Sandi Toksvig
Name at BirthSandra Birgitte Toksvig
Born3 May 1958
BirthplaceCopenhagen, Denmark
OccupationAuthor, comedian, radio and television presenter

Sandra Birgitte "Sandi" Toksvig Order of the British Empire (OBE); born 3 May 1958 is a Danish-British writer, presenter, comedian, actress, politician and producer on British radio and television. She presents The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 and is the former presenter of 1001 Things You Should Know on Channel 4. She began presenting the revival series of classic game show Fifteen to One on 5 April 2014.

In October 2012 she succeeded Sheila Hancock as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.[1]

Early life

Toksvig was born in Copenhagen. Her father, Claus Toksvig, was a foreign correspondent for the Danish television channel Danmarks Radio, so Toksvig spent most of her youth outside Denmark. In 1969, while her father was covering the Apollo 11 Mission, Toksvig held hands with Neil Armstrong's secretary as Armstrong stepped onto the moon.[2] She attended Tormead School, an independent girls' school near Guildford, when her father was based in London. Her first job was a position as a follow spot operator for the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the age of 18.[3][4]

She studied law, archaeology and anthropology at Girton College, Cambridge, graduating with a first-class degree and receiving two prizes for outstanding achievement (The Raemakers and the Theresa Montefiore Awards).[5] One of her law tutors was Lord Denning.[6]


When I see comedian — and ‘comedienne’, of course I hate it — I think ‘Oh, really?’ because I think of myself as a writer and broadcaster. Sometimes it’s funny but I’ve just done a piece for BBC Radio 3 all about Mary Wollstonecraft, and there’s not a joke in it.


Toksvig began her comedy career at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she wrote and performed in the first all-woman show at the Footlights. She was there at the same time as fellow members Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson, and wrote additional material for the Perrier award-winning Footlights Revue. She was also a member of the university's Light Entertainment Society.

She started her television career on children's series, presenting No. 73 (1982–1986), the Sandwich Quiz,[7] The Saturday Starship, Motormouth, Gilbert's Fridge and on factual programmes such as Island Race and The Talking Show, produced by Open Media for Channel 4.

In October 2012, in the wake of allegations about the behaviour of Jimmy Savile and claims that during the 1980s there was a culture within the BBC which tolerated sexual harassment, she says she was groped by a "famous individual" on air.[8][9] Toksvig said the allegations of inappropriate behaviour at the BBC "did not surprise me at all".


She moved onto the comedy circuit. She performed at the first night of The Comedy Store in London and was once part of their Players, an improvisational comedy team.[10]

She has appeared as a panellist in comedy shows such as Call My Bluff (a regular as a team captain), I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Mock the Week, QI and Have I Got News for You. She appeared in the very first episode of Have I Got News For You in 1990.[11] She was the host of What the Dickens, a Sky Arts quiz show. She is a familiar voice for BBC Radio 4 listeners, as the chair of The News Quiz, having replaced Simon Hoggart in September 2006. She presented its travel programme Excess Baggage until it was axed in 2012. [Citation needed]

Drama and factual

In 1993 Toksvig wrote a musical, Big Night Out at the Little Sands Picture Palace, for Nottingham Playhouse, co-starring with Anita Dobson and Una Stubbs. In 2002, it was re-written, with Dilly Keane, for the Watford Palace Theatre, in which they appeared with Bonnie Langford.[12]

Toksvig and Elly Brewer wrote a Shakespeare deconstruction, The Pocket Dream, which Toksvig performed at the Nottingham Playhouse and which transferred to the West End for a short run. The pair also wrote the 1992 TV series The Big One, in which she also starred. She has appeared in a number of stage plays, including Androcles and the Lion, Much Ado About Nothing and The Comedy of Errors. Most recently Toksvig wrote a play entitled Bully Boy which focused on post-traumatic stress among British servicemen. The play premiered at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton in May 2011 and starred Anthony Andrews.

In 1996, she narrated the Dragons! interactive CD-ROM published by Oxford University Press and developed by Inner Workings, along with Harry Enfield.[13] The software was primarily aimed at children and featured songs and poems about dragons. She also narrated the Winnie the Witch CD-ROM. She appeared in the Doctor Who audio drama Red by Big Finish Productions, released in August 2006. In December 2006, she hosted and sang at the London Gay Men's Chorus sold-out the Christmas show, Make the Yuletide Gay, at the Barbican Centre.[Citation needed] Over Christmas and New Year 2007/8 she narrated the pantomime Cinderella at the Old Vic Theatre. In October 2011, she narrated the new musical Soho Cinders at the Queen's Theatre, London. In 2011 she hosted a second season of BBC2's Antiques Master.

