Born in 1940 and a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, Esther’s career in journalism began with BBC Radio as a sound effects assistant. From there she moved into television as a researcher/reporter for Braden’s Week and then in 1973 as producer/presenter of That’s Life which was on air for 21 years and regularly drew audiences of over 18 million viewers.
For seven years she presented her daily talk show Esther on BBC2, and That’s Esther on ITV (with co-presenters Lara Masters and Heather Mills). She has made a number of pioneering programmes on child birth, mental health, drug abuse, and child abuse (in the campaigning series of programmes, Childwatch). In 1986 she invented ChildLine, (the children’s helpline which was launched on Childwatch), which she then chaired for twenty years. She is currently President of ChildLine, is a trained volunteer counsellor and is a Trustee of the NSPCC since its merger with ChildLine in 2005.
In 2011 Esther wrote an article for The Daily Mail about loneliness and following from the overwhelming response she received from older people she came up with the idea of creating a helpline in order to support vulnerable older people and in 2012 The Silver Line was born. Following a successful pilot, the charity was launched nationally in 2013 and Esther is very proud to be the Founder/President and a Trustee of The Silver Line.
She is a Patron of a number of other charities including the Red Balloon and she helped to found the Association of Young People with ME, of which she is President.
In 2013, Esther was a guest on ITV’s Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and prior to this, she took on one of her biggest television challenges by appearing on ITV1’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Other programmes include Who Do You Think You Are?, Winton’s Children, Would Like To Meet, How To Have a Good Death, Excuse My French, the BBC1 consumer series, Old Dogs, New Tricks, Grumpy Old Women and Strictly Come Dancing on which she lasted three weeks! Esther is a regular guest on programmes like BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain, This Morning and The One Show and appeared on Question Time when she stood at the 2010 General Election as an Independent candidate for Luton South.
Esther contributes regularly to The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times and other publications and lectures on children’s issues, broadcasting and many other topics. Having written a best-selling autobiography ‘Esther: The Autobiography’ and a novel ‘A Secret Life’, she then published her book ‘Running Out of Tears’ (The Robson Press) to celebrate ChildLine’s 25th Anniversary.
Esther has received a number of awards including the OBE for services to broadcasting, and the CBE for services to children. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to children and older people through ChildLine and The Silver Line. She received the Royal Television Society’s Special Judges’ Award for Journalism, and was received into their Hall of Fame. In addition she was the first woman to receive the Dimbleby award from BAFTA for her on-screen television work, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television and the Snowdon award for services to disabled people. Esther has six honorary doctorates and has been made an honorary Fellow of Somerville College.
To celebrate her fiftieth year in broadcasting, award-winning broadcasting legend, philanthropist and campaigner, Dame Esther Rantzen has undertaken her debut live UK tour which sees her and her daughter, the presenter and journalist Rebecca Wilcox, play to venues across the country in 2018.
“Esther was brilliant, conducting live interviews on stage with some of the winners, which the audience loved” William Reed
“I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for attending the University Hospitals of North Midlands Nursing Conference on the 19 April. The feedback received has been tremendous not least because of your personal input, enthusiasm and honesty around some very difficult subjects. Once again thank you for making it a great success and an inspirational event.” University Hospitals of North Midlands Nursing Conference