From very humble origins in his beloved Burnley, Stewart became an earnest and starry-eyed university student – it was 1968 after all – despite being taught in a secondary modern school, which could only offer technical subjects. He studied for A-levels in woodwork, metalwork and engineering drawing during the day at school and history, geography and English in the evenings at the local college. He passed them all with flying colours in one year.
He became president of his college, wrote for SCAN, the university newspaper and appeared on the univeristy challenge team, played football and squash for his university and for many years played good standard football. He pursued the academic heights to become a junior research fellow in behavioural sociology before deciding that universities had too many bars and squash courts to be conducive to serious study.
Stewart started his career with the BBC in their Political Research Department. After two years, he left television altogether to teach. He taught in an inner city comprehensive school, travelled extensively and wrote articles and copy whenever he could. He also spent time in the army, was an ‘A’ level examiner for the University of Cambridge Exam Board and stood as a local councillor in the London Borough of Havering. However a lucky break and a whiff of nepotism gave him the chance to join the BBC again on a 1-month contract as a junior researcher. He jumped at the opportunity, even though he was in his mid-thirties and director of studies at a secondary school.
Following his training in Documentary Features and Current Affairs at the BBC, where he worked on Panorama
and Sport and Mankind,
he spent twenty years at TWI (now known as IMG Media) as Senior International Vice-President & Director of Special Projects, where he conceived and launched two ground-breaking international series, Trans World Sport
and Futbol Mundial,
both of which are still in production twenty-five years later. He was Executive Producer of Trans World Sport
for ten years during which it achieved a global audience reach of 500 million viewers worldwide.
As the senior creative at TWI, Stewart ran several production departments, staffed by over a hundred people, and managed annual budgets totalling over twenty million dollars.
Stewart pioneered TWI’s Olympic relationship, especially the establishment of OTAB, the International Olympic Committee’s film and television archive and directed the innovative Camera of Record
at each Olympic Games from Lillehammer in 1994 to Athens in 2004. In partnership with the IOC, he created and produced The Olympic Series,
over a hundred and fifty hours of historical programming, including Olympic Century,
the IOC’s official centennial history. He became an adviser to the IOC on media, communication and marketing and was made a member of the IOC Marketing Commission.
Renowned for imaginative and creative storytelling, his list of definitive sports programming includes the All England Club’s official history, Wimbledon: A History of The Championships, The People’s Game, FIFA’s official history of world football and Tiger, the official biography of Tiger Woods.
Stewart led TWI’s diversification into factual programming with a range of original productions, including Artworld, Fabulous Fortunes, Inventions, Century, Churchill and the ground-breaking ‘In-Colour’ series of historical documentaries in collaboration with the renowned archive specialist Adrian Wood. Using previously unseen original colour film from the 1930s, 40s and 50s, more than 30 hours of programming over the next five years radically altered the presentation of twentieth century history and bought the reality of WWII to the younger generation who often had previously thought of it only in black and white. The first ‘In-Colour’ series called The Second World War in Colour, was included in the ‘100 Most Influential TV Programmes Ever Made’ by the UK‘s TV critics in 1999. His ‘In-Colour’ genre went on to include other multi-award winning series, Britain at War, Japan’s War, Anzacs, D-Day and Canada at War.
Stewart is an archive specialist, not only in its use in programming but also in its sale and marketing. He established TWI Archive in 1999 and within three years, it was an integral part of TWI’s Sales Division, generating two million dollars of net income per year. This success was achieved by developing a new approach to archive, which placed a strong emphasis on the historical brand identity of clients like the IOC, FIFA, the R&A, the ITF, the NCAA and the AELTC.
Major programmes of archive acquisition, restoration and copyright retrieval led him to develop in-depth knowledge of film restoration, contract negotiation and the complexities of copyright law in many countries. He brokered several sensitive deals, including the acquisition of Olympia, Leni Reifenstahl’s controversial film of the 1936 Berlin Games and ran a very fractious court battle in Sydney on behalf of the IOC to win back the rights to the film of the 1956 Melbourne Games.
