Sandi Toksvig in 2009
Sandra Birgitte Toksvig
3 May 1958
|Citizenship||Danish (1958–present) |
|Alma mater||Girton College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Comedian, author, radio and television presenter, co-founder of Women's Equality Party|
|Political party||Women's Equality Party|
Debbie Toksvig (m. 2007)
Julie Anne Toksvig (née Brett)
Sandra Birgitte Toksvig, OBE (//, Danish pronunciation: [ˌsandi ˈtʌɡsviːˀ]; born 3 May 1958) is a British-Danish writer, broadcaster, actor and producer on British radio, stage, and television. She is also a political activist, having co-founded the Women's Equality Party in 2015. She has written plays, novels, and books for children. She was arguably the first woman in British public life to come out as a lesbian, in 1994.
In 2016, Toksvig took over from Stephen Fry as host of the BBC television quiz show QI, having previously spent ten years hosting The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4. In 2017 she became co-presenter of The Great British Bake Off, alongside comedian Noel Fielding.
Toksvig was installed as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth in October 2012, and is the president of the Women of the Year Lunch. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting.
Toksvig was born in Denmark. Her father, Claus Toksvig, was a Danish journalist, broadcaster, and foreign correspondent, so Toksvig spent most of her youth outside Denmark, mostly in New York City. Her mother, Julie Anne Toksvig (née Brett), is British. She has an older brother Nick and a younger sister Jenifer. She attended Tormead School, an independent girls' school near Guildford, when her father was based in London. Her first job, at the age of 18, was a position as a follow spot operator for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
She read law, archaeology and anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, graduating with a first-class degree and receiving two prizes for outstanding achievement (The Raemakers and the Theresa Montefiore Awards). One of her law supervisors was Lord Denning.
Toksvig began her comedy career at Girton, where she wrote and performed in the first all-woman show at the Footlights. She was there at the same time as fellow members Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson, and wrote additional material for the Perrier award-winning Footlights Revue. She was also a member of the university's Light Entertainment Society.
She started her television career on children's series, presenting No. 73 (1982–1986), the Sandwich Quiz, The Saturday Starship, Motormouth, Gilbert's Fridge, and factual programmes such as Island Race and The Talking Show, produced by Open Media for Channel 4.
In television, she appeared as a panellist in comedy shows such as Call My Bluff (a regular as a team captain), Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Mock the Week, QI, and Have I Got News for You, where she appeared on the very first episode in 1990. She was also the host of What the Dickens, a Sky Arts quiz show.
On radio, she is a familiar voice for BBC Radio 4 listeners, having appeared on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, The Unbelievable Truth, and as the chair of The News Quiz, where she replaced Simon Hoggart in September 2006, but left in June 2015 in order to enter politics to champion women's rights. Her final show was first broadcast on 26 June. She presented Radio 4's travel programme Excess Baggage until it was axed in 2012. 
Drama and factual
In 1993, Toksvig wrote a musical, Big Night Out at the Little Sands Picture Palace, for Nottingham Playhouse, co-starring with Anita Dobson and Una Stubbs. In 2002, it was re-written, with Dilly Keane, for the Watford Palace Theatre, in which they appeared with Bonnie Langford.
Toksvig and Elly Brewer wrote a Shakespeare deconstruction, The Pocket Dream, which Toksvig performed at the Nottingham Playhouse and which transferred to the West End for a short run. The pair also wrote the 1992 TV series The Big One, in which she also starred. She has appeared in a number of stage plays, including Androcles and the Lion, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Comedy of Errors.
In 1996, she narrated the Dragons! interactive CD-ROM published by Oxford University Press and developed by Inner Workings, along with Harry Enfield. The software was primarily aimed at children and featured songs and poems about dragons. She also narrated the Winnie the Witch CD-ROM. She appeared in the Doctor Who audio drama Red by Big Finish Productions, released in August 2006. In December 2006, she hosted and sang at the London Gay Men's Chorus sold-out Christmas show, Make the Yuletide Gay, at the Barbican Centre. Over Christmas and New Year 2007/2008, she narrated the pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic Theatre. In October 2011, she narrated the new musical Soho Cinders at the Queen's Theatre, London. In 2011 she hosted a second season of BBC Two's Antiques Master.
Toksvig wrote a play entitled Bully Boy which focused on post-traumatic stress among British servicemen. The play premièred at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton in May 2011, and starred Anthony Andrews. The play then launched the debut season of St James Theatre in September 2012, the first new West End theatre to open in 30 years.
On 28 April 2015, it was announced that Toksvig would leave BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz in June at the end of the 28th series, which was scheduled to begin on 15 May of that year. She said: "I have decided it is time to move on and, of course, I feel sad but I think it's the right moment. The show is in great shape and, like a good house guest, you should always depart when people still wish you'd stay a bit longer." The BBC said Toksvig had made the "difficult decision" to leave in order "to embark on a new and exciting stage of her career". On 30 April 2015, Toksvig announced that her decision to quit The News Quiz had been made in order to allow her to help set up a new political party named the Women's Equality Party.
