Jake Humphrey: Why Nor­folk’s laid­back TV star loves the county so much

As he pre­pares for the auc­tion of the fab­u­lous Break hares, the char­ity’s pa­tron Jake Humphrey re­veals he is hop­ing to add to his own col­lec­tion of GoGo crea­tures

Norfolk - - INSIDE - WORDS: Rachel Buller

Jake Humphrey is a whirl­wind of en­ergy. When we meet for break­fast, he is the throes of or­gan­is­ing his 40th birth­day bash in his gar­den – pho­tographs of which popped up in the tabloids – the foot­ball sea­son is back in full swing so he is zigzag­ging back and forth across the coun­try and then there are the usual de­mands of fam­ily life and his many other com­mit­ments.

But, de­spite his hec­tic sched­ule, his easy­go­ing na­ture isn’t just re­served for tele­vi­sion pre­sent­ing du­ties; he is as laid-back off screen as he is on it.

As we chat, he laments his beloved Nor­wich City’s poor start to the sea­son, dis­cusses the plot of BBC se­ries The Body­guard and re­veals his frus­tra­tion that more peo­ple don’t ‘get’ how in­cred­i­ble Nor­folk is.

The last point is par­tic­u­larly per­ti­nent as Jake and his wife Har­riet de­cided to move back to the county two years ago with chil­dren Florence and Se­bas­tian and he de­scribes it as “the best de­ci­sion we have ever made.”

“I just love it. I left Nor­wich in 2000, so it has been a while but it was the right time. When I was pre­sent­ing For­mula One, I had to be near Heathrow as I was trav­el­ling non-stop, but when I moved to BT Sport, that trav­el­ling was to the north west, or Lon­don, or the south coast or mid­lands, so it didn’t re­ally mat­ter where in the coun­try I was based. It felt it was the per­fect chance to live some­where we re­ally wanted to live and that place was Nor­folk. It has been fan­tas­tic for Florence and Seb as they now have all th­ese cousins and grand­par­ents and aunts and un­cles on the doorstep.”

Both Jake and Har­riet grew up in Nor­folk and, he says, Nor­wich in par­tic­u­lar has changed beyond recog­ni­tion. “It is just a fan­tas­tic place. It feels like peo­ple are re­ally in­vest­ing in the city. Peo­ple who would pre­vi­ously have gone to Lon­don for op­por­tu­ni­ties in the past are now see­ing those op­por­tu­ni­ties here and there are some in­cred­i­ble com­pa­nies and ta­lented in­di­vid­u­als here.”

This month, Jake will be wear­ing an­other of his hats, as pa­tron of the char­ity Break – which he has been in­volved with for al­most a decade.

On Oc­to­ber 11, Jake will host

the auc­tion of the fab­u­lous GoGo hares on be­half of Break, of which he is a long-stand­ing pa­tron. And, he says, he has his eye on one to add to his col­lec­tion.

“There is an artist we love called Alex Egan and we ac­tu­ally have her go­rilla and ele­phant in our gar­den. It’s quite ran­dom hav­ing them sit­ting out there, but the kids lovely play­ing around them – and they are quite a talk­ing point.”

The GoGo trails and auc­tion not only raise vi­tal funds for Break but also aware­ness which, says Jake, is es­sen­tial.

“I love see­ing fam­i­lies with their trail map walk­ing around Nor­wich. It is a great way of get­ting the mes­sage out there about the char­ity. Al­though I am like the ‘hare po­lice’,” he laughs. “I was with the kids do­ing the trail ear­lier in the sum­mer and saw a dad and his kids climb­ing on one and felt the need to po­litely tell them off; my daugh­ter was a bit em­bar­rassed!”

Jake says the work of Break has be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in re­cent years as sup­port services else­where are cut back and fund­ing pres­sures in­crease.

“In the shadow of the re­ces­sion and Brexit, we hear all about big busi­nesses strug­gling and high streets suf­fer­ing, but we tend to for­get about the im­pact on char­i­ties. Now is when they are most needed as it is al­ways the most vul­ner­a­ble who suf­fer the most in times like this and we do not do enough for the most vul­ner­a­ble in so­ci­ety.

“There are all th­ese huge com­pa­nies who are not pay­ing any­where near enough tax, mak­ing mil­lions, and while it is an ex­tremely com­pli­cated is­sue and we still want Bri­tain to be at­trac­tive for th­ese com­pa­nies to op­er­ate in, if we keep sup­port­ing them then noth­ing will change. We have to find a balance.”

Hav­ing started his ca­reer on CBBC, he hasn’t stopped broad­cast­ing since. For many years he was a key part of the BBC’s sports team, cov­er­ing Com­mon­wealth and Olympic Games, Euro­pean Foot­ball Cham­pi­onships, the BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year awards and of course For­mula One, as well as count­less other sports shows.

When he de­cided to leave the BBC to go to BT’s fledg­ling sports chan­nel, it was, he says a mas­sive gam­ble. “My old boss at Rap­ture TV, where I started as a teenager in Nor­folk, said you should never sit in the comfy chair for too long.

“I must ad­mit, I had mo­ments where I won­dered what I was do­ing. To start with I would get tweets say­ing stuff like ‘why are you ru­in­ing this foot­ball match’ and it wasn’t very pos­i­tive,” he laughs. “But I think I have set­tled in to it now. It has been a chal­lenge but I ab­so­lutely love it.”

Jake and Har­riet have also set up their own pro­duc­tion com­pany – Whis­per Films – which now em­ploys 30 staff in Lon­don and is re­spon­si­ble for pro­duc­ing cov­er­age of some of the big­gest sport­ing events in the world – in­clud­ing the Par­a­lympic cov­er­age, the US Open Ten­nis and For­mula One.

“Some peo­ple might just think I am a typ­i­cal tele­vi­sion pre­sent­ing ‘gob on a stick’, so I think they are sur­prised when they find out about the pro­duc­tion com­pany. But I re­ally en­joy do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent to be­ing in front of the cam­era.”

As he turns 40, cel­e­brat­ing with a party in his gar­den for fam­ily, friends and a few fa­mous faces, he is a con­tented man.

“Do you know, I have never been hap­pier. I have two beau­ti­ful chil­dren, a won­der­ful wife, Nor­folk has given us more time to be to­gether as a fam­ily and we feel mas­sively at home here. Har­riet and I have both had friends who didn’t reach 40 so I think we feel in­cred­i­bly lucky and that has cer­tainly driven my mantra to not let the lit­tle things in life get you down. They don’t mat­ter. I am re­ally try­ing hard to re­mem­ber that.”

“It was the per­fect chance to live some­where we re­ally wanted to live and that place was Nor­folk”

Photo: Denise Bradley Photo: Break

ABOVE: Com­mu­nity Sports Foun­da­tion pa­tron Jake Humphrey at the new hub called the Nest, near­ing com­ple­tion at Hors­ford.RIGHT:Jake Humphrey opens a new log cabin for Break, of which he is pa­tron.

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