Pam Ayres

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Pam Ayres
Born (1947-03-14) 14 March 1947 (age 67)
Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, England
Occupation Poet, songwriter, presenter of radio and television programmes
Nationality English
Genre Poetry, Songs

Pam Ayres MBE (born 14 March 1947) is an English poet, comedian, songwriter and presenter of radio and television programmes. Her 1975 appearance on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks led to a variety of appearances on TV and radio shows, a one-woman touring stage show and performing before the Queen.

Early life[edit]

Pam Ayres was born at Stanford in the Vale in the English county of Berkshire, now in Oxfordshire. After leaving Faringdon Secondary School at the age of 15, she joined the Civil Service as a clerical assistant and worked at the Army (RAOC) Central Ordnance Depot in Bicester. She soon left and signed up for the Women's Royal Air Force, where she worked in a drawing office dealing with operational maps,[1] Whilst serving in the air force she gained O-level passes in English language and English literature and chose her career as an entertainer. She began reading her verses at the local folk club in Oxfordshire, and this led to an invitation to read on the local BBC Radio station in 1974. Her reading was re-broadcast nationally, and then broadcast again as one of the BBC's Pick of the Year.

In September 2006, the BBC website stated that Bob Dylan inspired Ayres to write poetry,[2] and in an interview (aired on Radio New Zealand's Nine To Noon programme, 24 October 2006) she added that, at the age of twelve, she enjoyed writing parodies of the Lonnie Donegan songs popular at that time.


In 1975 Ayres appeared on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. This led to a wide variety of guest appearances on TV and radio shows. Since then she has published six books of poems, toured in a one woman stage show, hosted her own TV show and performed her stage show for the Queen.

Her poetry has a deceptively simple style and deals with everyday subject matter. Her poem Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth, was voted into the Top 10 of a BBC poll to find the Nation's 100 Favourite Comic Poems. In the UK Arts Council's report on poetry, Ayres was identified as the fifth best-selling poet in Britain during 1998 and 1999.

Ayres continues to actively perform her work, the humorous quality of which is enhanced by her idiosyncratic delivery and by her distinctive accent from the Vale of the White Horse in Berkshire. Starting in September 2006 to coincide with the release of her latest book and audio CD, Ayres gave dozens of performances in various locations in the United Kingdom and Australia, with additional dates scheduled for the UK and New Zealand in 2007.

From 1996, Ayres has appeared frequently on BBC Radio: from 1996 until 1999 Ayres presented a two-hour music and chat show every Sunday afternoon on BBC Radio 2; this was followed by two series of Pam Ayres’ Open Road, in which she visited various parts of the United Kingdom, interviewing people with interesting stories to tell about their lives and local areas. More recently Ayres has become a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, appearing in programmes such as Just a Minute, Say The Word, That Reminds Me, and two series of her own show, Ayres On The Air, a radio show of her poetry and sketches.[3]

In mid-2007, Ayres started work acting in a new radio sitcom, Potting On for BBC Radio 4, in which she co-stars with actor Geoffrey Whitehead.[4] She wrote and recorded three series of her BBC Radio 4 programme Ayres On The Air, the latest of which was broadcast in the late summer of 2009.[3][5]

Since 2002 Ayres has appeared a number of times on Channel 4 in Countdown's Dictionary Corner alongside Susie Dent.

On 16 January 2009, she made her first appearance on BBC TV programme, QI. In September 2011 she said in a Daily Telegraph magazine interview that she was "about to go on my 14th tour of Australia". One of her most popular recent poems is "They Should Have Asked My Husband".

Her biography, The Necessary Aptitude: A Memoir, was published 15 September 2011. It traces her life and career from growing as the youngest of six children in a council house in the Vale of White Horse, Berkshire. It covers her time in the Women's Royal Air Force and the string of events that lead up to her winning Opportunity Knocks. The title refers to the number of times she was told in her life she "did not have the necessary aptitude".

In September 2013 Ebury Press published her latest book of poems entitled "You Made me Late Again," a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

Personal life[edit]

Ayres is married to theatre producer Dudley Russell, and they have two sons, William and James. They live in the Cotswolds, and keep some rare breeds of cattle, as well as some sheep, pigs, chickens, and guinea fowl. Ayres is a keen gardener and beekeeper.[6] She is a patron of the British Hen Welfare Trust.

In June 2004 she was awarded the MBE for services to literature and entertainment.

Select bibliography and discography[edit]

Audio CDs[edit]

  • 2005: Ayres on the Air. BBC Audio, highlights from BBC Radio 4 series ISBN 0-563-52435-9
  • 2006: Pam Ayres: Ancient and Modern. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Nov 2006 ISBN 1-84456-318-9


  • 2006: Pam Ayres: In Her Own Words, (Acorn Media, March 2006); recorded live at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham in September 2005
  • 2011: Pam Ayres, Word Perfect, a new DVD has been filmed at the Theatre Royal in Windsor and will be released by Acorn Media in late 2011



  1. ^ "QI". 12 December 2009. Dave.
  2. ^ "The Magazine Monitor". BBC News. 8 September 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Pam Ayres
  4. ^ BBC - Radio 4 - Potting On - Stones
  5. ^
  6. ^ Pam Ayres - Biography

Further reading[edit]

  • Eunice Salmond "A life in the day of Pam Ayres"; The Sunday Times Magazine; 24 May 1981

External links[edit]