Property expert, TV presenter and journalist Martin Roberts tells Sarah Ford from Somerset Life how he’s happy to fly the flag for Somerset tourism.
Since it was launched more than seven years ago, Homes Under the Hammer has become compulsive coffee time viewing for households up and down the country. Following the progress of properties that have been bought at auction and transformed by their new owners, the program has become the BBC’s flagship morning television show. It is fronted by Martin Roberts and Lucy Alexander, who sometimes can’t hide their feelings of disbelief when someone admits to breaking one or two golden rules of property development.
Somerset-based Martin admits he often feels a certain amount of trepidation about whether the proposed work will be achieved within the allotted timescale and budgets.
“I offer advice (see his website at www.martinroberts.co.uk ) but I don’t tell them they should do ‘this or that’. I perhaps raise an eyebrow when they say they are going to paint the kitchen pink!”
“I went for a job as an engineer with the BBC and halfway through the interview we both came to the conclusion that I didn’t want the job, but they were able to put me in touch with Radio Merseyside, my BBC local radio station.”
Martin’s own property developing career began some 25 years ago when he moved to Bath and began renovating a Georgian house on the outskirts of the city.
He grew up in Warrington in Cheshire but, since holidaying here as a child, the West of England always had a special place in his heart.
Martin is a great ambassador for the area and Visit Somerset met Martin to talk about his new role with the Somerset Tourism Association. But before that we wanted to question him on how his media career began.
“It was not the most direct route because I was studying electronics at Bradford University! But I was also a presenter on the hospital and university radio stations and was president of the university media club. We would visit places like newspapers and radio stations and this opened my eyes to the world of the media.”
It was not until he had a life-changing experience that he decided to follow his dreams.
“I did Operation Raleigh in Peru, and worked in the rain forest for three months. While I was there I had a major accident when a boat I was in capsized on a fast-flowing river. I was about 22 years old and I came back from there realizing that you never know what is going to happen in life.
Martin worked there as a local reporter before becoming a presenter for BBC Radio Manchester and it was a chance meeting in the lunch queue that led to his break into television.
“Radio and television shared the same canteen and I was just moving along the queue with my tray and saw a piece of lemon meringue pie for dessert; it was phosphorescent yellow and was almost glowing. I was laughing with the guy next to me about how it had lots of added ingredients and as we parted he asked me what I did, and that if I ever fancied working in TV I should contact him. ‘Just ask for Peter on the fifth floor,’ he said.
“Somerset has all the plus points of being a rural county but with everything you need to live in 2015”
“My curiosity got the better of me and later that day I rang the switchboard and asked them if there was anyone called Peter on the fifth floor. Only Peter, Head of TV, they said!”
Martin began working on children’s television, followed by eight years of presenting ITV’s travel show Wish You Were Here..?
When he was climbing Kilimanjaro in aid of the NSPCC and filming the adventure for the program, he met his future wife Kirsty. The couple have two children – Scott, aged three, and one-year-old Megan. Before he had children, Martin wrote a children’s book set in the mystical land of Tiredsville.
“When I’m reading to Scott he will sometimes say: ‘Can I have the one that you wrote, Daddy?’ It’s normal for him that I am on TV and that I wrote a book.”
Scott is still a little young for Martin’s other publication, Making Money from Property, which is one of the most popular titles in the Teach Yourself series.
Martin recently became ambassador for The Somerset Tourism Association, a voluntary association of tourism trade and other business organizations, which aims to promote Somerset as a major destination.
“Tourism is the world’s number one industry and I think the STA team is doing a fantastic job of positioning Somerset to make the most of worldwide opportunities. I am delighted to play my part.
“Somerset has all the plus points of being a rural county but with everything you need to live in 2015. You have the beauty of glorious Bath and wonderful Bristol nearby, and yet you are surrounded by the sensational Somerset scenery. When heading south to film Homes under the Hammer my route takes me through Cheddar Gorge, which is world class. I always say if it was in America, the gorge would have its own airport and people would be flying in there from all over the world.”
Written by Sarah Ford Journalist at ‘Somerset Life’ courtesy of ‘Archant Life’