In 2004, he moved to Octagon CSI to become Head of Production where he oversaw the re-structuring of its production output, running that arm of the company with its own premises, staff and budget. He launched two new international football anthologies, Golazo! and The Football League Show. Stewart also widened Octagon’s content portfolio to include the factual entertainment series, What Price Fame? And Chasing Churchill, the first historical documentary to be produced in High Definition and Surround Sound. During his time at Octagon, he was also a special adviser on bidding strategy to Sebastian Coe, leader of the London bid for the Olympic Games of 2012.
In 2006, Stewart formed his own company, Big Ape Media International (www.bigapemedia.com) with his wife Lucy, a media sales specialist. Big Ape Media is a broad-based media company covering a range of skills and talents in Production, Sales & Distribution, Archive, Client Representation, Consultancy and high-profile Events. Its latest productions include Indochine: A People’s War in Colour, completed in March 2009, Korea: The Forgotten War in Colour, delivered in June 2010 to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the war and Seisen: The Rise & Fall of the Japanese Empire completed in 2011.
Stewart now spends much of his time offering his knowledge and experience as a consultant, specialising in content management and origination, creative thinking and innovation and in building bridges between the former glories of ‘traditional’ media and the wonderful but overwhelming innovations of ‘new’ media.
Recent consultancies have included: Salzburg 2014 Olympic Winter Games Bid, Board of Control of Cricket for India, Powerboat P1, Rio 2016 Olympic Games Bid, Crystal CG China, Mission Hills Group China, Honav China, The Re:fine Group of Companies, Women’s Squash Association, World Squash Federation and Sport England, Bradesco Bank, Volvo Ocean Race.
He also works as a mentor for the University of Lancaster career programme and the University of Exeter, department of social studies. He is also a board member of Winsham community shop in Somerset and a board member for Right to Play, the international children's and sport charity founded by Norwegian Olympic Champion, Johann Olav Koss.
Stewart has been awarded a BAFTA, four RTS awards, a Grierson and a Peabody among over thirty international awards. He has been elected a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, conducts seminars at several universities as well as acting as a mentor and is Visiting Professor in Business Affairs at the University of Bedfordshire.
Stewart is often called upon to speak on topics as diverse as programme-making, marketing, communications, brand development, creative writing and archive/content management.
He has travelled to over 100 countries, lived and worked in New York, Tokyo and Sydney, but insists that Burnley is still the most sophisticated place he’s ever seen!
Stewart has also been used as a voice-over artist on promos and television series.
As the owner of a 14th century house in Somerset and a 16th century house in the South West of France, he has an obvious passion for old buildings and their restoration. He is an active member of the Historic Houses Association, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Vernacular Architecture Group.
His early training in craft skills still come in useful; he does all his own woodworking, bricklaying, tiling, plumbing and electrics. He is an ardent amateur archaeologist, a strident fan of medieval music and a passionate and life-long Burnley Football Club fan.
He is a self-educated windbag on many subjects including church architecture, obscure languages, American history, tribal masks, modern Japanese history, cinema, Indochina, folk sports, real ale, malt whisky, claret, the history of the Clarets (Burnley Football Club of course) and military history.
Stewart’s liberal tendencies still smoulder and he has been a member of the Reform Club for twenty-five years. He is also a member of BAFTA, the Royal Television Society, The Special Forces Club, The Artists Rifles Regimental Association, The SAS Regimental Association and the Royal Society of Arts.
An author of several books, including Britain at War, America’s War, The British Empire in Colour and The Greatest, his first novel, Conquest, an epic adventure set in the 11th century, was published by Penguin in February 2011 and quickly became one of the best-selling historical fiction books of the year. The sequel Crusade was published by Penguin in April 2012. The third book in the series, Anarchy, came out on 20th June 2013 - Stewart quickly followed this up with Lionheart, the fourth in the Making of England series, which came out in November 2013.
Stewart recently finished the first book in his new Great War Series - The Shadow of War, now available in hardback and available in paperback from 23rd October 2014. He is currently working on the second book in the series following the events of 1915, which will be released in 2015.
Stewart with his wife Lucy and twin boys, Charlie and Jack