Obituary: Alison Ford

Alison Ford

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The shock at the news of Alison's death says something about the way she lived her life over the last few years.

She was so positive, so optimistic and sometimes so hilarious about her illness, that it was easy to believe her when she told us not to worry because everything was fine and it would be all right.

The cancer was always spoken of - to us anyway - as a bit of an inconvenience. Even very recently, we were joking that she was like the Black Knight in that famous Monty Python sketch: "It's only a scratch!"

The scale of the reaction to the news also says something else very clearly. Everyone in the BBC apparently knew Alison, or at least felt they did.

And once you'd met her, you didn't forget her. She was proof of that old cliché about someone who could light up a room. She always had something to say, usually peppered with some pretty salty language.

Reading through the tributes from colleagues, the same words keep coming up: inspirational, talented, honest, caring, funny…

Breakfast pride

She wasn't your typical BBC manager. "Manager" is probably the wrong word for her anyway. She didn't really do that stuff. "Leader" is definitely more appropriate. She was never one for forms, courses and BBC nonsense. Her teams loved her for that and would do anything for her. If only you could bottle just a little of what she had and spread it around a bit.

Start Quote

Anyone who ever went out with Alison was guaranteed a good laugh”

End Quote Adam Bullimore Deputy editor, BBC Breakfast

Alison loved to chat to anyone. She once said that she considered it very rude not to try to talk to everyone. There were never any uncomfortable silences in lifts or in the queue for coffee when she was there. She'd just very naturally pick up a conversation like an old friend. I'd ask: "Who was that?" and she'd reply that she had no idea.

That ability to talk - and listen - was why she was a wonderful person. It also made her the journalist and editor she was. There were many morning meetings when she would push producers and output editors to really explain a story. She was never afraid to say: "I don't understand." It usually became clear that nobody else did either. Alison was naturally curious and had an instinctive feel for what the audience wanted and needed to know.

She always said that being editor of Breakfast was her favourite job - well she would, wouldn't she? She led the programme through the most successful period in its history. She was fiercely proud of that and fought hard for the programme to get the credit it deserves. Persuading key people inside and outside the BBC to recognise the reach of Breakfast - more than six million people a day - was a long-running battle and one that only recently she felt she had finally won.

'Sweetheart'

Alison was tough. She was a Geordie and she could certainly look after herself. She'd tell you straight and exactly how she saw it. It's not much of a revelation, but people really do like that approach! She told one reporter recently on his first day: "Don't you worry, if I thought you were shit, I'd tell you that you were shit."

Even when she was very sick, Alison was still making some very difficult decisions and facing the resulting flak so that others - usually me - wouldn't have to. It is quite something that people still thought she was great even when they were on the wrong end of a tough call she'd had to make.

When she rang from hospital, she would always want to know how everyone else was first. She'd send cards, letters and flowers to people who were much less ill than she was. "Sweetheart" was her favourite term of endearment, but that's exactly what she had.

If you knew Alison and, as I've said, just about everyone seemed to, then I am certain you will have a memory of her that will make you chuckle. Funny things just happened to her and around her. Anyone who ever went out with Alison was guaranteed a good laugh. And of course, there was always lots of wine. Next time you're out, think of her, smile, and have another glass. It's literally what she would have wanted.

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