Nigel Wrench

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Nigel Wrench (born 1960) spent his journalistic career working as a radio presenter and reporter, mainly for BBC Radio 4.

Born in Birmingham, Wrench grew up in South Africa, where he began his career in journalism after a degree at Rhodes University. After newspaper work on the Johannesburg Sunday Express, he spent much of the 1980s reporting on the anti-apartheid protests of the era. His first radio job was with Johannesburg-based Capital Radio 604, which provided the first independent source of broadcast news in South Africa.

At Turnstyle News, an independent radio news agency, Wrench reported for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the UK-based Independent Radio News and London Broadcasting Company.

In December 1985, he was among those detained briefly by police when reporting the illegal return of Winnie Mandela to Soweto.[1]

In recently published diary extracts, Wrench has revealed the personal thoughts behind his South African reporting. In the aftermath of one police shooting in Soweto in August 1986 he wrote: "A kid showed me welts from shotgun wounds. I came away mentally wounded myself. Cry for the country! I throw an ANC thumbs-up salute through the sunroof [of the car]. It is less a gesture than a commitment, quite frankly. This after once pleading non-involvement. Enough, no longer."[2]

Reporting on demonstrations in Windhoek, Namibia, in September 1988, he was among those beaten up by police.[3]

Nigel Wrench was also a pop music columnist for the Mail & Guardian[4] and reported on Johannesburg's thriving underground nightlife.

In 1989, he moved to London and joined the BBC as a reporter for the Today programme. In 1990, he was among the reporters at the prison gates when Nelson Mandela walked free.[5] Wrench reported from a wide variety of other locations for BBC Radio including Jerusalem, St Petersburg, Bucharest, Kiev and Bosnia.

Wrench was the co-host of Out This Week, a weekly gay and lesbian news programme on BBC Radio 5 Live for which he won a Sony Radio Award. He won a New York Radio Award for his 1998 Radio 4 documentary Aids and Me,[6] while also regularly co-presenting the Radio 4 programme PM.[7] Wrench later worked as a culture reporter for PM, interviewing leading artists, performers, playwrights and novelists as well as reporting regularly from the Edinburgh Festival.[8]

Nigel Wrench is one of the few journalists to have met and interviewed Banksy. The graffiti artist spoke to Wrench for PM at the opening of "Turf War", the first Banksy exhibition in London in 2003.[9]

Among Wrench's radio documentaries was a major BBC World Service series Pills, Patients and Profits[10] which examined the global pharmaceutical industry.

Wrench publicly announced his status as HIV-positive in 1994, in a speech while accepting his Sony Radio Award.[11] He wrote extensively about living with HIV and AIDS, including a regular column for the Pink Paper[12] and made a television documentary called From Russia With Love for BBC3 in 2003.[13]

In one of his Pink Paper columns, he caused controversy by defending "barebacking" (anal sex without a condom) under some circumstances.[14]

In May 2007, Wrench was charged with the alleged rape of another man. In February 2008, he was acquitted after a trial at the Old Bailey.[15]

Nigel Wrench returned to the BBC, once again reporting extensively on culture for PM as well as presenting for the BBC World Service.

He has since left the BBC again, and in February 2015 released ZA86,[16] a limited-edition cassette, through specialist label The Tapeworm. A sleeve note says: "apartheid South Africa, 1986, through the headphones of a young radio reporter".[17]


  2. ^ Wrench, Nigel. "ZA86". Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  3. ^ Vries, Da'oud. "Nothing Changes" (PDF). The Namibian.
  4. ^ Manoim, Irwin (1996). You have been warned : the first ten years of the Mail & Guardian. London, England: Viking. p. 35. ISBN 0670867926.
  5. ^ Popham, Mike (1990). The Best of From Our Own Correspondent 1989/90. London: Broadside Books. p. 127. ISBN 0951562924.
  6. ^ "Aids and Me". BBC News.
  7. ^ Elmes, Simon (2007). And Now on Radio 4. London: Arrow Books. p. 217. ISBN 9780099505372.
  8. ^ Mulholland, Tara. "Fringe festival sounds a somber note". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Banksy's Bristol". BBC Bristol. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  10. ^ "Pills, Patients and Profits". BBC World Service. BBC.
  11. ^ Buchanan, Justine (1996). "London Bridges". POZ. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
  12. ^ Watney, Simon. "Imagine Hope".
  13. ^ Wrench, Nigel. "Living with HIV in Russia". BBC Nes.
  14. ^ "Sex on the Edge". The Guardian. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  15. ^ "Presenter cleared of raping man". BBC News.
  16. ^ Bath, Tristan. "Spool's Out: Tape reviews for March". The Quietus. The Quietus. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  17. ^ "The Tapeworm presents .... ZA86". The Tapeworm. Retrieved 2 February 2015.