Strictly star John Sergeant will mean business for journalist charity in North Wales

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Veteran journalist and broadcaster John Sergeant whose popularity rose to new heights after appearing on Strictly Come Dancing is heading for North Wales.

He will be the star of the show at the first event ever organised in the area by a charity founded by novelist and social critic Charles Dickens to support journalists in need.

Appropriately, one of Dickens’ most famous assignments as a journalist brought him to North Wales when he covered the sinking of the Royal Charter which was wrecked off the coast of Anglesey in 1859. 

An Evening with John Sergeant at the Village St David’s Hotel, Ewloe on Friday, November 3 will be a black tie dinner in the company of key business people and representatives of the media, with one of television’s great raconteurs reflecting on his 35 years in the media spotlight.

It’s being organised by the Wales branch of the Journalists’ Charity in conjunction with Comtek – Sorrento Networks, a Deeside-based company which provides repairs, spares and support to the telecoms, datacoms, and network service industry.

As well as providing a major networking opportunity for businesses from North Wales and the North West, the audience will be treated to a wealth of funny anecdotes, featuring some of the best known political figures of our time.

John joined the BBC as a radio reporter in 1970 and covered stories in more than 25 countries.

From 1992 to 2000 he was the BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent and the Political Editor of ITN from 2000 until 2002.

But his career very nearly took a different direction after a chance encounter with Alan Bennett in Edinburgh not long after he left Oxford University.

John said: “I was deciding between being a journalist or going on with acting and comedy writing. I had a journalism job lined up with Reuters in London but I thought I’d do one last gig in Edinburgh.

“Alan Bennett happened to see it and he called us together the next day. He asked if I’d like to be in his BBC comedy series On The Margin.

“I told him that my father would be very upset. He was a vicar and he remembered a famous sermon sketch that Alan had performed in Beyond The Fringe.

“I told Alan my father regarded him as personally responsible for the decline of the Church of England!

“Alan shoved the scripts under the door of the digs we were staying in, just by the Castle.

“I thought how funny they were and that series was the start of my broadcasting career.”

John subsequently decided to go into journalism and applied to be a reporter with the BBC.

The mix of newspaper and broadcasting experience looked irresistible to Beeb bosses.

But it was only 30 years later, when John finally left the BBC as their chief political correspondent, that he realised how the Edinburgh connection had also played a key role.

“My manager pushed an envelope across the table and when I opened it I saw it was the reference Alan had given for me.

“I hadn’t seen it but it definitely helped me land that job.

“So much of what I did, including later hosting Have I Got News For You and even  doing Strictly, stemmed from Alan amazingly just needing someone in his show.”

Comtek’s chief executive Askar Sheibani said: “I am pleased to support the work of the Journalists’ Charity, for not only does it look after those in the industry who need help, it also promotes professionalism throughout the media.

“I am a passionate believer in the importance of a free and independent press. It is an essential ingredient of any democratic society.

“While we will never always agree with everything the media reports we must support its right to report it.

“An evening with John Sergeant provides the ideal opportunity to celebrate the success of North Wales and Deeside while supporting a worthy cause. It is going to be fascinating to hear, first-hand, John’s insight into some of the most important events of the last 30 years or so.”

Tickets for the event are £70 each or £650 for a table of 10, to include a drink and a three-course meal, and are available on Eventbrite. Email info@spencerdavid.co.uk for details.