Last Friday saw the first annual BBC Children in Need appeal without the late and much-missed Sir Terry Wogan, who died last January.
Not surprisingly the bumper night of fundraising featured several tributes to the veteran radio and TV broadcaster, who helped launch and present the very first Children in Need in 1980 and was a driving force behind it for 35 years.
The annual appeal lives on, just as Sir Terry would have wanted, but it will never be quite the same without him. It was a cause extremely close to his heart and one which he promoted relentlessly from his studio at BBC Radio 2’s Western House, in Great Portland Street, London.
Or, more accurately, BBC Radio 2’s “Wogan House”, as the building has now been officially renamed in the great man’s honour and memory. It is just a year since Sir Terry was last on air, presenting his final “Weekend Wogan” show on November 8th, 2015. The popular Sunday morning show, featuring an eclectic mix of guests, live and recorded music, began in February 2010 after Sir Terry stood down as long-serving presenter of Radio 2’s weekday breakfast show, “Wake Up To Wogan”, in December the previous year.
The studio in Great Portland Street had become a second home to Sir Terry, who had hosted the breakfast show from 1972 to 1984 and again from 1993 to 2009. His listeners too felt they were right there in the studio with him and his team of regulars, as Sir Terry had the tremendous gift of appearing to talk individually to each of his millions of fans.
Although he had been ill for a couple of months, the extent of that illness was kept private and fans were devastated to learn of his death on January 31st this year, at the age of 77. The naming of “Wogan House” would no doubt have embarrassed him, but it is a very fitting tribute and one which has met with universal approval, including from his widow, Lady Helen, and their four children.
In a statement the Wogan family said Radio 2 had been “such an important part of Terry’s life”, adding that: “He spent so many happy years there doing what he loved – chatting and laughing with the listeners from his studio in BBC Western House every weekday morning.”
All of the family attended the official unveiling of the new signs on “Wogan House”, together with BBC director of radio Bob Shennan, who said: “Each time we all walk through the doors of Wogan House we will be forever reminded of him – his warmth, wit and endless charm.”
That very first Children in Need Appeal in 1980, co-presented by Esther Rantzen and Sue Lawley, raised just over a million pounds, though it was much more low-key than later appeals. Rather than taking over the evening’s TV programming, it was just a series of short segments which ran between the normal programmes.
Sir Terry played a huge part in Children in Need’s development over the years. Both through his radio shows and by fronting it as the main presenter on TV for 34 years. Although illness prevented him from taking a significant part in the 2015 appeal, it raised a record £55 million.
Money is still coming in from this year’s Children in Need appeal, the first in which Sir Terry could play no part, but it will be forever associated with the genial Irishman who a nation took to their hearts.