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
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.”