Belfast Telegraph

TV show Mastermind to be made in Belfast

By Lauren Harte

Mastermind - the long-running quiz show best known for its intimidating black chair and challenging questions - is to be made in Northern Ireland.

A joint bid from independent producers Hat Trick and Hindsight has won the tender to produce it and Celebrity Mastermind.

The contract runs for two years from July and will see the production move from Salford to Belfast.

The BBC quiz show will be based, filmed and edited here.

BBC Studios lost the rights to the show, which will now return to the famous interrogation style of its roots.

While the location for filming is changing, the man at the helm is not.

The BBC has confirmed that veteran broadcaster John Humphrys, who leaves the Today programme on Radio 4 later this year, will continue to present the popular quiz.

BBC controller of entertainment commissioning Kate Phillips said: "We assessed the bids against four criteria and the bid from Hindsight and Hat Trick was the strongest.

"We liked their idea of Mastermind returning to its roots, in a dramatic and pressurised setting.

"We're also delighted that this decision means another BBC show will be made in Northern Ireland."

Mastermind has seen a number of incarnations since it was launched in 1972.

It has been presented by a range of hosts including the original Magnus Magnusson, Peter Snow and Des Lynam, who helmed the sports edition in 2008.

Down the years this place has been well-represented in the famous black chair.

Last month Co Down-born BBC presenter Holly Hamilton finished runner-up on Celebrity Mastermind with 15 correct answers.

Holly (33), from Greyabbey and a familiar face on BBC Breakfast, chose football legend George Best as her specialist subject and donated the money raised to Action MS Northern Ireland.

And brainbox Aidan McQuade emerged victorious back in April 2013, winning the coveted "fruitbowl trophy", as he calls it, with the greatest of ease.

The south Armagh man grew up watching Mastermind, so when it was time to face Humphrys he knew he had to be prepared.

The London-based independent consultant on human rights and slavery spent six months ahead of the final reading up on his chosen subject - Abraham Lincoln.

Aidan (53) was inspired to answer questions on the Civil War President's crusade to abolish slavery.

It wasn't his first time appearing on a BBC quiz show.

In 2002, while a PhD student at Strathclyde University, Aidan took part in University Challenge.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said his memories of Mastermind, which he still loves, were wholly positive.

"The production team were gracious to a fault and all of the competitors were people who liked to read and were interested in the world, so they were interesting people to meet and get to know," he said.

"After winning the first round, the contestants I beat took me out to celebrate.

"And after winning the final one of the other finalists, John Savage from Glasgow, made the point of delaying going for his train so he could have a congratulatory drink with me."

He added: "It does tend to dominate your reading for the length of your involvement, though, as the only thing you can permit yourself to read during that time is your specialist subject material.

"I found John Humphrys charming and professional throughout.

"That doesn't lessen the pressure on the contestants, however, as the format of the show - based on interrogation - is intrinsically intimidating.

"But having someone with his reputation certainly adds to the sense of occasion."

Three years later it was second time unlucky for fellow Co Armagh man Jim Maginnis when he appeared on the show.

Jim narrowly failed to become the 2016 Mastermind champion when he was pipped at the post during a nailbiting tie-break round.

It was a heartbreaking end for the Lurgan man, who previously reached the semi-finals of the competition in 1991.

He had chosen as his specialist subject the Battle of Berlin in 1945, in which Soviet forces reduced much of the besieged German capital to rubble as they fought to bring Nazi tyranny to an end.

Creator inspired by Nazi grilling

Mastermind's creator Bill Wright, a former RAF gunner, drew on his wartime experience as a prisoner of war in Germany to create the original interrogation style of the show.

The first edition of the quiz show was recorded at Liverpool University and aired on BBC1 in 1972.

It was originally hosted by former journalist Magnus Magnusson.

The series was initially thought to be too highbrow and aired in a late night TV slot.

When it was moved to peak time hours it clocked up such a huge audience that it has remained there.

It was dropped by the BBC in 1997, but returned on BBC Two in 2003 with John Humphrys as the new question master.

The programme has made minor celebrities out of some of its winners.

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