In November 2015, Toksvig was a guest of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her choices included Joe Nichols ("What's a Guy Gotta Do"), Gustav Winckler, The Weather Girls, Barbra Streisand, and Bonnie Langford. Her book choice was The Ashley Book of Knots, and her luxury item was an endless supply of the Daily Mail.
Her most recent play Silver Lining opened at the Rose Theatre Kingston on 11 February 2017, before touring to Portsmouth, Oxford, Cambridge, Ipswich, Keswick, York, and Salford. It's about five elderly ladies and a young carer in a retirement home which is about to be flooded by a storm. It stars Rachel Davies, Keziah Joseph, Maggie McCarthy, Joanna Monro, Sheila Reid, and Amanda Walker. Toksvig's son, Theo Toksvig-Stewart, made his professional stage debut in the play.
She has written more than twenty fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults, starting in 1994 with Tales from the Norse's Mouth, a fiction tale for children. In 1995, she sailed around the coast of Britain with John McCarthy, who had been held hostage in Beirut. In 2003, she published Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey, about her travels in the USA retracing her childhood. She writes regular columns for Good Housekeeping, the Sunday Telegraph and The Lady. In October 2008, she published Girls Are Best, a history book for girls.
In 2009, her collected columns for The Sunday Telegraph were published in book form as The Chain of Curiosity. In 2012, she published her latest book, Valentine Grey, a historical novel set in the Boer War.
In 2012–13 Toksvig presented 1001 Things You Should Know for Channel 4 daytime. Toksvig began presenting the revival edition of the daytime game show Fifteen-to-One in April 2014. It is an hour long instead of the original half-hour edition presented by William G. Stewart. After two series had been broadcast, in June 2015, Channel 4 announced that a further three would be made, hosted by Toksvig.
Toksvig took over from Stephen Fry as host of QI, making her "the first female presenter of a British mainstream TV comedy panel show", a fact she found extraordinary in 2016. She hosted the first episode of the show's series "N", which was broadcast on 21 October 2016.
Politics and activism
Toksvig first came to wider public prominence in 1994, when the charity Save the Children dropped her services as compere of its 75th anniversary celebrations after she came out, but following a direct action protest by the Lesbian Avengers, the charity apologised.
Toksvig supports the charity and pressure group Liberty, hosting its 2012 awards ceremony. She was appointed president of the Women of the Year Lunch. An atheist and humanist, Toksvig is a patron of Humanists UK.
In October 2012, as the scale of the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal became apparent, and amid claims that during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, there was a culture within the BBC which tolerated sexual harassment, she says she was groped by a "famous individual" on air in the 1980s. Toksvig said the allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the BBC "did not surprise me at all". In September 2018, as the BBC gender pay gap controversy continued to unfold, Toksvig reported that she was only paid 40% of what Fry, her predecessor, had received. Toksvig had earlier told the Radio Times it would be “absurd” if she did not receive the same salary as him for chairing QI.
In 2003 she stood as a candidate in the election for the Chancellorship of the University of Oxford, supporting a campaign against student fees. She was defeated in the first round of voting, achieving 1,179 first-place votes out of about 8,000 cast. The election was won by Chris Patten. Almost a decade later she succeeded Sheila Hancock as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.
Toksvig's party-political sympathies have developed over the years. She was part of Red Wedge's comedy tour in the 1980s, which supported the Labour Party. By the 2004 elections, she was a high-profile celebrity supporter of the Liberal Democrats. She both introduced frontbencher Menzies Campbell at the party's 2004 conference and was named as a possible parliamentary candidate. She has received some criticism for joking about the Tories in 2011 (they've "put the 'N' into cuts" to child benefit), but has said Prime Minister Theresa May is "a good person" She has also joked about UKIP leader Nigel Farage. In 2012, she said in an interview that "I don't think there's a party that represents anything I believe in".
Women's Equality Party
In April 2015, Toksvig chaired the first, informal, conference of a new political party, the Women's Equality Party, and then left her job as presenter of The News Quiz to formally co-found it. She later explained that she had decided that it was "not too late to fight the good fight, after all". In September the same year she announced the dates for a comedy tour to raise funds for the party. The party's full set of policies were launched at Conway Hall, 20 October 2015.
As an eleven-year-old, Toksvig was present with her father, a leading Danish foreign affairs journalist, at NASA Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas during the first moon landing. In an appearance on BBC 1 show The TV That Made Me, she stated she held the hand of Neil Armstrong's nervous secretary to calm the woman down during the final moments. She also said she had a lifetime fear of children's television puppet Basil Brush, so she wrote a 2002 episode of The Basil Brush Show entitled "Molly Christmas".
