A celebrity, a broadcasting legend and an OBE! Today the podcast is joined by one of its most prestigious guests yet: TV presenter and recent host of the Milton Keynes Education Awards Eamonn Holmes!
Ben, Frazer and Eamonn begin by reflecting on the MKEA’s and how well they were received. With 270 people in the room on the night, Ben says he only knew around 10% of the people there, but plenty of people have still got in touch to celebrate the night.
Eamonn has also received praise for his hosting abilities and his interviews of the winners. He says he felt very humbled by it, being surrounded by people who are investing their lives to making their students and communities better, with the whole room seeming invested in the winners.
He adds that young people need paths, and mentions how the Troubles defined his childhood, being 8 when they broke out and living in Belfast. He was inspired to become a journalist out of a wish to show the world what was happening around him, as well as the seemingly glamorous nature of the reporters present in Belfast covering the conflict.
His journalistic aspirations weren’t encouraged by his family. Eamonn’s father was a carpet fitter, his mother a housewife and his brother’s all had quite ‘normal’ jobs. He says that, without the Troubles, there would have been less direction for him and that wanting to share the story gave him focus.
He was accepted for journalism college, but denied the place to become a manager at a Primark due to his mother wanting him to bring a wage in. After a year, and fed up of the retail grind, he reapplied for journalism college and was once again accepted, completing his course and earning the title of Student of the Year.
Ben asks Eamonn to speak about some notable interviews he’s done over the years. Eamonn says he’s not particularly political in his public life, but politicians are the ones who come to mind first. Tony Blair and Bill Clinton are noted for their charisma, Hillary Clinton and Glenda Jackson for their intelligence. Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna, comes out as a real favourite, with Eamonn emphasising his ability to demean anything and make it funny.
Frazer follows up by asking about some of the more challenging interviews Eamonn has faced. He says that musicians and actors are usually the more challenging subjects, recounting an incident where he was interviewing an actress for an hour on the subject of a particular character, and she refused to talk about the character which the entire programme was themed around.
Eamonn acknowledges that this goes both ways, and that he has a responsibility to make his interviews interesting to his subjects as well as the people at home. He makes an effort not to ask the same questions a subject is always asked, giving the example of Joan Collins always being asked about Dynasty.
After Eamonn recounts some more entertaining encounters with prima donnas, Ben asks about the challenges that Eamonn has faced throughout his illustrious career. His mobility issues come up, which stem from damaged disks in his back which affects his legs, balance and ability to walk. He also discusses ageism and diversity initiatives pushing roles away from people like him, as well as the nature of media always looking to the young and the new, meaning he’s rarely deferred to as an expert despite his experience.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Ben speaks on encouraging DEI, but also acknowledges that ATB is entirely staffed by white people. He says that there should be more facilities to help SMEs businesses with this, as he wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know the right terminology or how to approach recruitment in an inclusive way, he just wants the best person for the role.
The podcast draws to a close with discussions of the nature of sports broadcasting, Eamonn’s mentors and the ATB classic dinner party question. Finally, George Best is discussed at length, with Eamonn discussing his importance to Northern Ireland and his genius on the pitch.