Former Hackney Gazette reporter Des Burkinshaw on his life with the stars

PUBLISHED: 17:52 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:52 25 April 2017

Des Burkinshaw with the Spice Girls

Des Burkinshaw with the Spice Girls

Des Burkinshaw

Emma Bartholomew meets ex-Gazette reporter Des Burkinshaw, who was once loosely credited with bringing down the Tory government

Des Burkinshaw playing piano with Paul McCartneyDes Burkinshaw playing piano with Paul McCartney

Des Burkinshaw credits working at the Hackney Gazette as “the three most interesting years of my working life”.

He’d only been there three months and he broke the story of Tory minister Tim Yeo having an affair with Hackney councillor Julia Stent, who he got pregnant. 
Des said: “The editor at the time was too scared to run it as a story, so he said to go to the News of the World and get them to break it, and that we could run it afterwards – which we did.”

The story broke on Boxing Day 1992, and by 1994 Yeo – who had courted votes in Hackney on a “family values” ticket three years earlier – resigned.

“I got headhunted and ended up at The Times, where they used to call me ‘the man that brought down the government’,” said Des, who managed to pay for the deposit on his first flat with the £10,000 he was paid for the story.

Des Burkinshaw with Nancy SinatraDes Burkinshaw with Nancy Sinatra

He didn’t hang around long; he went into showbiz reporting and then TV producing. Over the years he’s worked with too many celebrities to mention, including Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, Michael Caine and David Bowie.

A keen musician, writing and producing for his band The Ghostorchestra, has twisted the arm of a few of his interviewees over the years into jamming with him.

He’s played piano alongside Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson in their homes, and remembers playing A Whiter Shade of Pale with Procol Harum at the BBC in Maida Vale.

“I met a lot of my heroes. After eight years of doing network TV I thought I’d done everything,” he said.

Des Burkinshaw with Michael PalinDes Burkinshaw with Michael Palin

These days he runs a production company with his wife Shazna at their home in Roding Road, Lower Clapton.

They met on Top of the Pops and have a daughter Nazia.

They’ve just started an after-school and holiday club for nine- to 15-year-olds, the Young Directors Film School.

“I still think of myself as Des on the council estates,” he said. “It’s bizarre when Nancy Sinatra rings up and asks if you want to come for a curry.

Des Burkinshaw with Sheryl CrowDes Burkinshaw with Sheryl Crow

“It’s been a bit crazy – it still is, really. I really thank the Gazette for it – you couldn’t have a better start.

“Hackney is the most interesting place on the planet, and if you start there you are bound to do well.”

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