In the 2013 Christmas Special of BBC's Call the Midwife, Toksvig appeared in an "entertaining cameo" as grumpy ward nurse, Sister Gibbs.[14][15]

Toksvig was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to broadcasting.[16]

On 30 April 2015, Toksvig announced that she was leaving BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz in June in order to help set up a new political party named the Women's Equality Party.[17][18]


She has written more than twenty fiction and non-fiction books for children and adults, starting in 1994 with Tales from the Norse's Mouth, a fiction tale for children. In 1995, she sailed around the coast of Britain with John McCarthy, who had been held hostage in Beirut. In 2003, she published Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey, about her travels in the USA retracing her childhood. She writes regular columns for Good Housekeeping, the Sunday Telegraph and The Lady. In October 2008, she published Girls Are Best, a history book for girls. [Citation needed]

In 2009, her collected columns for the Sunday Telegraph were published in book form as The Chain of Curiosity. In 2012, she published her latest book, Valentine Grey, a historical novel set in the Boer War. [Citation needed]

Awards and honours

  • 1997 - The Grand Order of Water Rats Show Business Personality of the Year
  • 2007 - Political Humorist of the Year at the Channel 4 Political Awards[19] and 2007 - Radio Broadcaster of the Year by the Broadcasting Press Guild.[20]
  • 2007 - Read it or Else Award from Coventry Inspiration Book Awards for Hitler's Canary
  • 2008 - Broadcaster of the Year at the Stonewall Awards
  • 2008 - Listening Books Award for the Spoken Word
  • 2009 - Voice of the Listener & Viewer Award for Individual Contribution to Radio
  • 2010 - Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Portsmouth
  • 2012 - Honorary Doctor of Letters York St John University
  • 2012 - Honorary Doctor of Letters University of Surrey
  • 2012 - Honorary Fellowship Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge
  • 2013 - Voice of the Listener & Viewer Award for Excellence in Broadcasting (Roberts Radio Special Award)

Politics and activism

Sandi Toksvig was once a high profile political activist supporting the Liberal Democrats,[21][21][22] She both introduced party leader Menzies "Ming" Campbell at the party's 2004 conference and was named as a possible parliamentary candidate.

However MPs urged OFCOM (the UK broadcast regulator) to investigate an "obscene joke" after Toksvig said on air on Radio 4 in 2011, during daytime transmission, that Liberal Democrat leader, and by then deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg had "put the 'N' into cuts" to child benefit.[23] In 2012, she said in an interview that "I don't think there's a party that represents anything I believe in".[24] In April 2015, Toksvig chaired the first, informal, conference of the new Women's Equality Party,[25] and she subsequently left her job as presenter of The News Quiz to help set up the party.[17][18]

Toksvig supports the charity and pressure group Liberty, hosting its 2012 awards ceremony.[26]

In 2003 she stood as a candidate in the election for the Chancellorship of the University of Oxford, supporting a campaign against student fees.[27] She was defeated in the first round of voting, achieving 1,179 first-place votes out of about 8,000 cast.[28] The election was won by Chris Patten.

Personal life

I wouldn’t care if they came from Tesco. I don’t care about the blood thing. They call me Mummy and I earned it. We love each other. You can’t do better than that. Lots of families don’t.

Toksvig is adoptive mother to three children: two daughters, Jessica and Megan[29] (born 1988 and 1990), and a son Theo[30] (born 1994). The children were carried by her then-partner, Peta Stewart from whom she separated in 1997,[31] and were conceived through artificial insemination by donor Christopher Lloyd-Pack,[32] younger brother of the actor Roger Lloyd-Pack.[33]

She lives on a houseboat in Wandsworth[34] with psychotherapist Debbie Toksvig,[29] whom she joined in a civil partnership in 2007.[35] They renewed their vows on 29 March 2014, the day same-sex marriage was introduced in England and Wales,[36] and in December 2014, their civil partnership was converted into a marriage.[37]

In 1994 charity Save the Children dropped her services as compere of its 75th-anniversary celebrations after she came out,[32] but following a direct action protest by the Lesbian Avengers,[38] the charity apologized.[39]

An atheist and secular humanist, Toksvig is a Patron of the British Humanist Association.[40]


Books for children

Books for adults

  • Sandi Toksvig, illustr Sandy Nightingale (2012). Heroines & Harridans – A Fanfare of Fabulous Females. The Robson Press. ISBN 978-1849-54-3385. 
  • Sandi Toksvig (2006). Melted into Air. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-86117-0. 
  • Sandi Toksvig (2003). Gladys Reunited: A Personal American Journey. Little Brown. ISBN 0-7515-3328-9. 
  • (2002) The Travels of Lady Bulldog Burton. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-86007-7. 
  • Sandi Toksvig (2001). Flying Under Bridges. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-85635-5. 
  • Sandi Toksvig (1999). Whistling for the Elephants. Transworld. ISBN 0-593-04480-0. 
  • Sandi Toksvig (1994). Great Journeys of the World. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37050-5. 
  • (1995) Island Race: an Improbable Voyage Round the Coast of Britain. BBC Books. ISBN 0-563-37053-X. 


