by Nigel Barden
A Northern Boy, born in Lancashire to Yorkshire parents! My two big brothers, Rob & Doug, & I grew up on a farm, although Mum & Dad didn't farm. I loved the life & worked on a dairy farm in Somerset & as a tree surgeon in the Lake District before enjoying a lively year at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. I then worked as a land agent in Yorkshire, playing rugby for Otley & cricket for Pannal (in Harrogate) & a nomadic team, the Hawks, who played all over God's Own County & as a group of summering rugby players always enjoyed the social side of cricket (& still do).
I still play cricket & having 3 sons (12, 15 & 18) I increasingly play cricket with them, which is a lot of fun.
At 22 I had a career shift & joined Yorkshire Fine Wines, based at Nun Monkton, between Harrogate & York & ended up selling wines to some brilliant restaurants; The Box Tree, Pool Court, Sharrow Bay, Miller Howe, Gilpin Lodge.
This was a great time of my life & as a business we sold a lot of wine & managed to have plenty of fun in the process. However there was something I always wanted to do, & would have probably have done when I was 18, if Dad hadn't died suddenly.
So at the age of 30, after my fifth operation on my right leg (obviously I wasn't that good a fly-half!) I took a year out of YFW, with my chairman's blessing (the very special David Aykroyd) & headed for BADA (the British American Drama Academy) in Regent's Park, London with 8 cases of claret & a mountain bike. The latter wasn't initially that useful as I was still on crutches, but the former was much appreciated.
On my first day I was carried around the rehearsal space by 8 female actors as I recited part of Bottom's speech from A Midsummer's Night Dream thinking "They'll never believe this at Otley Rugby Club!"
While at BADA an old mate, John Revell, a producer at GLR (Greater London Radio) the BBC station for London, rang me & said "Nige there's a fella who's just arrived from Piccadilly Radio in Manchester & he's hosting a Saturday morning show & I thought you might come on air before him doing something on food & drink, maybe a restaurant review, as that's your background". The lad from Manchester was Chris Evans.
I've never been off the 94.9fm frequency since then & have seen it go through various name changes, but it's definitely BBC Radio London now & I love being on air with Robert Elms.
The conversation about my sports commentary was equally random "Nige you used to play a lot of rugby, how do you fancy doing some updates into our sports show presented by Simon Crosse." Simon knows a lot about sport & heavy metal, so it was absolutely my kind of show! This morphed into full commentary, with some great injured rugby players summarising alongside me, as Pete Stevens my long-time producer trying to keep us on track.
When Chris Evans took over the Radio 2 Drivetime Show from Johnnie Walker in 2006 I got a call to do a one-off food & drink slot & never left, until recently.
I'm a very lucky fella as I spend a lot of time with brilliantly talented chefs, brewers, food purveyors; greengrocers, fishmongers & butchers & of course the food & drink producers & where it all starts the farmers & fishing fraternity.
On the judging & hosting side I'm chairman of judges for The Great Taste Awards, Farm Shop & Deli Awards, World Cheese Awards, British Cookery School Awards, Deliciously Yorkshire & host of the National Fish & Chip Awards.
I still have my Equity card in my wallet & would be disappointed if I don't continue to act. I also have voice-overs & narration which keep my creative juices flowing.
Fortunately rarely are two days the same & I'm lucky to earn a living doing what I love. I appear to have hollow legs, which is fortunate as I like to chow down!
And my best advice is to marry above your station. I certainly did & thank you Deborah for your patience & perseverance!
For conference presenting, awards hosting,
after-dinner speaking, food and drinks tastings,
please contact: Rosie Money-Coutts at Ibison Talent Group
Email: Tel. +44 (0)7979 157873
For voice-over or narration work,
please contact: Voice Squad Tel. +44 (0)20 8450 4451