As they prepare for their first shifts hosting Daybreak, Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones reveal the full horror of her riding accident – and how they’ll breathe new life into the show
21:43 GMT, 31 August 2012
Daybreak’s new presenters are sitting on a sofa swapping stories about meeting the Queen.
Yesterday Lorraine Kelly, who is herself described as ‘the queen of breakfast TV’, had collected her OBE for services to charity and the armed forces from Her Majesty at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
‘She thanked me, but then I don’t remember anything else because I was choking up. I’m quite emotional anyway, but I saw my mum getting teary and I just cried,’ Lorraine recalls. ‘When I looked at the Queen, it was quite strange. It was like seeing our whole nation in one person. I felt as if I knew her.’
As they prepare for their first shifts hosting Daybreak, Lorraine Kelly and Aled Jones reveal the full horror of her riding accident and how theyll breathe new life into the show
‘The Queen knows everything about you before she meets you,’ chips in Lorraine’s new co-presenter Aled Jones, the former child soprano turned Radio 2 host.
‘The last time I sang for her she told me afterwards, “My husband listens to you on the radio.” So when I saw Prince Philip I said to him, “Apparently you listen to me” He replied, “Nonsense! I listen to this cheeky little Welsh boy!”’
‘And that’s you!’ Lorraine hoots. ‘That’s amazing, I can’t believe it.’
Sitting here now, it must be hard for Lorraine to believe that just six months ago she was left unable to walk after a horrific horse-riding accident.
During training for a charity challenge organised by the former Prime Minister’s wife Sarah Brown, she was thrown off and then trampled by a horse while attempting a jump. It was only her second time on a horse and the animal lacerated her upper thigh, only narrowly missing her pelvis.
‘When you do something for charity you think you’re protected because you’re doing a good thing. It never even entered my head that something could happen,’ Lorraine reflects.
While her down-to-earth ‘no fuss’ attitude means she will never talk completely openly about quite how serious it was, the gravity of the incident became clear when she was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, lost three pints of blood and required emergency surgery and a blood transfusion.
Yesterday Lorraine Kelly, who is herself described as the queen of breakfast TV, had collected her OBE for services to charity and the armed forces from Her Majesty at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh
PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 3, 2012. See PA story ROYAL Queen. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
‘It was horrible – pretty ghastly. I did lose a lot of blood. But I’ll tell you what, you really know who your mates are. So many wonderful people looked after me and raised my spirits.’
I’ve worked with Lorraine at ITV for more than three years and when I visited her in hospital days after the accident, although she was still in excruciating pain, her spirit was quite remarkable. She couldn’t move because her leg had swollen to twice its normal size, but she still continued to laugh and joke and worry about everyone else.
There was no anger about what had happened. ‘You know what I’m like, I don’t like to make a fuss. I just tried to concentrate on getting better,’ she shrugs humbly.
‘Initially I didn’t want my family to worry about me because at the time Rosie [her daughter] was in Scotland and Steve [her husband] was in Spain. It could have been a million times worse. I was very lucky.’ It was two months before Lorraine could think about working again and Steve, 52, had to provide round-the-clock care. ‘I couldn’t do anything myself – he even had to take me to the loo,’ she says.
Learning to walk again so she could get back to work became her priority. ‘I tend to run before I can walk. But I was determined not to leave hospital with a Zimmer frame, so they gave me crutches. But then I wanted to get rid of them so I got a walking stick and was able to use that when I returned to work. I had Steve to hold on to so it was all right.’
Even though she is now able to wear high heels again for Daybreak, her recovery is ongoing. She has physiotherapy, specialist massages and regularly gets ‘a feeling like electric shocks in my leg when the feeling in the nerves comes back’.
She’s also getting used to the ‘big scar’ on her upper thigh. ‘It’s in the shape of an iron,’ she sighs. ‘If I was in my 20s I’d be devastated, but I’m in my 50s so it’s OK. A sarong is a wonderful thing on holiday. They reckon by the end of the year I’ll be back to feeling normal.’
This week she faces a challenge of a different sort, turning round the fortunes of Daybreak, which has struggled since replacing GMTV exactly two years ago.
The programme was launched with former One Show co-presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley, who had been poached from the BBC in a controversial multi- million pound deal. The ratings failed to match the hype, which included an advertising campaign with the pair appearing on billboards across the country.
This week she faces a challenge of a different sort, turning round the fortunes of Daybreak, which has struggled since replacing GMTV exactly two years ago
They were axed in December, less than halfway through their three-year contracts. From this Monday, Lorraine and Aled take over the sofa from the temporary presenting team of sports presenter Dan Lobb and former GMTV front woman Kate Garraway.
