The BBC radio producer Gillian Hush, who has died aged 76, was responsible for a large number of short story features and series on Radio 4. They included Conversation Piece with Sue MacGregor, in which subjects from all walks of life told their stories; Alan Bennett’s Lady in the Van, about an eccentric living in his driveway; A Word in Edgeways, a conversation series with Brian Redhead – in which she often had to chastise him for not allowing contributors to get a word in edgeways; and perennials such as Book at Bedtime and Book of the Week. Hush developed an instinctive ability to judge what would and would not work for radio.
She was born in Middlesbrough, where her father was a jeweller and pawnbroker. At Middlesbrough high school she became head girl before reading English at what was then Victoria University, Manchester (now part of Manchester University). after graduating in 1957, she trained as a journalist on the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, remaining with the paper until 1965, when she joined the BBC in Newcastle as a news assistant. In 1974 she moved to BBC Manchester as a radio producer and stayed there until she retired in 1995.
Tall, elegant and with a constant smile – described by one colleague as “like a galleon in full sail” – Hush built up a reputation as a producer with whom writers and contributors felt at ease. Bennett insisted that she produce his talks, including The Alan Bennett Diaries. She had what he called a “northern shape”, encapsulating regional characteristics – comfortable, funny, straightforward. she in turn would not hesitate to correct his pronunciation if need be, referring to herself as the “company pedant”.
Hush always eschewed opportunities to enter management, preferring to make programmes of ever-widening diversity. she held a passion for the arts, most notably theatre and opera, and produced several opera series, including two with the Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström. she was an early supporter of Opera North and a friend of the BBC Philharmonic orchestra, which dedicated a prom to her when she retired.
After she left the BBC, Hush continued to produce short stories and features for independent companies such as Pennine Productions and Square Dog Radio. The Radio Independents Group trade body has announced that it will name its producer of the year award after her. she became chair of the governors at Manchester high school for girls and served on the board of the Manchester University Press for 10 years. In 1996 she was made an MBE for services to radio and in the same year, the University of Manchester awarded her an honorary MA. Hush was the longest serving trustee of the Cartwheel arts charity in Manchester and was an active member of the Shaare Hayim synagogue.
She valued her friends highly, which was typified by the montage of picture postcards that adorned her office, sent from across the world. she tore off each stamp to give to collectors.
She is survived by a sister, Carol.
Sue MacGregor writes: Gillian Hush was the ultimate presenter’s producer. she knew everyone and was blessed with an elephantine memory for good talkers and people with a tale to tell. She was meticulous and expected everyone to do a good job, but was also immensely supportive and kind. she would collect you in her slightly battered car from a railway station and take you to lunch. The interviewee would almost certainly garner a bouquet of flowers.
Gillian had a way of charming the interviewee into almost total submission long before I took over to ask the questions. In the early 80s we recorded Baron Philippe de Rothschild in his Paris flat for Conversation Piece, and we heard for the first time why Chateau Mouton Rothschild did not make it into the original list of Premier Cru Bordeaux wines in the 19th century. he explained that Rothschild wines were produced by a family who were originally German but above all Jewish. They had to wait until the mid-1940s for acceptance.
Listening to all this through an open door was a mysterious figure in a woolly hat. this turned out to be the baron’s good friend Joan Littlewood. after we had finished, the theatrical anecdotes poured out from them both in hilarious profusion. Sadly, we omitted to record them.
Gillian’s Jewish background was very important to her and she kept a kosher home, as I was to discover by accident. after a long day’s recording session in Cumbria with the mountaineer Chris Bonington, she offered me a bed in her Manchester flat as it was too late to catch a train. when supper was over, she left the room to take a phone call and, wishing to be helpful, I began the washing up. when Gillian returned, she was appalled to realise that I had not separated milk and meat, and everything had been washed up together. But I was forgiven with typical cackles, though I fear that someone from her community had to come in and put it right.
Laughter was never far away when one was with Gillian. if one can, as someone once said, divide people into drains and radiators, Gillian was the most reliable radiator I have ever known.
• Gillian Hush, radio producer, born 17 September 1935; died 28 June 2012