Robert Orchard

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For the rugby league footballer of the 1960s and '70s for New Zealand, see Robert Orchard (rugby league).

Robert Orchard is a freelance British radio journalist and presenter.

Robert Orchard is one of three children born to 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 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, 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 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, the late 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 he directed, and Robert took his own satirical revue, 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 and reporting on the Heyzel Stadium disaster, 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, Mark Mardell and Jon Sopel. He opted to focus on Parliament from 1992, mainly on Radio 4,[1] 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.[2]

He has written articles for Parliament's The House Magazine and regularly lectures on politics and the media. He has lent 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 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 left the BBC staff in 2013 and is now a freelance political journalist and lecturer, and a very mature student - studying for an MA in Politics and Contemporary History at King's College London.

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 pro-am Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival [1] 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 is married to Ainslie and the couple live in Llandaff, Cardiff, and London.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Robert Orchard, BBC Radio 4, UK.
  2. ^ Robert Orchard, BBC College of Journalism — Discussion on CoJo], BBC, UK.