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Edith Bowman on Hogmanay, live music and wild swimming in Fife

Edith Bowman will hot this year's Hogmanay on BBC Scotland. Picture: Alan Peebles.
Edith Bowman will hot this year's Hogmanay on BBC Scotland. Picture: Alan Peebles.

Edith Bowman is hosting this year’s countdown to the bells for the first time on BBC Scotland. Gayle Ritchie chats to the Fife-born presenter about her love of Hogmanay, wild swimming, music and more.

If anyone can bring in the bells with a bang, it’s the effervescent Edith Bowman.

This year, for the first time, Edith will count down Scotland to the New Year, taking the reins of the BBC’s Hogmanay coverage.

The Fife-born radio and TV presenter, who recently hosted Scotland’s Bafta awards, will replace comedian Susan Calman, who has led proceedings for the past two years.

Edith, 47, says she’s a “mixed bag of nerves and excitement”, and that the show is a “really big deal” for her.

“I’m thrilled and honoured to have been trusted with it,” she enthuses. “I’m hoping I’ll do it justice. I’ll definitely be taking a few swallies after it!”

Edith can’t wait to celebrate the New Year.

This year’s Hogmanay special includes music from Texas and Emeli Sande with a special rendition of Auld Lang Syne presented by Scots folk act Talisk and Claire Hastings, a BBC Scotland Traditional music winner from 2015.

Coverage will switch to Edinburgh Castle as is traditional from midnight with a lone piper and fireworks accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Edith, from Anstruther, says watching BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay show has always been part of her childhood.

“We all huddled round the TV to watch it,” she recalls.

“I did that until I was about 13 when I started helping mum and dad in the hotel. (The Bowman family ran The Craw’s Nest Hotel in Anstruther).

“I’ve got great memories of being with my grandad and all the family in Pittenweem. Really warm special memories of celebrating together, of having a hug when the bells were brought in, making New Year’s resolutions and thinking about all the things you wanted to achieve.”

Edith is a huge fan of Hogmanay. Picture: Holly McGlynn.

Top talent

Describing this year’s acts as “all wonderful people and all hugely talented”, Edith says they’re guaranteed to excite, delight and entertain in a show rooted in tradition.

“Emeli Sande’s got one of those voices – the power and emotion of it is really brilliant. I’m so chuffed she’s part of the show.

“I love Sharleen (Spiteri, frontwoman of Texas) – she’s just amazing. I’ve been lucky enough to know her for a few years. She’s got a great sense of humour and she’s really down to earth. She’s a proper icon for me. And Talisk are absolutely fantastic.

“The show is rooted in traditions and I feel that’s what brilliant about New Year – that Scotland is the heartbeat of Hogmanay.”

Texas in concert. Picture: Kim Cessford.

Broadcast career

It’s around two decades since Edith got into TV and radio since she first burst onto the scene presenting MTV News and Top of the Pops.

As well as being a respected BBC Radio 1 DJ, she presents various music programmes and documentaries.

She’s married to Tom Smith, 40, the frontman of English indie rock band Editors.

The pair started dating in 2005 and tied the knot in 2013. They have two sons together, Rudy, 13, and eight-year-old Spike.

Since 2017, Edith has had a bit more time on her hands after leaving her solo breakfast DJ slot on Virgin Radio, a role she’s also held before on BBC Radio 1.

Edith grew up in Anstruther.

Her passion for all things music was born in Anstruther, where there was always music, and which has since developed a proper “scene”.

“I was in a couple of bands when I was at school but it wasn’t the music scene that then developed with the likes of Kenny Anderson and Fence Collective,” she says.

“I’m kind of envious it wasn’t there when I was. But it’s great to see the area thriving and how it’s attracted people from all over the world. It’s a brilliant area.

“We’re up for Christmas to see family and catch up with old schoolmates. I’m staying with my dad in Anstruther and my brother, who works offshore, will be back so it’ll be fantastic.”

Wild swimming

Edith, who’s a massive fan of wild swimming, can’t wait to strip off for a dip in Cellardyke tidal pool – in just her swimsuit, gloves and woolly hat.

“We live in Gloucestershire now and I was able to get into a few lakes for a swim over summer, as well as at Cellardyke when we were up for the holidays,” she says.

“When my mum visited me down south earlier in the year, she swam a lot. When she went back up the road to Fife she started doing it two or three times a week and she swears by it.”

Cellardyke tidal pool.

While Edith shuns a wetsuit – “all you need is a woolly hat, gloves and swimsuit” – she’s a big fan of her stylish but functional Dryrobe, a kind of “cosy jumpsuit” which she wears to dry off after swims.

“They’re the best! They’re lovely and fluffy inside and dry you off quickly. I couldn’t be without mine!

“I’d imagine mum and I will be in Cellardyke tidal pool on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and whenever else we feel like it. We love it!”

Outdoors

Battling through the pandemic has been tough for everyone, but Edith found getting outdoors really helped.

She, Tom and their sons moved from London to Gloucestershire just before the first lockdown hit.

“I’ve lived in London longer than I’ve lived in Scotland and moving out to Gloucestershire gave us a lot more opportunities to be outdoors and in the fresh air,” she says.

“I normally go at 120mph but the pandemic encouraged me to slow down really. It’s made me appreciate what I’ve got.

“I come up to Scotland a lot more – for TRNSMT Festival, for a new BBC docu-soap, or for the Scottish Baftas. Any opportunity to talk about and celebrate Scottishness, Scottish culture and Scottish people.”

I normally go at 120mph but the pandemic encouraged me to slow down really. It’s made me appreciate what I’ve got.”

Edith Bowman

Another source of great joy for Edith was the addition of a new family member – River the Portuguese water dog.

He’s her first ever dog and she admits she’s fallen head over heels in love with him.

“I’ve never had a dog before and I never thought I’d have one because of my allergies, but he’s such a healthy addition to the family,” she reflects. “He encourages us all to get outside for walks and exercise.”

River loves swimming alongside Edith, so he too will be splashing around at Cellardyke over the festive period.

“He gets quite protective when I’m in the water! He’s more concerned about making sure I’m alright – it’s very sweet.”

Live music

Edith really missed live music during the pandemic and found herself becoming quite emotional at Glasgow Green’s TRNSMT Festival in September.

“I got there really early and was walking down the walkway behind the main stage and I got so emotional even seeing the crew behind the scenes,” she says.

“Just watching people adore live music and feeling the reverberations was unbelievable. Watching for new bands, watching some of my favourites like Primal Scream – it was just breathtaking.”

TRNSMT in September 2021.

When it comes to acts to watch out for in 2022, Edith is hugely excited about Scottish social media star and musician Brooke Combe.

“I was hosting the Scottish Music Awards a few weeks ago and Brooke blew me away. She’s an absolute superstar. She’s on tour with The Cortinas at the minute. It’ll be exciting to see where she goes next.”

Of course, music is a “constant” in Edith’s household, whether it’s Tom writing or their kids playing instruments.

She laughs: “In the car it’s a race to see who’s going to get in the front seat to be in charge of Spotify!”

  • Hogmanay 2021 will be broadcast on both BBC One Scotland and BBC Scotland at 11.30pm on Friday, December 31.

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