Pam Ayres

Pamela Ayres MBE (born 14 March 1947) is an English poet, comedian, songwriter and presenter of radio and television programmes. Her 1975 appearance on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks led to appearances on other TV and radio shows, a one-woman touring stage show and performing before The Queen.

Pam Ayres

BornPamela Ayres[1]
(1947-03-14) 14 March 1947 (age 73)
Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, England
OccupationPoet, songwriter, presenter of radio and television programmes
GenrePoetry, songs

Early lifeEdit

Pam Ayres was born in Stanford in the Vale, Berkshire, now administered as part of Oxfordshire. After leaving Faringdon Secondary School at the age of 15, she joined the Civil Service as a clerical assistant and worked at the Army (RAOC) Central Ordnance Depot in Bicester. She soon left and signed up for the Women's Royal Air Force, where she trained as a Plotter Air Photographer, working at JARIC in a drawing office dealing with operational maps.[2] Whilst serving in the air force, she gained O-level passes in English language and English literature and began her career as an entertainer. She began reading her verses at the local folk club in Oxfordshire, and this led to an invitation to read on the local BBC Radio station in 1974. Her reading was re-broadcast nationally, and then broadcast again as an item in the BBC's Pick of the Year.

Bob Dylan inspired Ayres to write poetry,[3] and in a 2006 interview she added that, at the age of twelve, she enjoyed writing parodies of the Lonnie Donegan songs popular at that time.


In 1975, Ayres appeared on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks. This led to a wide variety of guest appearances on TV and radio shows.[4] Since then she has published six books of poems, toured in a one-woman stage show, hosted her own TV show and performed her stage show for the Queen.

Her poetry has a deceptively simple style and deals with everyday subject matter. Her poem "Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth", was voted into the Top 10 of a BBC poll to find the nation's 100 Favourite Comic Poems.[5] In the UK Arts Council's report on poetry, Ayres was identified as the fifth best-selling poet in Britain in 1998 and 1999.[citation needed]

Ayres continues to perform her work, the humorous quality of which is enhanced by her idiosyncratic delivery and by her distinctive North Berkshire accent.

From 1996, Ayres has appeared frequently on BBC Radio: from 1996 until 1999 Ayres presented a two-hour music and chat show every Sunday afternoon on BBC Radio 2; this was followed by two series of Pam Ayres' Open Road, in which she visited various parts of the United Kingdom, interviewing people with interesting stories to tell about their lives and local areas. More recently Ayres has become a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4, appearing in programmes such as Just a Minute, Say the Word, That Reminds Me, and two series of her own show, Ayres on the Air, a radio show of her poetry and sketches.[6]

In 2007, Ayres acted in a radio sitcom, Potting On for Radio 4, co-starring Geoffrey Whitehead.[7] She wrote and recorded six series of her Radio 4 programme Ayres on the Air, the latest of which was broadcast in 2018.[6][8]

Since 2002 Ayres has appeared a number of times on Channel 4 in Countdown's Dictionary Corner alongside Susie Dent.

In 2009, she made her first appearance on the BBC TV programme, QI. In 2011 she said in a Daily Telegraph magazine interview that she was "about to go on my 14th tour of Australia".

Her biography, The Necessary Aptitude: A Memoir, was published in 2011. It traces her life and career from growing as the youngest of six children in a council house in the Vale of White Horse, Berkshire, her time in the Women's Royal Air Force and the string of events that led to Opportunity Knocks. The title refers to the number of times she was told in her life she "did not have the necessary aptitude".

In 2013 she published her latest book of poems, entitled You Made me Late Again![9]


The poet John Cooper Clarke has cited Ayres' early success on Opportunity Knocks as being highly influential on his career.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Ayres is married to theatre producer Dudley Russell, and they have two sons, William and James. They live in the Cotswolds and keep rare breeds of cattle, as well as sheep, pigs, chickens, and guinea fowl. Ayres is a keen gardener and beekeeper.[11] She is a patron of the British Hen Welfare Trust, Cheltenham Animal Shelter and Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre.

Ayres was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in 1979[12] and again in 2018.[13]

In 2004, she was appointed MBE for services to literature and entertainment.

Select bibliography and discographyEdit

  • 1976: Some of Me Poems. London: Galaxy Records ISBN 0-9504774-0-0
  • 1976: Some More of Me Poems and Songs. London: Galaxy Records ISBN 0-9504774-1-9
  • 1978: Thoughts of a Late-Night Knitter. London: Arrow Books ISBN 0-09-134380-1
  • 1978: All of Pam's Poetry; illustrated by Roy Garnham Elmore. London: Hutchinson ISBN 0-09-134380-1 (including the contents of her first three books)
  • 1985: Dear Mum: Poems for Mums and their Babies. London: Severn House Publishers ISBN 0-7278-2066-4
  • 1992: Pam Ayres: the Works. London: BBC Books, Sep 1992 ISBN 0-563-36751-2
  • 1998: With These Hands: a collection. London: Orion, Feb 1998 ISBN 0-7528-1553-9
  • 2006: Surgically Enhanced. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Sep 2006 ISBN 0-340-92278-8
  • 2013: You Made me Late Again!. London: Ebury Press, Sep 2013 ISBN 9780091940461
  • 2019: Up in the Attic.London: Ebury Publishing, Oct 2019 ISBN 9781785177125

Audio CDs

  • 2005: Ayres on the Air. BBC Audio, highlights from BBC Radio 4 series ISBN 0-563-52435-9
  • 2006: Pam Ayres: Ancient and Modern. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Nov 2006 ISBN 1-84456-318-9


  • 2006: Pam Ayres: In Her Own Words (Acorn Media, March 2006); recorded live at The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham in September 2005
  • 2011: Pam Ayres, Word Perfect: Live from the Theatre Royal Windsor (Acorn Media, September 2011)


  • 2011: The Necessary Aptitude: A Memoir. Ebury Press, September 2011 ISBN 0-09-194048-6


  1. ^ England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916–2007
  2. ^ "Fight of Flight". QI. Season F. 12 December 2009. Dave.
  3. ^ "The Magazine Monitor". BBC News. 8 September 2006. Retrieved 21 May 2010.
  4. ^ "Pam Ayres, Series 1, The TV That Made Me - BBC One". BBC. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. ^ "BBC News | ENTERTAINMENT | Top poetry is complete nonsense". Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Pam Ayres Archived 11 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Potting On - Stones". BBC Radio 4. 27 February 2008. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Ayres on the Air". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 27 November 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  9. ^ Ayres, Pam. You Made me Late Again!. Ebury. ISBN 978-0091940478.
  10. ^ Adams, Tim (4 May 2014). "John Cooper Clarke interview: 'Poetry is not something you have to retire from'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  11. ^ Pam Ayres - Biography Archived 11 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Pam Ayres, Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  13. ^ "Pam Ayres, Desert Island Discs - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 12 August 2018.

Further readingEdit

  • Eunice Salmond "A life in the day of Pam Ayres"; The Sunday Times Magazine; 24 May 1981

External linksEdit