Gardeners' Question Time's Kathy Clugston: I had chat with BBC about equal pay

The long-running programme's new host said she was not hired for her gardening expertise, as she is ‘not really a gardener'.

Kathy Clugston has said she discussed equal pay when she signed on as the new chairwoman of Gardeners’ Question Time.

The Radio 4 newsreader and continuity announcer replaces broadcaster Eric Robson, 72, who retired following a 25-year stint on the show.

Clugston, the show’s first permanent female host, told the Press Association: “I just said, I mean obviously you know there’s a co-presenter Peter Gibbs, who has been with the programme for some considerable time, so when pay was discussed I just said, ‘Are Peter and I being paid the same?’

“And I was assured that we are and that one of us would never be paid more than the other. And so that was good enough for me.”

The 49-year-old amateur gardener, who is also known for voicing the Shipping Forecast, said she was hired for the job for her broadcasting, rather than gardening expertise.

She said: “People pointed out about the fact that I’m not really a gardener, which I’m not. And I’ve not been appointed for my gardening expertise; I’ve been appointed for my broadcasting experience.

“Eric himself isn’t a great gardener, he said so himself many times.

“We’re broadcasters and our job is to chair the discussion, so the point of us is to make sure the panel, who are so full of knowledge and expertise, that they don’t get so carried away that we don’t know what they are talking about.

“We also have to make sure that everyone has a fair crack of the whip and that questions get answered.”

The Belfast-born presenter, whose first episode of GQT airs on Friday May 3, said Robson’s parting advice was to “just enjoy it”.

She said: “I had quite a long conversation with him and he was lovely, and very generous. He told me I could ask him anything, anytime, I could ring him.

Gardeners' Question Time
Kathy Clugston is the new chairwoman of Gardeners’ Question Time (BBC/PA)

“He told me really just to enjoy it. We talked a lot about the panel and he said, ‘You know they are amazing’, which I know, as a listener, but of course having met them, they are incredible and he said trust the panel, they know what they are doing, your job is just to kind of keep the flow going and keep a sense of fun about it. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The newsreader, who has anosmia, which means she has no sense of smell, said the format of GQT will also remain the same.

“The programme is a tried and tested formula, people come along with their questions and they’re answered by experts, that will never change,” she said.

She added: “That’s what the core of the programme is”.

Clugston’s first episode of Gardeners’ Question Time will air on May 3 on BBC Radio 4 at 3pm.

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