Toksvig is the mother of two daughters (Megan and Jesse) and a son (Theo). The children were carried by her then partner, Peta Stewart, from whom she separated in 1997, and were conceived through artificial insemination by donor Christopher Lloyd-Pack, younger brother of the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack.
It was having three young children that made her decide to come out, because, to the best of her knowledge, there were no out lesbians in British public life, and she didn't want her children to grow up ashamed of having two mothers. Toksvig was warned she might never work again, and the family faced death threats and had to go into hiding.
She lives on a houseboat in Wandsworth with psychotherapist Debbie Toksvig, whom she joined in a civil partnership in 2007. They renewed their vows on 29 March 2014, the day same-sex marriage was introduced in England and Wales, and in December 2014, their civil partnership was converted into a marriage.
Toksvig became a British citizen in 2013. She describes her "posh" accent as being the result of a deliberate attempt to copy the voice of Celia Johnson in Brief Encounter, after being ostracised at boarding school for having an American accent.
In her late 50s, she lost a significant amount of weight on medical advice, and credits this with giving her the confidence to go back to television.
Awards and honours
- 1997 – The Grand Order of Water Rats Show Business Personality of the Year
- 2007 – Political Humorist of the Year at the Channel 4 Political Awards and 2007 – Radio Broadcaster of the Year by the Broadcasting Press Guild.
- 2007 – Read it or Else Award from Coventry Inspiration Book Awards for Hitler's Canary
- 2008 – Broadcaster of the Year at the Stonewall Awards
- 2009 – Voice of the Listener & Viewer Award for Individual Contribution to Radio
- 2010 – Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Portsmouth
- 2012 – Honorary Doctor of Letters York St John University
- 2012 – Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Surrey
- 2012 – Honorary Fellowship Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge
- 2013 – Voice of the Listener & Viewer Award for Excellence in Broadcasting (Roberts Radio Special Award)
- 2014 – Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to Broadcasting
- 2016 – Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Westminster
- 2016 – Honorary Fellowship Newnham College, Cambridge
- 2017 – CoScan (Confederation of Scandinavian Societies) International Award
- 2018 – Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Leicester
- 2019 - Honorary Fellowship Girton College Cambridge 
Books for children
- Toksvig, Sandi (2009). Girls Are Best. London: Red Fox. ISBN 978-1-86230-429-1.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2008). The Littlest Viking. London: Yearling. ISBN 978-0-440-86830-9.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2006). Hitlers Canary. Vlaardingen, Holland: Valerius uitgeverij. ISBN 90-78250-02-X. (Dutch translation)
- Toksvig, Sandi (2005). Hitler's Canary. Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-60889-6.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2000). The Troublesome Tooth Fairy. Transworld. ISBN 0-552-54663-1.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2000). Super-Saver Mouse to the Rescue. Transworld. ISBN 0-552-54541-4.
- Toksvig, Sandi (1999). Super-Saver Mouse. Transworld. ISBN 0-552-54540-6.
- Toksvig, Sandi (1998). If I Didn't Have Elbows. Deagosti. ISBN 1-84089-048-7.
- Toksvig, Sandi (1997). Unusual Day. Transworld/Corgi. ISBN 0-552-54539-2.
- Toksvig, Sandi (1994). Tales from the Norse's Mouth. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-40358-6.
Books for adults
- Toksvig, Sandi (2012) Valentine Grey. Virago. ISBN 9781844088317
- Toksvig, Sandi, (illustrated by Sandy Nightingale) (2012). Heroines & Harridans – A Fanfare of Fabulous Females. The Robson Press. ISBN 978-1849-54-3385.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2006). Melted into Air. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-86117-0.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2003). Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-7515-3328-9.
- Toksvig, Sandi & Nightingale, Sandy (2002). The Travels of Lady Bulldog Burton. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-86007-7.
- Toksvig, Sandi (2001). Flying Under Bridges. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-85635-5.
- Toksvig, Sandi (1999). Whistling for the Elephants. Transworld. ISBN 0-593-04480-0.
- McCarthy, John; Toksvig, Sandi (1995). Island Race: an Improbable Voyage Round the Coast of Britain. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37053-X.
- Toksvig, Sandi; et al. (1994). Great Journeys of the World. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37050-5.
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- "HOW WE MET". The Independent. 3 September 1995. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- Toksvig, Sandi (24 January 2013). The Chain Of Curiosity. London, UK: Hachette UK. ISBN 9781405527231. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Tokvsig, Sandi (30 December 2007). "Sandi Toksvig: All the world's backstage". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Press Association (23 January 2012). "Sandi Toksvig becomes chancellor of Portsmouth University". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
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- Comedy Store Players Official Site – History -retrieved on 16 May 2008
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- "Radio 4's Excess Baggage to be axed". Wanderlust. 20 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- Review of Big Night Out in What's On Stage Archived 16 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine; retrieved 23 February 2009.
