Brian Beacom

HOGMANAY is now almost as synonymous with Jackie Bird on BBC Scotland as it with black bun and girning weans kept up well past their bed time.

This year will represent Jackie’s 18th stint in the Hogmanay Live hot seat as she attempts to help us forget the less positive aspects of 2017.

It’s no mean challenge to front a traditional New Year programme.

After all, many traditions have gone the way of Kenneth McKellar and Andy Stewart.

The very idea of assembling the family before the great god of television to hear its countdown to the year ahead is for many a thing of the past.

Does Jackie agree the sense of community and tradition is wilting?

“Well, I agree we often have a rose-tinted view of the past,” she says.

“I don’t think we all sat and held hands back in the day. I don’t think it was that uniformly couthy and happy.

“But is it more fragmented at the moment? Yes, that is the case. “I don’t think any generation has had to cope with so much in such a short time, given new technology and social media.”

“Yet, as far as young people are concerned, here’s an argument to support your fragmentation theory.

“My then 20 year-old son only took cognisance of the fact I fronted the Hogmanay Show two years ago, and it went viral, thanks to the young guy who got into shot with me (during filming an energetic reveller captured the camera with his smiley actions).”

Jackie adds, smiling; “My son was alerted to that and so when I came home he was quite excited because the film was now on the internet.

“He’d never have mentioned the show but for that.”

The Reporting Scotland presenter points out the Hogmanay show still picks up great ratings, albeit carried into midnight on the back of a night of classic comedy, from the likes of Only An Excuse?

“I think the Hogmanay show is still remarkable in that it picks up viewing figures of over a million every year.

And in a country of five and a half million that’s amazing.

“It’s still a great privilege to be part of the programme. I love the idea of people getting around the television to celebrate the New Year.”

What does the television presenter look forward to in the year ahead, given some of the major issues which rocked 2017?

“Well, I can’t talk about news issues,” she says in more serious voice.

“If I look ahead to news issues I encroach on my apolitical status.

“But on a personal level, I’m writing again.”

Ten years ago, Jackie wrote a sitcom for Radio Scotland about a fortysomething female tabloid journalist.

Now, she wants to untie herself once again from the straitjacket that is news and break out into the world of fiction.

“My vision has always been that news is king. Not you.

“So when you are creating something for yourself you can do what you like and say what you like in a way you never can with the news.”

But the writing process, she says, smiling, is torture.

“It’s almost painful doing it but it’s something I really want to do.

“And because you have to amass a great deal of news knowledge over the time, not in any great depth however, you have this material you can use.”

Her sitcom characters will be order. (Jackie is 55).

“I’m looking at women who once had it all who are older, they’re menopausal and their invisible.

“But they’re trying to find their way in life, hopefully in a funny way.”

She adds; “Television comedy doesn’t always have to attract the young.”

When not working or writing Jackie still works hard at keeping fit.

“Being fit takes up a lot of time. But it’s such an integral part of my life. You have to be the best version of yourself you can be.”

She adds, smiling; “If I have a cake I have to go running. But at the same time I’m grateful I can still go running in the hills.”

Jackie is grateful to be working in a business that can still be ageist.

“If I were the brain of Britain or an amazing beauty I’d have thought ‘You could have done so much better.’

“But being an all-rounder who’s not especially good looking or super intelligent I’m grateful.”

Yet, the presenter grins as she recalls a Hogmanay Show she wasn’t so happy to appear in.

In 1999, the programme was scheduled to go network and the BBC in London decreed the show should be broadcast from Shetland, to herald the millennium.

“It was long way to go but it was a network programme and people were saying ‘Think of the exposure’. But when we got up there you couldn’t see past the end of your nose. And it was freezing.”

She adds, grinning; “It wasn’t the sort of exposure I had imagined.”

* Hogmanay Live 2017 features KT Tunstall and Rag’n’bone man.