In 1999, Chris Stuart took the apparently outlandish idea of Late Night Poker to Channel 4. Its appeal, with cameras under a glass table that could show each player’s cards, was immediate.
Chris also devised – with Rob Thomas – and was executive producer of the BBC’s television quiz show Only Connect, presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell. Testing the ability to link seemingly unrelated items, it began on BBC Four in 2008, is now a stalwart of the BBC Two schedule and is preparing for its 18th season.
These were just two aspects of the wide-ranging and prolific career that Chris, who has died aged 73 of bowel cancer, enjoyed in television, radio, journalism and music.
For Radio Wales he presented the breakfast show (1978-87) and on Saturday afternoons for five years Sportstime. On television his Cha Cha Chat show ran from 1984 to 1986. When illness compelled Ray Moore to leave Radio 2’s early-morning program in 1988, Chris took over, and was a regular on the station for four years, along the way fronting the Auckland Commonwealth Games (1990). I have maintained the connection for more than two decades, through Radio 2’s coverage of the annual Festival of Remembrance from the Royal Albert Hall, London (1992-2015).
He also commented on the Westminster Abbey funerals of Diana, Princess of Wales (1997) and the Queen Mother (2002). For TV he presented the Cardiff Singer of the World competition (1989), and for Radio 4 six series of the science quiz Inspiration! (1996-2004).
Chris’s approach to work was built around clear strategic thinking, charm, hard work, humor and a flair for making the most of opportunities. In 1984 he married his second wife, Megan Emery, and in 1993 they set up the production company Presentable in Cardiff to make entertainment and music programs for BBC Wales and ITV Wales, with Chris as creative director and Megan as managing director. Its output encompassed outside broadcasts from venues including the Sydney Opera House, for Max Boyce Down Under (2003), and the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, for the Grand Slam Party (2005), to celebrate Wales winning the Six Nations rugby union trophy.
In 2006 Presentable was bought by RDF Media. Late Night Poker and its variants continued on Channel 4 until 2011, and the idea was taken up by other channels in the UK and abroad.
Born in Durham, Chris was the son of Nancy (nee Elliot) and Tony Stuart, a youth worker. The family moved to Manchester, Hull, Birmingham, London and Nottinghamshire before in 1956 settling in Birstall, Leicestershire, where Tony was organizing secretary for the Leicestershire Rural Community Council.
Chris went to Longslade grammar school, which became a comprehensive in the mid-1960s and is now the Cedars academy. There he served as head boy and, with a group of sixth-formers, took a revue – A Spoonful of Goatherds – to the Edinburgh fringe (1967).
At New College, Oxford, Chris gained a degree in philosophy, politics and economics (1970), wrote for Cherwell, the university newspaper, and played minor roles in plays and revues, including An Exhibition of Ourselves, which went to the 1970 Edinburgh festival .
His career as a journalist began with the Thomson Regional Newspapers journalist training scheme (1972), which took him to the Western Mail newspaper in Cardiff, where he settled and became a staff feature writer. But in his mid-20s he left journalism to concentrate on music, spending five years from 1975 alongside his friend from the Oxford revues Robin Lyons as keyboard player and composer with the comedy band Baby Grand.
The band made a number of TV and radio appearances, and Chris continued to collaborate with Lyons on children’s animation shows for TV: SuperTed (1983-86), Tales of the Tooth Fairies (1993-94) and Sali Mali (2001-03 and 2020-21). Chris’s TV musical Summer Silence (1995) starred Siân Phillips.
He and I met in Cardiff, and collaborated on various radio and TV projects, including Presentable’s series Conversations with Rowan Williams (2003). These discussion programs were made as he went from being archbishop of Wales to archbishop of Canterbury.
Chris is survived by Megan; their daughters, Martha and Rose, and son, William; a daughter, Josephine, from his first marriage, which ended in divorce; and three grandchildren, Louis, Matilda and Otis.