Presenter, news anchor, documentary maker and beer sommelier, Marverine Cole talks about her beloved home city and how her career was a slow burn
We’ve interviewed hundreds of Brummies who fiercely champion their home city. Marverine Cole might just be the biggest supporter of them all. “I’m Brummie through and through,” she states, before adding, “It’s a warm, beautiful, supportive city.” We couldn’t agree more.
Marverine’s story is one of ambition, tenacity and obvious talent. Most known for Sky News and GMB, her rise has been lengthy and began in her childhood living room. Marverine grew up in Birmingham with her mom and two brothers in a house where education and news were high on the agenda.
She recalls: “Mom loved keeping up with news. We had the Birmingham Evening Mail every night. She’d then leave it for me and my brothers to read. I read it cover to cover from the age of seven.” In addition to Eighties favourites such as the A-Team, there was always the unmissable evening news both local and national on the TV.
She says: “I definitely got that love of news from my mom,” and adds, “I watched Sir Trevor MacDonald and Moira Stewart explaining big issues. They were black like me. Generally high-profile black people were sports people or entertainers, but not serious. I just thought it looked great.”
When Marverine’s brother went to university she was told by her mom, ‘you’ll be going too’. Despite being ‘very bookish’ and researching lots, Marverine couldn’t find any broadcast journalism courses. She began letter writing to the radio and TV stations in Birmingham and worked behind the scenes making tea, photocopying scripts, looking after guests and the like. She recalls: “Those nice letters got me inside studios. I didn’t have a plan – just a journalist’s nose.”
Marverine completed a Business Studies course at De Montfort and didn’t really know what she wanted to do. She started work as a trainee advertising executive but hated it. All through her twenties Marverine worked as a personal assistant to CEOs and MDs. She did temping jobs in financial services and banking and was PA to one of the directors at the university as well as bosses at Cadburys and the BBC. However, she says: “In the background I was always thinking ‘what about media’?”
Marverine did some small bits of local commercial radio before applying to a Broadcast Journalism Graduate diploma. “It was a small course with 20-odd people and I was lucky enough to get a bursary funded by ITV for a six-month fast track course.” Once Marverine started working in TV in earnest she found her earlier stint temping for MDs and CEOs was invaluable. She explains: “That experience of dealing with powerful people meant that I wasn’t intimidated interviewing politicians and others in power.”
In 2008, Marverine went from Midlands Today to Sky News where she was in the hot seat for hours on end, sometimes breaking news live on air. She says: “You’re looking at the news wires all the time when on air and the producer is in your ear saying, “have you seen this?” You have to go with it on the hoof then update with more information as it comes in.” Reporting on upsetting world events such as terrorist attacks takes a unique skill. “Inside you might be thinking OMG, but you have to lock the emotion in a box, showing no personal opinion. I think it’s an innate ability.”
Marverine says that when she started out in the industry, it wasn’t what is now in terms of diversity. “The catalyst for that change was the murder of George Floyd in 2020. It changed everything. Part of that is that I’ve been accepted to programmes I never thought I’d be able to do. GMB for instance – I would never have thought that would happen.”
Every week for 15 years Marverine has taken a suitcase to London for work and at times, she’s pondered moving to the capital. After conversations with her husband, they always settle on staying in Birmingham. She says: “As well as it being hugely expensive, we just wouldn’t want to leave Brum. We have our lovely house and cat in Kings Heath.”
An unlikely string to Marverine’s bow is becoming a beer sommelier. She says: “I discovered beer through journalism. Data suggested more women were getting into cask ale year-on-year. I was more of a red wine and champagne woman, but I thought I’d investigate.” Marverine did a TV feature for Inside Out during which she tried a peach ale that ‘blew her mind’.
She says: “Beer is not all bitter and flat brown ale. I wrote a blog and put on some beer tasting parties for women then found a beer sommelier course which sounded interesting.” Marverine now has a regular beer column in BBC Good Food magazine. She rates the local brewers doing great things in Birmingham, like Attic Brew and GlassHouse, and is a regular at independent bar and bottle shop Hop and Scotch in Kings Heath.
In addition to Birmingham’s talented brewers, Marverine just loves the city unreservedly. She says: “There are cranes and construction everywhere, but it doesn’t put me off. I will always love and support this city. I live in Kings Heath and I adore it – the shops, independent restaurants and the people.”