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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Pattie Coldwell: Courageous crusader
Pattie Coldwell
Pattie Coldwell was a champion of the underdog
With her distinctive, gravelly voice and defiant approach to broadcasting, Pattie Coldwell was a distinctive consumer programme crusader for nearly three decades.

Described as having "a voice that could de-scale a kettle", Coldwell first came to television on the BBC's current affairs show Nationwide.

She was also described as having "the studio style of a half-trained labrador" - and her no-nonsense, direct approach made executives tremble but enchanted viewers.

Coldwell called herself "basically a working journalist, who likes telling stories", but her strong views on sexism and ageism on television, regularly got her into trouble.

Eamonn Holmes with Pattie Coldwell
Coldwell with fellow Open Air presenter Eamonn Holmes
"My problem is that I'm terrified of being bland," she said.

With no university degree, she often felt patronised by her male bosses. When a producer once told her to make him a cup of tea, he got the drink in his face.

From the beginning of her career, Coldwell was never anything but single-minded.

Born in Clitheroe, Lancashire, Coldwell first worked as a secretary in a beret factory.

Searching for work in television, she wrote 92 letters before Granada in Manchester gave her a job.

Controversial voice

She went on to become a familiar face. After her Nationwide break, she worked on a variety of programmes, including Open Air with Eamonn Holmes and DIY show On The House.

When she joined BBC Radio 4 to present Start the Week, her strong northern accent brought 2000 letters of complaint. One even told her to go back down the coal-hole.

But she carried on and presented You and Yours for a further three years.

She later worked for Radio Five Live and presented Loose Women for ITV. With her former husband Tony Kerner, she also fronted consumer programme Espresso for Channel 5.

In 1988, the Terence Higgins Trust honoured Coldwell for highlighting the plight of Aids sufferers after she made the documentary Remember Terry.

The programme depicted the loneliness of the condition and Coldwell considered it the highlight of her career.

"I'll always stick up for the underdog, because I guess I know how that feels," she said.


She also overcame personal obstacles.

After a long relationship with TV archaeologist Michael Woods, and a later divorce from Kerner, she recently married Evan, a black fisherman from the Caribbean who was 21 years her junior.

Michael Woods
Coldwell spent 10 years with TV historian Michael Woods
Of the prejudice they encountered, Coldwell said: "Anyone who might doubt us need only spend 20 minutes with us."

She was equally forthright about her illness.

When she discovered she had breast cancer in 1997, she used her profile to highlight the plight of fellow sufferers, joining campaigns and taking a huge petition for medical funds to Downing Street.

She recovered twice, but faced her final illness philosophically.

Grateful for support of family and friends, she said: "I don't think I've ever known such happiness."

And when her long-time friend, broadcaster John Stapleton, visited her in hospital, he reported that she had reacted to her ordeal with typical stoicism.

Asked if there were anything she wanted, she cut to the chase as usual and requested "just a meat pie, champagne and mascara".

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18 Oct 02 | TV and Radio
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