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23 January 2019

Clare Balding Q&A: “Sir Alex Ferguson is a good name to drop“

The broadcaster talks Killing Eve, Shirley Williams, and Stop Drifting, Start Rowing by Roz Savage.

By New Statesman

Clare Balding was born in Hampshire in 1971. Among her many TV and radio appearances, she is known for presenting the BBC’s Olympics and Wimbledon coverage, Channel 4 racing, and “The Clare Balding Show” on BT Sport.

What’s your earliest memory?

Candy’s face. She was my mother’s boxer dog with soft, deep wrinkles and dark brown eyes. My mother said that if you think a boxer has a beautiful face, the world will be a beautiful place. 

Who was your childhood hero?

Lucinda Prior-Palmer. She won Badminton on six different horses and was a fearless rider, consistently beating men. Now I hugely admire people who speak their mind and try to promote equality – like Emma Thompson and Billie-Jean King.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?

Stop Drifting, Start Rowing by Roz Savage, who gave up her city job to row the oceans of the world, so she could raise awareness of environmental issues. She wrote about needing to escape from your comfort zone, because otherwise it will choke you. That really resonated with me so I determined to take on new challenges and work on different projects.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Shirley Williams. She talked a lot of common sense and was brave enough to make and take her own path.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

I’ve done Mastermind, and my subject was the history of the Derby. I revised really hard and was totally committed to it. I think I got one question wrong.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

I don’t really want to live too far in the past because women didn’t have much of a chance to do our own thing, so maybe I’d live in the future. As for places, I’d love to live in Melbourne for the sport, the climate and the landscape.

What TV show could you not live without?

Killing Eve.

Who would paint your portrait?

My goddaughter Amelia Monaghan. She’s done a brilliant portrait of Archie, our dog and is working on one of our cat Button.

What’s your theme tune?

“Galloping Home” by Denis King (the theme tune to Black Beauty).

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Sir Alex Ferguson gave me advice on contract negotiation – don’t rush and don’t undervalue yourself. I may not have always followed it but it’s not a bad name to drop in the middle of a meeting.

What’s currently bugging you?

That women still have to argue about equal pay and are meant to feel grateful when it is granted. It’s a right, not a favour. 

What would make your life better?

A second series of Killing Eve.

When were you happiest?

My default setting is happy, but it’s even better if I’m walking somewhere beautiful and remote.

In another life, what job would you have chosen?

Animal behaviour therapist. 

Are we all doomed?

No. We just need to place more value on empathy, imagination, kindness and physical exercise. 

Clare Balding appears in “Icons”, which continues on 29 January at 9pm on BBC Two

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This article appears in the 23 Jan 2019 issue of the New Statesman, Who’s running Britain?