After almost 20 years of painfully early starts, Louise Minchin’s alarm woke her with a jolt at 3.40am for the final time today.
From tomorrow the TV host will at last be able to regularly eat breakfast with her family and do all the fun things she has missed out on with her beloved daughters Mia and Scarlett.
There is sadness about moving on, but there’s no question that Louise feels now is the right time to leave BBC Breakfast.
“This has been a decision a long time in coming. It involved lots of in-depth discussion with friends and family,” she says.
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“My children are pleased for us as a family, I think, because I always used to say to them, ‘Oh, do you remember before I did BBC Breakfast?’
“And they’d say, ‘Not really.’ And then I realised that, actually, my daughters are 20 and 17, so of course they don’t remember life before BBC Breakfast.
“I’ve not taken my daughters to school every single day for their schooling life, so I am looking forward to school runs.
Andy Stenning / Daily Mirror)
“And I’m really looking forward to things like those Sunday night dramas, which I’d love to be watching but haven’t been because I need to go to bed.
“So there’s a shared experience that I’m really looking forward to being able to have with them.
“Plus I’ve got no excuses now. I’m really looking forward to being a super taxi for the kids, which is great. And I am actually genuinely really looking forward to being able to do that!”
Louise, 53, who shared the BBC sofa duties with co-host Dan Walker from Monday to Wednesday, made her decision to leave the show around six months ago as Britain came out of winter and she realised she could not face another period of gloomy morning alarm calls at the end of 2021.
She says: “I find the early morning really difficult and another winter of the dark mornings was not what I wanted to do anymore.
“I just thought ‘I can’t face another winter’, because I’ve worked out over the last 20 years there’s about six weeks in the year when I go to work and it’s light, and those are the six weeks that I find the easiest.
“In December I’d taken three, four weeks off work because of an ankle operation and I had that period to realise that when I’m not getting up at 3:40am in the morning, I’m doing all sorts of things in the evening that I want to be doing – like just watching telly with my family, doing that kind of family stuff.
“So yeah, I think it was coming out of winter into this period that the decision was made.
“Also because of Covid we had holidays at home and if I’m left to my own devices in my own home, I actually go to bed about midnight and wake up about nine in the morning
“That’s the natural way my body works. So I think it made me realise that actually I particularly really struggle with the hours… I have found them really hard.”
It is her love for the job, and great relationships with colleagues such as Dan and long-term floor manager Tracey Higgins, that she cites as reasons for staying in on the show for so long.
Louise did her first shift for BBC Breakfast on Christmas Eve 2001 as a freelance presenter and, after becoming a regular fixture, decided with husband David to take the plunge and move her young family north when the programme shifted to its new home in Media City in Salford almost a decade ago.
And they haven’t looked back.
She says of the life-changing move: “We’ve loved it. We will continue to live in the North West. We feel adopted to Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, whatever it is. We feel incredibly welcome and that’s where we’ll stay.
“So it really changed our lives. We moved from central London up to near Chester, and it’s been a complete and utter lifestyle change. It’s been a really happy time for us.
“I always loved the programme and I always loved working on it and I like the ethos of the show – it’s the cutting edge of journalism but also talking about the things that matter to you.”
Louise struck up a fantastic TV partnership with Bill Turnbull for around five years until he left in February 2016.
She then seamlessly began a cheeky and fun double act with Dan which viewers have loved since he joined days after Bill left.
“Dan does make me laugh,” she reveals. “The last five-and-a-half years with him have been really full of joy, even though we’ve worked through tough times, we’ve worked through tough stories, we’ve worked through tough programmes.
“We have a very good relationship. I’ve got a younger brother and, to me, Dan is like my younger brother.”
Leaving BBC Breakfast will also give Louise more time to focus on her sporting ambitions.
She qualified as a member of the 2015 Great Britain Age-Group Triathlon Team and went on to compete at the World Triathlon Championships in Chicago.
In 2019 she completed the Norseman Xtreme Triathlon, which involved a two-and-a-half mile swim, a 112-mile cycle ride and a marathon.
But since then there have been injuries and setbacks so she hopes to get back into her running and has set a target of competing in next year’s London Marathon.
And given her huge popularity on-screen it is no surprise to learn that she has had a number of offers to front TV shows on the BBC and elsewhere.
There are even reports ITV wants her for this year’s I’m A Celebrity.
But Louise is keeping her cards close to her chest for now and is more focused on her time off for the rest of this month.
She says: “I am really organised. I clearly have my foot on the pedal most of the time. I’m trying to take it off the pedal, which is not my natural state of affairs.
“I’m already having conversations I would not have had if I wasn’t leaving Breakfast. I’m trying not to make any decisions too early.
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“So next Monday there is a blank in my diary, and the first thing I’ll do is take my daughter to school.
“The second thing I’ll do is probably go to the gym. There’s a friend of mine who’s really helped me over the last few months and I’m going to ask her to go out for a very, very long lunch. So that’s what I’ll do on Monday.
“And then I won’t have to worry about Tuesday either, will I?
“The one thing of course I will miss more than anything is the hugely loyal, supportive, wonderful, welcoming breakfast viewers. I feel like a part of this huge family and I’ve been inundated with lovely, lovely messages.
“I’ll really miss that.”
*BBC Breakfast airs on BBC1 daily from 6am.
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