Robert Orchard is a British radio journalist and presenter.
Robert Orchard was born in 1953, the youngest of three children of a Devon farmer, Jack Orchard, and a Welsh nurse, Minnie Evans. Educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Crediton, he was a regular voice on its new campus radio station, and wrote and presented several TV epilogues for ITV's Westward Television. He read Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from 1972–75, followed by a year's PGCE teacher training. While at Corpus (later the college of David and Ed Miliband), he was features editor of Isis, the student magazine, and a member of the Oxford University Broadcasting Society, also acting in numerous plays and revues, and co-directing Molière's The Miser with Peter Grose.
A keen fan of Monty Python, he began writing revue sketches in earnest after meeting the Pythons when they were filming on Dartmoor. He succeeded Geoffrey Perkins as president of the university's student revue company, the Etceteras (part of the Experimental Theatre Club), and gathered a team to write sketches for a major show at the Oxford Playhouse in May 1976, After Eights, intended to raise the company's profile. The team included former TW3 scriptwriter and chemistry tutor John Albery, and various fellow-students — among them Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis, who met here for the first time. Both made their Oxford debut in revues directed by Orchard, and he took his own satirical revue, called Knockers, to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 1977 with the Oxford Actors Company, returning two years later in the cast of Knockers 2.
Orchard began his journalistic career in 1976 at the Thomson Regional Newspapers training centre run by John Brownlee in Newcastle, before joining The Western Mail newspaper in Cardiff. He moved to BBC Wales in 1979 and worked in broadcasting for the BBC for more than 30 years, covering mainly politics and parliament for TV and radio from 1984—including the Brighton Bomb and the fall of Thatcher. He worked in Brussels and Strasbourg in 1985, setting up a new EU reporter post for BBC regions before becoming Political Correspondent for BBC Wales and then, in 1988, a network Political Correspondent in a team led by the distinguished journalist John Cole, and including his former BBC Wales colleague, Huw Edwards, and also Jon Sopel. He opted to focus more on Parliament from 1992, mainly on Radio 4, becoming a BBC Parliamentary Correspondent and presenting Yesterday in Parliament—with a brief to entertain as well as inform, and later the more measured, nightly Today in Parliament, along with other specialist parliamentary programmes.
Orchard edited BBC News Online's General Election coverage in 2001; and later compiled the BBC College of Journalism's first online Guide to Parliament,to help other BBC journalists understand how Westminster works and how to report it.
He has written articles for Parliament's The House Magazine and regularly lectured foreign diplomats seconded to Oxford University on How British Democracy Works... or Doesn't, as well as giving talks on his job to audiences from Hungary to the House of Lords, and lending his voice to create historical character cameos for a range of political programmes. Documentaries made for Radio 4 include Fool's Gold, on the 19th century Welsh Goldrush; a series for You & Yours assessing the privatisation of water, nuclear power and, potentially, the Royal Mail; The Age of Ming, on ageism in politics; and, in February 2010, Hung, Drawn and Thwarted, on the prospects and perils of a hung parliament. Robert Orchard retired in February 2013 on health grounds.
Away from parliament, he organised major poetry-reading tours of schools for Ted Hughes and for Thom Gunn through the 1980s and 1990s. He remained a keen amateur actor, not least at the Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival held at Dyffryn Gardens near Cardiff from 1983 to 1995... he was also one of the Festival's organisers and, as chairman for three years, helped oversee its expansion. With Tim Riley, he went on to found Moonlight Theatre in 1998, staging open air musicals at the Festival for a decade after its move from Dyffryn to the National History Museum at St Fagans near Cardiff.
He has been married to Ainslie Freeman since 1983. They live in Llandaff, Cardiff.
- Robert Orchard, BBC Radio 4, UK.
- Robert Orchard, http://www.bbc.co.uk/journalism/blog/robert-orchard/ BBC College of Journalism — Discussion on CoJo], BBC, UK.