Open House Festival. The event is sold out but for details of many other festival events visit

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: