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Andy Akinwolere: “I was their working-class angle"

He cites Blue Peter as the catalyst to his already fruitful career, but with his current charity work and growing musical ambitions, the world record holder and BAFTA Children’s Award Nominee shows no signs of resting on his well-deserved laurels…

Andy Akinwolere (© Andy Akinwolere)

Andy Akinwolere is currently working with charity Gemini-i to raise awareness for HIV

After studying film at university, Andy Akinwolere found himself working as a runner at the BBC. It wasn't long before his talent shone through and in 2006 he found himself presenting on the world's longest children's TV show, Blue Peter. "I opened the doors into that [working-class] environment, where they wouldn't necessarily have felt comfortable filming in", Andy explains, and it was this 'niche' that the TV presenter feels has helped him begin to carve his place in British broadcasting history.

What have you been up to since leaving Blue Peter?

After Blue Peter I went straight on to Dancing on Ice. Not many people will remember because I went out in the first round (brilliant). Since then I've been working with an amazing charity rally. It's called the Sucata Run and is for a charity called Gemin-i. The project is called HIV360 and the idea is to raise awareness for HIV with a lot of communities that don't talk about it or don't have access to information.

How did you find yourself working as a presenter?

I was more a Byker Grove and Grange Hill kind of kid.

I was very, very lucky. I came to the BBC as a runner, and, long story short, someone asked me if I wanted to audition for Blue Peter. I actually turned it down [initially] because I never watched it growing up - I was more a Byker Grove and Grange Hill kind of kid. Weirdly, five years later, I was in one of the best jobs I've ever done in my life and I thought 'you know what, maybe this presenting malarkey is for you - maybe you actually have found your niche in life'.

I hear you're a huge fan of music - have you considered a new career in music?

Definitely. I started writing my own blog and it's a way of getting all the things in my head on to the screen. My passion for music is something that drives me, so whether I find myself working on music documentaries or having my own daytime radio show, that would be brilliant.

Is there any music you enjoy waking up to?

There's a band I like called The Roots who have a song called 'The Seed' with Cody Chesnutt. The guitar riff on that is just phenomenal, and when I need a little perk me up in the morning I always crank it on.

I hear you're a keen traveller... where in the world do you think serves the best breakfast?

Best breakfast I've had, and still think is brilliant, is a typical French one. A good friend of mine's parents run a guest house in Mollans sur Ouvèze, amongst the mountains near Vaison in the south of France. I'll never forget it - a selection of Fresh croissants from the patisserie up the road, with freshly plucked peaches and grapes from the garden, and a pot of black coffee, orange juice and a selection of two or three home-made jams. It's the perfect way to start the day, eating outside with the morning sun glistening on your neck.

If you could have anything for breakfast, what would it be?

Hmm... nothing beats a warm buttery croissant with sweet strawberry jam. Simply delicious.

Describe a day in the life of a TV presenter...

There isn't a particular pattern to being a TV presenter. It's just hard work, hard graft - you start early, you finish late and you try to eat as healthy as possible during the day.

Blue Peter tackles a variety of topics, some of which are very pertinent to what's going on in the world. How did you deal with such topics?

I think Blue Peter has always been quite a middle-class show, and for them I was their working-class angle.

I've had quite a balanced and grounded up-bringing, so in that sense nothing has ever fazed me, and I think that was always my input for the show. I think Blue Peter has always been quite a middle-class show, and for them I was their working-class angle. I opened the doors into that environment, where they wouldn't necessarily have felt comfortable filming in.

I just want to show the world, or show people, that it's actually quite acceptable to stretch out your hand to someone you don't necessarily know, or someone you're not in the same social demographic as, and just make it happen.

You raise a good point - it can be difficult to translate important messages to children, and using other mediums, like sport, can help...

Without a shadow of a doubt. The black community in Africa (I can talk for ages on this because I'm Nigerian) don't deal with HIV and AIDS very well, even in this day and age. There are so many social stigmas relating to it, which means people are alienated who are deemed to have the disease. That's why I'm working with Gemin-i, and this Sucata Run, to try and raise awareness through HIV360, which is based on youth education. For me, it's not the disease that defines the person; it's the personality, the person, the brain that defines the person.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

I would like to be known as one of the greatest broadcasters in this country. I have a lot of respect for Dermot O'Leary as a TV personality because he's not a guy who's in the tabloids all the time, and he's not a guy who is boastful, he's just good at what he does. That's where I see myself in 10 years' time.

Andy is taking part in the Sucata Run, a charity banger rally from Normandy to Portugal from 23 to 27 August where participants splutter across Europe in old banger worth less than £350. All the money raised goes to the international children's charity Gemini-I, and this year the money will support their HIV360 project, which raises awareness and understanding of HIV and its prevention. Visit the official website for more information.

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