- "Television graphics around the world". meldrum.co.uk. 29 March 2000. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "Music Event Detail". Retrieved 26 January 2016.[permanent dead link]
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- "St James Theatre in London's West End opens". BBC News. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- O'Donovan, Gerard (25 December 2013). "Call the Midwife, Christmas special, review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Walker-Arnott, Ellie (14 December 2013). "Call the Midwife Christmas special — first look preview". Radio Times. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- "Sandi Toksvig steps down from Radio 4's News Quiz". BBC News Online. BBC. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Topping, Alexandra (30 April 2015). "Sandi Toksvig reveals she quit Radio 4 to set up women's rights political party". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
- Furness, Hannah (30 April 2015). "Sandi Toksvig quit The News Quiz for Women's Equality Party". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 May 2015.
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- "Sandy Toksvig's Silver Lining". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "Sandi Toksvig interview: The history woman". The Scotsman. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- Beresford, Lucy (27 September 2012). "Valentine Grey by Sandi Toksvig: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
- Daly, Emma (2 April 2014). "Fifteen to One returnos: behind the scenes with Sandi Toksvig". Radio Times. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- "Channel 4 Commits to Sandi Toksvig's Fifteen to One". News on News. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
- Smith, Julia Llewellyn (9 October 2016). "Sandi Toksvig: 'Women support each other in comedy, men worry about the size of their manhoods'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
- "QI Sandi Toksvig triumphs in her first appearance as host". The Telegraph. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
- "Lesbians protest over charity ban". The Independent. 5 October 1994. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- "Charity apologises to comic". The Independent. 25 October 1994.
- David, Smith (November 1994). "Comedian and actress Sandi Toksvig, a well-known face on the popular comedy improvisation TV show, Whose Line is it Anyway, came out as a lesbian in the pages of the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror". Gay Times (194). Millivres. ISSN 0950-6101.
- "Liberty honours inspirational human rights leaders". liberty-human-rights.org.uk. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "The President". Women of the Year. Archived from the original on 25 January 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
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- Thorpe, Vanessa; Graham-Harrison, Emma (8 September 2018). "Sandi Toksvig sparks new gender pay row over QI fee". the Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
- "Toksvig enters chancellor race". BBC News. BBC. 24 February 2003. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- Curtis, Polly (17 March 2003). "Patten wins Oxford prize". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
- "BBC News – Sandi Toksvig made Portsmouth University Chancellor". BBC news. BBC. 31 October 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "Liberal England: Time for Sandi Toksvig to give up The News Quiz". liberalengland.blogspot.co.uk. Liberal England (blog). Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- "Screen stars join election race". BBC news. BBC. 25 May 2004. Retrieved 16 October 2008.
The celebrity bug has bitten the other major parties with the Lib Dems claiming the support of [...] broadcaster Sandi Toksvig.
- Blake, Heidi. "BBC in decency row over obscene joke by Sandi Toksvig". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
- "Sandi Toksvig makes Hitler jibe about Nigel Farage - Coffee House". The Spectator. 26 May 2015.
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- Cocozza, Paula (28 August 2015). "Women's Equality party founders: 'It needed doing. So we said, "Let's do it"'". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "Londoner's Diary: Women's party is ready to be a player". London Evening Standard. 20 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Elgot, Jessica (25 May 2015). "Sandi Toksvig: trolls are already out over plans to form Women's Equality party". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
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- "Women's Equality Party announces first policies and campaigns". Women's Equality Party. 20 October 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
- Minter, Harriet (21 October 2015). "The Women's Equality Party launch is not a moment too soon". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
- QI XL. Series N;10. Nature/Nurture, BBC. UK Broadcast 30 Dec 2016
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- Moorhead, Joanna (20 February 2016). "Jesse Toksvig-Stewart: My two mums were trailblazers". the Guardian. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
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- Rucki, Alexandra (31 December 2013). "Eighteen people make New Year's Honours list in Wandsworth". Wandsworth Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
- Staff writer (29 March 2014). "Sandi Toksvig renews wedding vows in public event". ITV news. ITV. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
- "Sandi Toksvig Praises New Gay Marriage Legislation On 'This Morning': 'It's About Love And Equality'". Huffington Post. 1 April 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
- "Sandi Toksvig marries partner Debbie in third ceremony: 'Tomorrow, I will love her even more'". The Independent. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
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- "UK's First College for Women Honours Five Pioneering Alumnae - Girton College". www.girton.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 11 May 2019.
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|Party political offices|
|New political party|| Co-founder of the Women's Equality Party
With: Catherine Mayer
William G. Stewart
| Host of Fifteen to One
2014 – present
| Host of QI
2016 – present