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TV presenter Turnbull shrugs off BBC sofa sexism controversy

Published 22/11/2016

TV presenter Bill Turnbull says he is trying to learn the ukulele now he has left the BBC Breakfast sofa
TV presenter Bill Turnbull says he is trying to learn the ukulele now he has left the BBC Breakfast sofa

Presenter Bill Turnbull has dismissed the upset over the where his replacement Dan Walker sits on the BBC Breakfast sofa.

The TV show was plunged into controversy over the seating arrangement of Louise Minchin, 48, and Walker, 39, on the programme.

The BBC was embroiled in a sexism row when Walker was placed "camera left" despite having less experience than Minchin, the show's senior female presenter.

He was placed in the spot on the famous red sofa which had been occupied by his predecessor Turnbull, 60.

But former breakfast show anchor Turnbull, who left the programme in February saying that he wanted to spend time looking after his bees, said that his position on the sofa had nothing to do with seniority.

Turnbull said that "it had never, ever crossed my mind" that he had been put "camera left" during his 15 years on the show because of his greater experience.

"When I was on News 24, the news channel, I seem to remember ... at one point Sian Williams and I did swap sides and people didn't like it," he told the Press Association.

"They like to see presenters sitting in a certain way.

"It's nonsense. The (notion that the) man is sitting on the left because it's a historical, sexist preference I just find bizarre.

"It never crossed my mind (that it was about seniority), not once," he said.

"And you know what, it never crossed anybody else's mind and I've worked with enough confident and able female presenters who would certainly have stuck up for themselves or spoken out if they thought it was an issue as well."

Turnbull said he had adjusted to life after BBC Breakfast.

"I did wake up early for a while but gradually the body relaxed, which was a relief," he said.

"I miss the programme and I've missed presenting it this year because of all the extraordinary events. But I don't miss the alarm clock going off at half past three."

Despite saying that he wanted to spend more time with his bees when he left BBC Breakfast, the Think Tank host said he had not managed to spend as much time on his hobby as he wanted.

"The bees are OK," he said. "Everybody's very concerned about them but it's slightly embarrassing because I moved to Suffolk seven months ago now, and all the time we were living in the Peak District the bees were on a farm in Buckinghamshire perfectly happily, and I haven't had time to go and get them.

"I did go and see them at one point thinking I've got to really sort this out and discovered that instead of having one live colony I had two. So that made the whole operation more complicated and I've had to put it off to the spring."

Turnbull has recently released an album of classical music that he has compiled, entitled Bill Turnbull's Relaxing Classics.

The album, released by Sony Classical, includes Barber's Adagio For Strings, Faure's Pavane, Liszt's Liebestraum, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, Pachelbel's Canon and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending.

Turnbull, who presents a music show on Classic FM, said: "I thought it would be nice, at this time of year especially, to compile a collection of music which I find very relaxing and which, I hope, other people will enjoy as well.

"It's such a frenetic time of year and given global events recently you need to have something you can chill to. And this works for me."

The presenter said that he had taken up a new hobby recently - playing the ukulele.

"Currently the instrument of choice is the ukulele ... I'm toying with the ukulele. My wife bought it for me for Christmas a couple of years ago," he said.

"I've been playing it fairly conscientiously for at least a few weeks ... That's the New Year's resolution, more ukulele."

He said he had previously been offered a spot on spin-off show The Great Sport Relief Bake-Off and regretted turning it down.

"I did get asked to do celebrity Bake Off and very swiftly I said 'can't bake, won't bake'. I hadn't realised I could have played the role of being the guy who's pretty hopeless," he said.

"If I got asked again I'd have a go at that, in an entirely non-competitive way. I got intimidated by looking at what other people have managed to do.

"I've baked a cake once and used to make bread almost every day for our kids but I wouldn't know how to make icing. But (it's on Channel 4 now) so that's not going to happen!"

Turnbull, who took part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2005, backed Ed Balls on the BBC1 show, saying that the former shadow chancellor should not walk away.

"Ed Balls doing Gangnam Style was just the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen on the dancefloor," he said.

"It just had me almost in tears of laughter. He was just brilliant. It's fun. It's not meant to be a professional dance competition. It's more like a pantomime sometimes.

"You have your good dancers but you've got have to light relief as well. If someone is dancing as originally as that ... genius ... so long as they keep coming up with entertaining routines that's fine."

:: Bill Turnbull's Relaxing Classics is released on Sony Classical.

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