Dame Esther Rantzen DBE

Born in 1940, Dame Esther has received the Dimbleby Award from Bafta, received an OBE for services to broadcasting, a CBE for services to children, and in 2015 a DBE for services to children and older people through ChildLine and The Silver Line. 

A graduate from Somerville College Oxford of which she is now an Honorary Fellow, Esther Rantzen’s career in broadcasting began with BBC Radio as a sound effects assistant. From there she moved into television, becoming a researcher/reporter for Braden’s Week and then producer/presenter of That’s Life, which ran for 21 years on BBC Television and achieved an audience of 22 million. Esther has made  pioneering programmes on subjects such as childbirth, stillbirth, mental health and child abuse.  In 1986 she invented the concept of ChildLine and chaired the charity for 19 years, now acting as its President.  In 2012 she invented The Silver Line, a helpline for older people of which she is President, and which has merged with Age UK.

She contributes regularly to the media, has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, survived ITV’s Australian jungle and Who Do You Think You Are, and appeared on Question Time while standing as an independent candidate for Luton South. She has been awarded 7 honorary doctorates, and is a Patron of 19 charities. Her husband Desmond Wilcox, the award-winning documentary maker, died in 2000. She has three children and five grandchildren, and divides her time between London and the New Forest.

Oral interview available here