Chris Mason has chaired Any Questions? since 2019.
Hi. I grew up in Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. My dad’s side of the family have been Dales folk for generations.
My mum came from “deep down under in Hull” as we would call it, a gentle jibe suggesting Hull was in the south of England. All things are relative.
The Dales were and are a massive influence on me. That sense of belonging and identity will never leave me.
I still subscribe to the local paper, the Craven Herald and Pioneer. It drops proudly onto my doormat in south east London every week. It’s the perfect thing to kick back with, in the company of a cuppa, when I get home after Any Questions at the weekend. Assuming the children will grant me just five minutes of peace…
When I was a kid, I was either spectacularly narrow minded or rather single minded. Maybe both.
Save for a brief flirtation with wanting to be a bus driver, I only ever wanted to be a reporter. And I was obsessed by radio, TV news and newspapers.
Radio, in particular, fascinated me. I remember being mesmerised, gazing out over the fields, as we all sat in a circle on the floor at primary school listening to the BBC’s Radio Assembly.
That idea of radio waves, washing over the land, bringing those voices from afar to our ears.
That sense of wonder and magic about our medium has never left me.
Next stop for me was Ermysted’s Grammar School in Skipton, then Christ’s College, Cambridge to study geography by day and learn about reporting by night. My only aim when I was there was to get on with doing what I loved as quickly as I could, preferably via a traineeship with a broadcaster or newspaper.
Mucking about on student radio, telly and newspapers paid off – because ITN took me on as a trainee, the week after the September 11th terror attacks.
I followed that horrific day in the United States on another portable radio – listening to Simon Mayo on 5 live -- doing my last shift on a campsite in Littondale before my career in journalism began.
Stepping through the doors of ITN on Gray’s Inn Road in London felt huge: Trevor McDonald’s News At Ten was a massive influence on me; the gold standard for TV news of its era.
A year later, I moved to Tyneside, to be a reporter at BBC Radio Newcastle. And then followed a journalistic and geographical canter around BBC News: 5 live in London, the BBC’s Regional Political Unit, the Westminster Hour on Radio 4, and then Brussels as a Europe Correspondent, working for local radio and regional telly. How useful those two years turned out to be…
Next came a stint as a 5 live reporter at Westminster, and then I became a Political Correspondent in 2012.
Shortly afterwards, an editor rang me up and said he liked what I did, and would I like to have a bash at presenting? He sounded a little more confident about my abilities than I felt about them.
But not long after, at 3am, I made my presenting debut on the BBC World Service. What followed were several years of standing in as a presenter on Radio 4, 5 live, the World Service and Breakfast TV. Oh, and launching Brexitcast.
But nothing quite prepares you for taking on a programme where it’s your name above the door. Presenting Any Questions is the biggest privilege of my professional career.