Toby Anstis hasn’t done bad for someone who never thought of a career in television.
The bubbly DJ, best known to Peterborough’s listeners through his morning show on Heart 102.7, celebrates 20 years in broadcasting this year and is planning a big party later this year to mark the anniversary with a host of celebrity friends.
Toby (41) travelled from West London to drop into the Peterborough Telegraph offices last week before presenting a Nintendo Wii machine to the children’s ward at the new Peterborough City Hospital.
And so when I suggest to him that his endurance may be down to his wide-ranging appeal to a wide range of people - from chit-chat with poorly children on the Amazon Ward to a planned bash with Phillip Schofield, Jason Donovan, Andi Peters and Alexandra Burke - he just smiles.
He said: “I never set out to be a certain way. I’m not a person who will say edgy things, that’s not my personality.
“Heart embraces everyone and I feel comfortable within that. You can only hope that being yourself will please people.”
That enthusiasm translates to giving advice to wannabe presenters, encouraging them to think out of the box, and learn the technical side of broadcasting. And be personable; Toby is how you hope you would turn out if you ever became famous; warm and down to earth.
Originally from Northampton, he was educated, in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and later graduated in Psychology and marketing from the University of Surrey Roehampton.
He had already spent ‘many rainy bike rides’ from the age of 14 travelling to his local hospital radio station, walking the wards and asking for dedications, fondly remembering playing ‘Lady in Red’ as his debut track.
After university he worked at an advertising agency but had his heart set on a radio career.
So he also helped out at Radio London, sorting out records for top names such as Dave Pearce, before his big break arose after his name reached a top name in the BBC hierarchy.
He said: “Television was never the plan but a friend of a friend suggested that I come into the BBC studios and watch Gordon the Gopher’s Christmas show.
“Afterwards Paul Smith came and chatted with me; he had had his hand up Gordon for three years, but was just about to take over the role of running children’s BBC.
“I had never thought of TV as a career, but he encouraged me to send in a show reel, which I did - me showing how to change a wheel on a car - and then I did an audition, and that was it.
“That first time that I heard from the announcer ‘And now on BBC1, Toby Anstis’ I almost literally died!”
So four months out of university and Toby was on BBC 1, making his name as the last presenter of The Broom Cupboard on Children’s BBC each weekday afternoon from April 1992 to September 1995.
He hosted The O-Zone music show on BBC2, at Liberty Radio hosting the breakfast show, and was also a presenter on Challenge TV, before moving to Heart in 2002.
Among his many other television triumphs are stints co-hosting Children in Need and The National Lottery, and enduring beasts and bugs in the jungle in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
Toby made his stage debut as Teen Angel in the West End production of Grease last year, and jokingly said it received ‘reviews’, not going so far as to say they were positive ones.
He was also offered the role of Amos Hart in Chicago, but had other commitments.
Radio is his true love though: “I can’t imagine not wanting to go into the studio. There are a lot of other jobs that are probably a lot more secure, because you never know in broadcasting where you are going to be in 10 or 15 years’ time.
“But I can’t imagine not wanting to go into the studio. If you go in there and you are bored of what you do it will show in your delivery.
“As the cliche goes, you are only as good as your last show.”
Toby’s show is the UK’s most popular commercial radio programme, attracting an audience of over 3 million people each week.
Overall heart reaches 208,000 listeners per week across Cambridgeshire ,with 102,000 listeners per week in Peterborough.
Toby’s other television credits include a spot on the BBC quiz show Eggheads and taking the role of the first ever ‘Loose Man’ on ITV’s Loose Women.