Swansea graduate Mavis Nicholson, journalist and presenter, has been a familiar face and voice on TV and radio since the early 1970s. She has also researched and written on various issues, including women’s experiences of the second world war.
Mavis Mainwaring was born on 19 October 1930 and spent her childhood in Briton Ferry. She became a student at Swansea University in 1949 where she studied English and met her husband, the writer and journalist, Geoffrey Nicholson.
In 1951, on graduating from Swansea, Mavis won a scholarship to train as an advertising copywriter and moved to London. There, Mavis and her husband became the centre of a lively social circle which included author Laurence Fleming, journalist and broadcaster John Morgan and Kingsley Amis, who himself was a lecturer in English at the then University of Wales, Swansea between 1949–1961. Amis was later to dedicate his 1960 novel Take a Girl Like You to Mavis and her husband.
When she became pregnant Mavis happily stopped her work to look after her three sons and became a full-time mum. She regarded it as a very important part of her life, if not the most important.
Her flair for debate, penchant for asking searching questions and her engaging conversational style on the London dinner party circuit led to her being spotted by British television producer, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, and her second career as a broadcaster was born. She was asked to host a programme each week, when daytime television was launched. She became one of the first women to interview on daytime television, with Mary Parkinson, Judith Chalmers, Elaine Grand and Rita Dando.
Her first presenting job was on the 1972 show 'Good Afternoon', after which her TV career spanned the next 25 years. She presented programmes such as ‘Afternoon, Afternoon Plus’ and ‘Mavis On Four’ from the 1970s to 1990s, on which she interviewed high-profile celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, David Bowie, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Kenneth Williams, Rudolf Nureyev, Morecambe and Wise, Liberace and Maya Angelou, who became a friend. Mavis Nicholson’s last work for television was ‘Oldie TV’ in 1997, a television version of The Oldie Magazine.
She has presented radio shows including ‘Start the Week’, ‘Woman’s Hour’, and the ‘Jimmy Young Show’ when he was indisposed.
Mavis is author of various publications, including: Martha Jane & Me: A Girlhood In Wales (1992), and What Did you Do In The War, Mummy? a collection of interviews with women from different class backgrounds who lived through World War Two, giving valuable insight into the realities of women’s lives at this critical time. The book was republished by Seren in 2010 to coincide with Mavis’ eightieth birthday. She also wrote Help yourself: Solutions to the practical problems of everyday life (1974) and a chapter on grief in A Bit On The Side (2007).
Mavis has marched against nuclear arms, was at Greenham Common, and marched in London against the war with Iraq. She still writes for The Oldie Magazine as its Agony Aunt. She currently lives in mid Wales in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant. Here she helps run the Valleys Film Club, and she edits the community paper: The Chronicle.
Mavis Nicholson featured in the April 2012 International Women’s Day (IWD) poster exhibition sponsored by the University’s Centre for Research into Gender in Culture and Society (GENCAS). The exhibition, designed to raise the visibility of female Swansea graduates, celebrate their successes and demonstrate how they have shaped the life of the University, was displayed in Swansea University library during March.