Newsflash TV man is returning to theatre 

3 January 2022

Life full of contrast for newsman who gets fan mail and woolies



Liverpool Echo masthead

From the Liverpool Echo for 11 March 1981

THERE was no doubt about it, the tie John Edmunds was wearing as he faced the television cameras and read the nine o’clock news was, well, very nice As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how it was described in the letter he received a day or two later.

“You had a very nice tie on last night,” wrote the lady. “My husband would like to borrow it for our daughter’s wedding.”

“Some people,” says John, “really do take the most extraordinary interest in us!”

Like the Irish lady who is firmly convinced that she and John have been married for many years — and have several children.

“I am happy to say they seem to be causing no trouble!” he says. “She gives me reports of them from time to time, you see.

“And there was the housewife who sent £50 — what her husband would have thought, I don’t know. It was sent back, of course.

“It can be a mistake to write back more than once to people. Because they seem to be lonely, and it seems harmless, and if it means so much to them to have a letter from you, well, why not write a few lines?”


John Edmunds presents the news on ABC in the 1960s


‘Where’s my daughter?’

“I think we have our few that we have kept up over the years and meet of the time it’s alright, but it can be very difficult.

“I got into trouble in the early days when a woman wrote several times and sent me sweaters she had knitted for me. It would seem very churlish to send them back, but you do create a kind of bond if you accept them.

“In this case I wrote brief notes of thanks and then one day I had a letter from her mother to say she had disappeared from home and was she with me?

“I wrote back to say that, good heavens, I’d only written her a few notes, and then I got a vitriolic letter from her family telling me I was perfectly content to take presents but not to accept responsibility for her!

“You are regarded as public property in a way, but there are professional ways of handling it — the thing is you often learn the hard way!”

Comparatively few viewers who have been watching John read the news will realise that he is, in fact, Director of Drama at University College of Wales, Aberystwyth — he founded, its department of drama and theatre studies in 1973 and has been happily building it up since then — and he returns there on July 1 after a nine-month leave-of-absence.



Actor and teacher

“I come back to BBC-TV and help out occasionally” be says, “particularly in the vacations, and the public accepts me as one of the news-reading team.

“I’ll miss the stimulus of reading the news. I enjoy doing it very much. It’s very difficult, very stimulating, and you have to concentrate very hard over a fairly short period of time.”

John, born in London in 1929 of Welsh parents, was evacuated to Aberystwyth during the war, attended school there, and later moved on to University College of Wales where be studied French and English.

“From the very beginning” he says, “I wanted to be either a teacher or an actor.

“I started acting while I was in sixth form at school and worked in rep in Aberystwyth, while I was at college.”

After National Service in the Royal Navy, he taught at grammar school in London and began his long association with television in 1956 when he went to work as an announcer, interviewer, presenter, and station host at ABC-TV, then responsible for weekend coverage of the Midlands and the North.

He was with ABC-TV for 10 years combining his weekend stint there with, first of all, his job as a teacher and then with the research he did over three years which led to his gaining a Ph.D at Birmingham University.

He has worked as a theatre critic for the BBC’s Overseas Service, he has translated French classical plays into English verse, he has been concerned with many educational programmes, and he was presenter of BBC-TVs London Magazine programme, “Town and Around.”


A print advert from the mid-1950s with John Edmunds depicted as station host

A print advertisement from the mid-1950s


Short on confidence

It was in 1968 he joined the news-reading team — on Michael Aspel’s departure from it.

Unmarried, John has a flat in London and a flat in Aberystwyth, and says that in his spare moments be likes to go to the theatre, and enjoys being with friends.

“I’m a fairly self-sufficient person.” he adds. “I’m not one of those people who have to have an engagement diary filled up every night. I do spend a lot of time alone quite happily.”

In a career in which he has been involved so much with the theatre, has he never thought about becoming a professional actor?

“There were times when I toyed with the idea.” he says, “but I never managed to do it. I suppose I didn’t have enough confidence in myself as an actor.

“People try to get me into productions and perhaps when I go back to Aberystwyth I’ll have a go.

“But it’s not a thing you can pick up and put down, I think I’m much more critical now than I used to be of my own performance.

“I understand what is involved much more now.”


The following section is commentary from our expert writers

Russ J Graham writes: Headlines and the articles under them are most often written by different people. After the journalist or columnist files their copy, it is picked-over by sub-editors, who correct the spelling and grammar (not at The Guardian), fact-check them (not at the Daily Mail), find pictures and add an apposite, attention-grabbing headline.

Or, in this case, add an attention-grabbing headline, yes, but apposite? Not really. The article contradicts the headline: John Edmunds may do some theatre when he returns to his university, but he thinks that is very unlikely. The headline would therefore be what those in the industry call “a big fat lie”. Ho hum.

Dr Edmunds had taught at Brighton College in the late 1960s, and Transdiffusion had a correspondent and outlet there, so some of the team got a precious invite to have tea with him. It was through him that Transdiffusion got to know Geoffrey Lugg, head of presentation at ABC and then Thames, still now – many years after his death – our honorary president.

At the time of writing, John Edmunds is happy in retirement and still in Aberystwyth, we believe. His students and colleagues and friends all have good memories of him. A genuinely nice guy.



You Say

3 responses to this article

Ray Wilson 3 January 2022 at 6:50 pm

A great informative article..

Thanks …

Mark Jarvis 12 February 2022 at 12:05 pm

John Edmunds taught at my school Battersea Grammar School (perversely it was in Streatham )but sadly I was never in his class
By all accounts a very
“good bloke”

Jamie Medhurst 17 May 2023 at 2:57 pm

Some sad news – I heard yesterday that John had passed away aged 94 at his home near Brighton. As the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies (as it is now) celebrates its 50th anniversary in September, we remember John with great affection and send our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

Jamie (Head of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University)

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