Bolton School Former Pupils

Peter Knowles

Peter Knowles (1972-1979), Controller, BBC Parliament

I’ve spent my working life as a broadcast journalist, principally as an editor in television news. At the start of my career I worked in many of the newsrooms in the North of England, then the Nine O’clock News at the time of the first Gulf War and BBC World News at its launch. I am now based in Westminster as Controller of BBC Parliament. As well as the TV channel I am Executive Editor for The Week in Westminster and political specials for Radio 4; Editor, Today and Yesterday in Parliament and of the Democracy Live website.

From these 30 years with the BBC, I’m most proud of the role I played in helping to save the BBC World News channel from the threat of closure after commercial backers pulled out. As overnight editor, I steered BBC News through the night of the death of Princess Diana.

Despite BBC Parliament’s narrow remit, I am delighted that the channel now reaches an audience of close to two million every month and that Today in Parliament enjoys the highest share of the audience of any weekday news programme.

I read English at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and since then have become a serial degree taker, with an MBA from Bradford University and a degree in Theology from the University of Chester.

I met my wife Kaye when she was playing First Violin in the BBC Philharmonic and we have two sons, in their twenties, who attended the local high school in London. I serve on a number of charitable Trusts and committees and am a Lay Preacher with the United Reformed Church.

What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?

I attended School from 1972-79, following on from my sister Jean (1969-76) and my parents Alan (1938-44) and Mary (1939-46), all on scholarships. My parents have written very honest and at times difficult accounts of their experience of School coming from a working class background, when teachers and fellow pupils had such firm views as to how a Bolton School student should talk and even how they should vote!

What is your fondest Bolton School memory?

Presenting a chaotically organised talk, aged 12, to an open day, for Mr De Maine’s Archaeological Society.

Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?

The English teachers, including Dr Ralph Britton and Mr Charles Winder and Miss Windle were all brilliant, as was the History team, Mr Eames and Mr Roger Whitten.

A special prize has to go to Mr Dawber and his team who led even the most hopeless scientists to top grades in Physics! I still don’t know how they did it.

What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?

I will never be surprised to find myself working in a place which looks like a castle. It was a good preparation for Hogwarts-on-Thames (Westminster).

What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?

It came from my college tutor, not from School, but it was simply the reminder that you only have one life and therefore must use it with all the passion that comes with such a strict limitation!

What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its Bursary Fund?

I love the idea of a school which takes a leading role in improving education for a whole town, not just for itself. An open access bursary fund can play a very important part in doing that, alongside a wide range of activities.

Peter Knowles.jpg