For Lorraine, who grew up in a working-class suburb of Glasgow, it’s a case of back to the future. While she has hosted her own daily show at 8.30am for the past 18 years (which will continue), she had previously been the main anchor on GMTV and its predecessor TV-am.
And she’s under no illusions about the challenge ahead. ‘We’re not taking anything for granted. We’ve got a lot of work to do to bring viewers back. We need to show that this programme is for them.’
Like her bosses at ITV, Lorraine admits the problems with Adrian and Christine’s Daybreak extended beyond the pre-launch hype. ‘At the end of the day you’ve got to have the content – and the content wasn’t right,’ she says. ‘But the hype didn’t help either. I shy away from that and so does Aled. I can’t imagine anything worse than a billboard with our faces on it. We don’t go to premieres and things like that. Unless it’s Star Trek and then I’m there!’
Lorraine Kelly during the first day of a celebrity trek for Comic Relief, she is a very giving celebrity
Does she believe the Daybreak brand has been damaged, as some critics suggest ‘No, I’m not particularly concerned about that. I think the public just think of it as breakfast TV. But Aled and I will be hands-on,’ she insists. ‘We won’t be coming in, doing the show, then going home. I’m absolutely passionate about breakfast television. It’s worked before and it can work again.’
The formula for the new Daybreak is simple. ‘It’s about making sure we cover news stories properly, have really good guests and have some fun,’ Lorraine says. ‘I mean, we need a laugh these days, don’t we’ Human interest stories will become a bigger part of the show.
‘When Daybreak started that didn’t happen, but to me they’re the heart and soul of the show. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to talk to Will Smith and George Clooney. But the stories that stay with me are the ordinary people who have overcome terrible trauma.’
Aled wants to make the show a ‘safe environment’, but one where politicians will still be held accountable. ‘It’s not about giving someone an easy ride, but it’s about asking the right questions,’ he explains. Lorraine agrees. ‘We can say to poor Ed Miliband, “How do you feel to be likened to Wallace and Gromit” You can’t do that on Newsnight. I hate that whole gladiatorial thing, anyway. Hate it. You never get anywhere.’
After just a few minutes around the pair, it’s obvious the all-important chemistry is there. They’re a laugh a minute and back each other up when required.
While they’ve never worked together before, they have a friendship that’s been built up since Lorraine first interviewed Aled on TV-am back in 1988. Aled – who became a household name thanks to his performance of Walking In The Air from the animated film The Snowman and now presents Songs Of Praise for the BBC – was a surprise choice to partner Lorraine on the sofa. But, unlike Adrian and Christine, the 41-year-old, from Llandegfan, Anglesey, is not leaving the corporation and will continue fronting the religious series, as well as his Radio 2 show.
It was ITV who approached him about the job, and he was flown to Dundee, where Lorraine was recovering from her accident, for a screen test. The connection was instant. ‘It just worked, he has a wicked sense of humour,’ Lorraine explains, before adding to Aled, ‘You actually made me belly laugh, especially considering I was recovering and a bit out of it.’
Before her accident, Lorraine had undergone something of an image transformation, dropping two stone after running the London Marathon in 2010
Before her accident, Lorraine had undergone something of an image transformation, dropping two stone after running the London Marathon in 2010. ‘I don’t know what happened. I think my metabolism’s changed or something. I walk a lot, play tennis and do pilates – I’ve really missed that since my injury,’ she says. ‘I see pictures of me from the 80s and 90s, and I do look older than I do now. I’m lucky I’ve inherited my mum’s great cheekbones and good skin.’
For his part, Aled has been on a rigorous physical regime to prepare for his new role. ‘I was on TV before Christmas and somebody tweeted, “Now we know what’s happened to the snowman, Aled’s eaten him.”’ But since then the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant has lost a stone-and-a-half after seeing a personal trainer three times a week.
After a decade of constant touring, Aled, who has made 29 albums, is looking forward to the stability of a regular job, despite the 4am wake-up call. ‘I’ve taken this job to have more of a family life. Now I can pick my kids up from school. I want to be part of their lives.’
Claire, his wife of 11 years and full-time mum to Emilia, ten, and Lucas, seven, is also delighted. ‘She loves it. Until now she’s been the constant in their lives. Daybreak gives me the opportunity to share that.’
The high profile new role should finally provide Aled with the opportunity to wave goodbye to his public persona as a child star.
‘Any time someone says “child star”, I want to jump out of the window,’ he admits. ‘I’m not an angel trying to be Peter Perfect. I know I’ll be petrified for the first couple of days on Daybreak. But I know Lorraine will bail me out.’
Lorraine smiles, ‘No, you’ll be more than fine. After all, you’re a wee angel really!’
Lorraine and Aled present Daybreak from Monday, 7am, ITV1.