Becky Jago, who grew up in Stowmarket and began her broadcasting career in Bury St Edmunds, on her role as co-presenter of Anglia News.
Becky Jago recently interviewed a publican who set up a foodbank during Covid and is still running it three years later.
That’s just the kind of story which warms the heart of the Anglia News co-anchor who is one of the most familiar faces on our local TV screens.
“It reminds me of all the good people in the world,” says Becky, who began her TV career at Anglia as a weather girl and has now been back there for almost 20 years.
“You do see all of human life in my job and it would be easy to see the world as full of risk and danger. You see daily heartache and tragedy, but you have to remember they’re on the news because they are a rare event.
“On Anglia we balance it with lighter, heartwarming stories. Obviously you can’t shy away from the hard stories, but you need to balance it up.”
Suffolk-born, but now based in Norfolk with her husband and three sons, she has just returned from a family holiday in Rhodes.
They flew out to the Greek island a few days after the peak of the wildfires that ravaged large areas and caused thousands to be evacuated.
Before they went she said they wanted to show support for local people rather than think of cancelling the holiday,
Becky, who is hosting the Bury Free Press West Suffolk Business Awards in October, was born in Bury St Edmunds and grew up in Stowmarket.
“My dad still lives in the home I grew up in. I was there a few weeks ago at the carnival and it was great fun,” she said.
She went to primary and middle school in the town, then Stowmarket High School. “I remember being surrounded by friends but it was not the most fun time. I was bullied a little bit.
“But I remember wanting to get involved in all the arty stuff. I loved sport, and was captain of the netball team at one time. I’m still friends with a lot of people I went to school with, and regularly meet up with them.
“My first ambition was to be an actress. I also played the piano and violin and was in the orchestra and sang in the choir.
“It was not that I loved the limelight, but I loved the things that often led to being on stage. “When I was 11 I got into the Wolsey Theatre Christmas production. That for me was the most magical thing ever.
“At university I began a media course with performance, but didn’t particularly enjoy the drama side of it. So I took a radio journalism module and loved it.”
She was still thinking of going on to drama school, but suffered a devastating blow when her mother died after developing breast cancer a second time.
“I was 21 and had just come back from university. I moved back home and lived with Dad for two or three years. I was in a pretty desperate place after my mum died.”
She is now a keen champion of the Norwich-based charity Keeping Abreast, which supports women who have breast reconstruction surgery following mastectomy … hosting most of their fashion shows, with a rare exception when she was nine months pregnant.
Her first job opportunity came in the late 1990s with Bury-based radio station Vibe FM where she co-presented the breakfast show with Baz Jones. We were known as Baz and Bex, it was an amazing time, fantastic. Then I got my own breakfast show on Saturday mornings.
She also did a Girl Power slot with Nikki Elise. The station had contacts with Anglia News, which at one point was looking to interview people who had had tattoos or body piercings
“Both me and Nikki had had our tongues pierced - it was the Spice Giirls era – and they ended up coming and filming us for a documentary.
“They said they would love to ask my dad how he felt about it … and I hadn’t told him, so I had to confess. He said no because he wouldn’t publicly criticise me, but then I said I would really like to do it, so he decided to be in the documentary.”
An invitation from Anglia TV followed. “They put me in front of the weather screen and I had a little play around and then they offered me a job as a weather girl.”
It was just before her first appearance on screen that she adopted the name Jago - her mother’s maiden name.
“My boss said your name will appear at the bottom of the forecast, what do you want it to be. I said, you mean I can choose? Then I said Jago - it was a spur of the moment thing, like a tribute to her. My granddad was still alive then, and he loved it.”
It was during her first spell with Anglia that she met her husband. “He was a nightclub manager in Norwich. I was out with some colleagues and the bouncers outside the club wouldn’t let me in because they didn’t think I was old enough. I had no ID.
“Then my future husband came out and ‘fell in love’, and let me in.” They married in 2004, and have 17 year-old twins and a younger son who is 10. “They are all great fun,” she says..
She stayed at Anglia for two years, and also appeared as a co-host on the popular Channel 5 daytime chat show The Wright Stuff with journalist Matthew Wright.
“Through that Matthew Wright’s agent contacted me and said they would like to represent me. They sent a show reel to CBBC thinking I would be a good presenter on children’s TV, and I ended up on Newsround.
“I wasn’t necessarily ready to move on, but this job came up and I took it, and stayed for about two years. That was amazing, but it took me a while to adapt to living in London,” she said.
It was on Newsround, an award-winning programme that makes news accessible to children, that Becky cut her journalistic teeth. “I did documentaries in India, about Bollywood, and in Africa on the trail of child traffickers. I learnt a lot of skills.
“I know from research done at the time that more adults were watching it than children. But if you can make news accessible to children, that’s a great skill to have in any news environment. That’s really where I learned to be a journalist.
“Then I was invited to go to Capital Radio. They put me in a studio with Chris Tarrant who was the breakfast show presenter at the time. We had a whale of a time. I think I’m best working with someone to bounce off.
“I remember going back on the tube, thinking that was weird, what was that about. As I got off the tube I had a voicemail offering me the co-presenting role with Chris.
“So with a heavy heart I ended up leaving Newsround and spent two years at Capital, which was so different from anything I had ever done.
“It was a very showbizzy, girl-about-London sort of job. I wasn’t a particularly showbiz person, with going to all the parties and staying up late, and I had to get up very early.
“When my two year contract was up I had just got married and wanted to have children, and made the decision It was time to come back to Norfolk.
“Anglia TV gave me a reporter’s job. Then I became co-presenter of the news. I do a nine day fortnight, doing shifts, day or late.
“I love hearing about the incredible thing people have done. We have lots of fun as well. Our reporters have a great sense of humour. We discuss what goes in the bulletins. Everyone has a voice in our newsroom.”
Now she makes sure she maintains a good work-life balance. “I think a lot of people learned lessons during Covid. Before I was struggling a bit and quite overwhelmed.
“When my calendar was wiped I felt my body breathed a sigh of relief. Since then I try not to pack it full. I like a morning when I can just do nothing - just walk the dog. Sometimes I love to think I’m not going to do anything today, just read a book, watch tele.”
Becky will host the 2023 Bury Free Press West Suffolk Business Awards, which celebrate the best of businesses large and small, next month.
She says it is something that is also a focus at Anglia. “Anything we can do to champion our amazing businesses is brilliant after they have been through such a tough time,” she said. “I like shopping locally and will seek out a little independent shop or a market.”
The Business Awards categories include lifetime achievement, business leader of the year, best new start-up, and an award for investment and innovation in the community.