Live wire

An­gela Scan­lon talks to Nancy Pre­vis about her live TV spe­cial, her ca­reer in tele­vi­sion and now ra­dio, life as a new mum and why she doesn’t see her­self re­turn­ing from Lon­don any time soon

RTÉ Guide - - Interview -

The most valu­able les­son broad­caster An­gela Scan­lon learned when she was a child came from ob­serv­ing her par­ents run their con­struc­tion busi­ness. “I de­vel­oped an ap­pre­ci­a­tion and aware­ness of hard work, a work ethic, above ev­ery­thing else.” That work ethic has helped her nur­ture and drive her sparkling ca­reer in broad­cast­ing. Since start­ing out as a fash­ion stylist and then fash­ion writer for mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, she’s moved to a ca­reer on tele­vi­sion, work­ing front-of-cam­era as re­porter, pre­sen­ter and doc­u­men­tary-maker. What cop­per-fas­tened An­gela’s ar­rival to TV star­dom was a project she con­ceived her­self and pre­sented: the RTÉ doc­u­men­tary Oi Gin­ger! (2013), about the joys and tri­als of be­ing a red­head.

That was fol­lowed by lots of other tele­vi­sion work, in­clud­ing the iconic Robot Wars, which for three sea­sons she co-pre­sented with co­me­dian Dara O’Bri­ain on the BBC.

Cur­rently, she’s film­ing an in­te­ri­ors makeover show for the BBC, fea­tur­ing vir­tual re­al­ity plan­ning. Start­ing on Novem­ber 13, live from Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin and ac­com­pa­nied by sci­en­tists and a stu­dio au­di­ence, An­gela will present Grow­ing Up, Live, a three-day se­ries ex­am­in­ing as­pects of hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence from birth through to death.

And that’s just for TV. Ear­lier this year, she ex­tended her reach in the me­dia by land­ing an­other “dream job”: pre­sent­ing her own ra­dio show ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing on BBC Ra­dio 2.

This ap­par­ently in­de­fati­ga­ble happy-go-lucky fire­cracker also ap­pre­ci­ates the value of a steady home life. Four years ago, she mar­ried Roy Hor­gan from Co Cork, who she de­scribes as “the kind­est, smartest, most stub­born man I know. The yin to my yang.” The cou­ple has since moved to Lon­don. “We’re very happy there and think it’s where we’ll be for the fore­see­able fu­ture. When I’m 80 maybe I’ll re­turn to Ire­land,” she laughs.

Then, eight months ago “mag­i­cal lit­tle nugget” Ruby ar­rived and An­gela be­came a mother. “She is a funny, mis­chievous, nosey, beau­ti­ful lit­tle soul. I can hardly imag­ine a time when she wasn’t here,” she writes on In­sta­gram. When we speak, An­gela is in Lon­don, dash­ing to yet an­other meet­ing. But given a choice and her own ar­dent cu­rios­ity and en­ergy, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She has learned to man­age a busy life. “Work and fam­ily life are busy. It is hec­tic at times but there’s a bit more bal­ance now than there was be­fore. When I’m trav­el­ling these days, it’s usu­ally to be with fam­ily rather than for work so it’s a bit more re­laxed.” An­gela, Roy and baby Ruby have just re­turned to their home in north Lon­don af­ter a week in Ire­land hol­i­day­ing in the au­tumn sun. “We did a whis­tle-stop tour. We were in Kerry, Cork, Meath and Lim­er­ick and we’ll be back in Ire­land for Christ­mas.”

At last count, the Co Meath na­tive had over 116,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram. She loves us­ing the plat­form but has wisely cho­sen to shield baby from pub­lic life and will not post Ruby’s face on so­cial me­dia. An­gela is pleased that Ruby – the fifth grand­child on the Scan­lon side, and num­ber six of seven grand­chil­dren on the Hor­gan side – is a good lit­tle trav­eller.

“Host­ing Grow­ing Up, Live, is timely. Ob­vi­ously, hav­ing just had Ruby I’m watch­ing in real time the mon­u­men­tal growth that hap­pens in a baby,” she says with de­light. How­ever, the pro­gramme’s sub­ject mat­ter has long in­trigued her. “It’s an area that I’ve been look­ing at for years and it’s the kind of stuff that I would sit down and watch. I don’t have any sci­ence train­ing,” she adds, “but I’m not afraid to ask the ques­tions so other peo­ple can learn as well.”

It’s a live broad­cast, An­gela’s pre­ferred for­mat. She thinks her han­ker­ing for live broad­casts, the rush and risk of get­ting it right or not in the mo­ment, comes from years of Ir­ish danc­ing (she danced from age four to 22) “There was al­ways a slight ter­ror when that cur­tain would go up and you’re on… and I’m still slightly ter­ri­fied of live tele­vi­sion but that’s some­thing I like about it. You have to some­times kick your­self into the zone and you’ve got to be on. If it doesn’t scare me or I’m not chal­leng­ing my­self, I do bore quickly.”

Work­ing on Robot Wars cer­tainly piqued her in­ter­est. “It was a big, big en­ter­tain­ment show and while it wasn’t live, it had that feel­ing of ex­cite­ment. For me, it was all about the peo­ple and the dy­nam­ics of the teams – mother and son, or the peo­ple who met through this and who now have a kid. In a way, for me, the least in­ter­est­ing thing about that pro­gramme was the ro­bots. Peo­ple who watched the show had such a con­nec­tion to it and it felt like a place where peo­ple who aren’t al­ways rep­re­sented were rep­re­sented on telly – kind of the un­der­dogs. I’m al­ways drawn to that, whether it’s in sports or in any­thing else. So to me

I think a level of ig­no­rance kind of al­lows you to be a bit freer

Robot Wars was shin­ing a spot­light on the bril­liant peo­ple who wouldn’t oth­er­wise get a plat­form, then ob­vi­ously they tear strips out of each other in an arena – that’s quite ex­cit­ing too,” she laughs.

An­gela’s path to broad­cast­ing was wind­ing, from the afore­men­tioned Ir­ish danc­ing to busi­ness stud­ies at DIT and then as a fash­ion stylist and in uencer. “Not go­ing down the tra­di­tional me­dia [stud­ies] route has cer­tainly given me a di er­ent out­look…I never re­ally knew how to present telly in the tra­di­tional sense so I think a level of ig­no­rance kind of al­lows you to be a bit freer.”

At 34 the en­er­getic trend-set­ter is not only suc­cess­ful as a TV host and re­porter, doc­u­men­tary-maker, ra­dio show pre­sen­ter, In­sta­gram­mer and colum­nist (she writes Fad Habits for Marie Claire), she’s also en­joy­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence of car­ing for her new baby. So how does she un­wind? “I try to do med­i­ta­tion and to ex­er­cise. Day to day, I walk a lot. I’m de nitely mind­ful of men­tal health and mak­ing the time to keep it all to­gether. at’s cer­tainly a pri­or­ity for me and it’s some­times eas­ier said than done. I sup­pose like ev­ery new mother it’s just try­ing to keep a bal­ance but my hus­band is bril­liant and very sup­port­ive, as are my fam­ily, so we’re very lucky.

“I’m a pretty pos­i­tive per­son and I work hard at be­ing pos­i­tive and try­ing to keep things in per­spec­tive. I think it’s im­por­tant to just be true to your­self and be un­apolo­getic about that.”

Suc­cess, she says, is “down to a lot of hard work and yes, a lot of lucky breaks along the way al­ways help, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mind peo­ple they are in con­trol of their own des­tiny, par­tic­u­larly in this in­dus­try.”

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