Helen Skelton is a presenter on Blue Peter and Radio Five Live. She completed her NCTJ training at the University of Cumbria and is a featured alumnus on the NCTJ website, where she speaks about how her training helped her career. Jessica Dyer and Katie Tomlin from Saffron Walden County High School interviewed her during one of the stops on Blue Peter’s Big Olympic Tour.
On the Saturday 7th July, we headed down to Saffron Walden Common where Blue Peter were filming a live show of the Big Olympic Tour. We were there to interview Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton as part of our two weeks of work experience with the NCTJ. After presenting the show, Helen came backstage to talk with us. We asked her ten questions between us, about her career in journalism, the Olympics and her past achievements and challenges.
Before completing her NCTJ training, Helen first got into the journalism industry when she met a football commentator and commented that she loved his job. He told her to come along to a local radio station and she volunteered there regularly. She loved answering the phones and talking to people. She says: “I’m nosy and have always had a fascination with people that’s why I wanted to do it”.
She told us how she loves working for Blue Peter. The fact that the show is so big and well known is a real benefit, as it means people are willing to support the show and help them to do things other shows may not be able to do, such as all the different activities and challenges Helen herself has been involved in. “People know the brand so they open doors for us and help us. It’s like M&S. Everyone knows Marks and Spencer” she said.
Working on Blue Peter, Five Live and different radio shows means that Helen has interviewed a variety of different well known people in her career. Her favourite of these is Jack Black, who she says is “really fun” and “enthusiastic about everything”.
She said her most challenging achievement was the ultra marathon (78 miles) because she did it before she’d really done anything else like that, such as her Amazon experience, and didn’t really know what she was capable of.
Her journey to the South Pole was a totally different experience. She said it was hard to get her head round and said: “There’s nothing to see. It’s so white! You find things to see like patterns in the snow!” She describes it as an unbelievable place. She hasn’t watched the programme yet but believes she will remember it differently to how it is shown.
Her proudest achievement is a challenge she took part in that involved walking on a high wire. This was her proudest achievement because she hated every second of it but she managed it. She told herself that because she’d done that she could achieve anything!
Helen and the Blue Peter team are following the Olympic Torch all round England in preparation for the Games this summer. She told us that following the torch is fun and that running with it has been a real highlight as she felt very proud. Helen is very excited about the Olympics but is unsure why saying: “Maybe because I’ll never get to represent team GB, but I can’t think of any greater honour. This is like the next best thing”.
Out of all the events in the Olympics, Helen feels that the athletics will be the event that catches people’s attention, but she is looking forward to the BMX biking, which she will be following as she says it’s all “thrills and spills” but it will be very nerve-wracking to watch at the same time. She’s also looking forward to the diving, especially seeing Tom Daley who she knew before he became famous, and hopes he does well in the competition this year.
She said there are loads more challenges she wants to do in the future but nothing her boss has agreed to. We asked if there were any restrictions on what she can do and she said “I wish!” and then went on to tell us how Jude Law wasn’t allowed to partake in the South Pole journey she went on because he was too ‘precious’. But then she laughed and said: “Whereas with me, they can do anything they like with me”.
Jessica Dyer and Katie Tomlin, Saffron Walden County High School
Picture left to right: Katie Tomlin, Helen Skelton and Jessica Dyer