  1. BBC News – Sandi Toksvig made Portsmouth University Chancellor. (31 October 2012). Retrieved on 26 April 2013.
  2. Graham Norton welcomes Sigourney Weaver, Professor Brian Cox, Sandi Toksvig and Sugarland. BBC One (10 February 2011).
  3. Toksvig, Sandi (24 January 2013). The Chain Of Curiosity. London, UK: Hachette UK. ISBN 9781405527231. 
  4. Sandi Toksvig: All the world's backstage (30 December 2007).
  5. Press Association. "Sandi Toksvig becomes chancellor of Portsmouth University", The Guardian, 23 January 2012. 
  6. QI - Series I - Inequality - British Comedy Guide.
  7. Artist Management. Vivienne Clore. Retrieved on 16 March 2012.
  8. "Sandi Toksvig claims she was groped while broadcasting", BBC, 7 October 2012. Retrieved on 9 October 2012. 
  9. "Sandi Toksvig: 'I was groped on air in the 1980s'", The Guardian, The Guardian, 7 October 2012. Retrieved on 9 October 2012. 
  10. Comedy Store Players Official Site – History -retrieved on 16 May 2008
  11. Have I Got News For You episode guide at — retrieved on 16 May 2008
  12. Review of Big Night Out in What's On Stage; retrieved 23 February 2009.
  13. Television Graphics Around the World., 29 March 2000; retrieved 26 April 2013.
  14. Gerard O'Donovan (25 December 2013). Call the Midwife, Christmas special, review. Retrieved on 31 December 2013.
  15. Ellie Walker-Arnott (14 December 2013). Call the Midwife Christmas special - first look preview. Retrieved on 31 December 2013.
  16. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60728, page 14, 31 December 2013.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Sandi Toksvig reveals she quit Radio 4 to set up women's rights political party (30 April 2015).
  18. 18.0 18.1 Furness, Hannah. "Sandi Toksvig quit The News Quiz for Women's Equality Party", Daily Telegraph, 30 April 2015. Retrieved on 3 May 2015. 
  19. Channel 4 Newsroom Blog – Behnind the scenes at the Channel Four Political Awards retrieved on 16 May 2008
  20. 2007 Broadcasting Press Guild Awards -retrieved on 16 May 2008
  21. 21.0 21.1 Liberal England: Time for Sandi Toksvig to give up The News Quiz. Retrieved on 13 April 2015.
  22. "Screen stars join election race", BBC News, 25 May 2004. Retrieved on 16 October 2008.  "The celebrity bug has bitten the other major parties with the Lib Dems claiming the support of [...] broadcaster Sandi Toksvig."
  23. BBC in decency row over obscene joke by Sandi Toksvig - Telegraph. Retrieved on 13 April 2015.
  24. "Sandi Toksvig: 'I don't understand boredom'", Guardian Newspaper, 26 August 2012. Retrieved on 26 August 2012. 
  25. "Londoner's Diary: Women's party is ready to be a player", Evening Standard, 20 April 2015. Retrieved on 23 April 2015. 
  26. Liberty honours inspirational human rights leaders., 20 November 2012; retrieved 26 April 2013.
  27. "Toksvig enters chancellor race", BBC News, 24 February 2003. Retrieved on 16 March 2012. 
  28. Polly Curtis. "Patten wins Oxford prize:", London, UK: The Guardian, 17 March 2003. Retrieved on 24 May 2008. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Scott, Caroline. "A Life in the Day: Sandi Toksvig", The Times, 16 December 2007. Retrieved on 16 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. 
  30. Kerr, Alison. "Sandi Toksvig interview: The history woman", The Scotsman, 29 November 2008. 
  31. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named no secrets
  32. 32.0 32.1 Ginny Dougary. "Sandi Toksvig on her Christmas cracker", London, UK: The Times, 5 December 2009. Retrieved on 16 March 2012. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. 
  33. Index entry. FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved on 1 December 2013.
  34. Rucki, Alexandra. "Eighteen people make New Year's Honours list in Wandsworth", Wandsworth Guardian, 31 December 2013. 
  35. "Sandi Toksvig renews wedding vows in public event", ITV, 29 March 2014. Retrieved on 1 April 2014. 
  36. Sandi Toksvig Praises New Gay Marriage Legislation On 'This Morning': 'It's About Love And Equality'. Huffington Post.
  37. "Sandi Toksvig marries partner Debbie in third ceremony: 'Tomorrow, I will love her even more'", The Independent, 11 December 2014. Retrieved on 12 February 2015. 
  38. "Lesbians protest over charity ban", The Independent, 5 October 1994. 
  39. David, Smith. "Comedian and actress Sandi Toksvig, a well-known face on the popular comedy improvisation TV show, Whose Line is it Anyway, came out as a lesbian in the pages of the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror", Millivres, November 1994. 
  40. Sandi Toksvig. British Humanist Association.

External links

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