Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Bakewell, Dame Joan (1933-)


Main image of Bakewell, Dame Joan (1933-)

A cultural figurehead in the 1960s and one of the longest-surviving female interviewers on British television, Joan Bakewell has earned her place in the history of the UK medium. Following Cambridge, she started with the BBC as a trainee studio manager for radio and moved to television in the early 1960s.

Making her first appearance on the arts discussion/review series Late Night Line-Up (BBC, 1964-72) in early 1965, she soon became the programme's leading lady, as presenter and interviewer, and remained a fixture for six years. During this exciting television period - during which Frank Muir dubbed her 'the thinking man's crumpet' (for her earnest manner and fashionable miniskirts) - she interviewed virtually every important person in the cultural landscape.

Going freelance in 1972, she drifted through a fallow period, presenting such limited formats as Film 72 (BBC, 1972- ), Holiday (BBC, 1969-2007), and the community affairs series Reports Action (ITV, 1975-81).

She was appointed arts correspondent for the BBC in 1982, returning her to more 'serious' pursuits, until the John Birt revolution in the late 1980s, which removed the arts from under the news and current affairs umbrella. With the bulk of her work appearing on Newsnight (BBC, 1980- ), her contract was not renewed.

Switching from arts to morals, she presented the religious debate series Heart of the Matter (BBC, 1979-2000) for 12 years. For the controversial Taboo (BBC, 2001), she explored the history of censorship in Britain.

Born Joan Rowlands, she married TV producer Michael Bakewell in 1956 (divorced 1972). A long-time, adulterous affair with Harold Pinter became the inspiration for his 1978 play Betrayal, made into a film in 1982 (d. David Jones).

She was awarded a CBE in 1999 and DBE in 2008; also held the post of BFI Chair, 1999-2002.

Tise Vahimagi

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Late Night Line-Up (1964-72)Late Night Line-Up (1964-72)

Pioneering arts discussion programme that made Joan Bakewell a star.

Related collections

Related people and organisations