Shelley Carter caught up with presenter Richie Anderson who’ll be forever proud of his roots in Smethwick’s ‘concrete jungle’ while scooping Royal Television Society awards, attending swanky parties and meeting his heroes
If Carlsberg made proud, inspiring, salt of the earth Brummies, Richie Anderson would be the one. Anyone doubting this great city should spend 20 minutes with him before swiftly realising Birmingham is, in fact, the centre of the universe. Despite spending most of the week in London for Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 morning show, there’s no place like home and on a Friday afternoon as the train pulls into New Street station Richie’s ‘heart still skips a beat’.
He says: “I love London, but it’s not home. Birmingham has a warmth to it and even on a grey gloomy day it still feels nice. People are smiling and there’s a sense of humour and that smell.” If you’re wondering what that smell is, Richie says it’s ‘bready, foodie’. We suggest that might be the food hall at Grand Central rather than an intrinsically warm Brummie aroma, but you know…
Balancing his Saturday morning BBC WM slot with Radio 2 every weekday, Richie is absolutely living his best life. He says: “I have the two best jobs. I have to ask myself how this has happened at times.” Growing up in ‘concrete jungle’ in Smethwick was a far cry from receiving RTS Awards and hob-nobbing at the BRITs, but Richie has his feet firmly on the ground. “I’ll be at the BRITs and while everyone is sipping Champagne, I’ll have a pint of Bathams! I’m not even sure the people drinking Champagne like it. It’s just what you’re supposed to do.” On a date with his partner Dean, you’re more likely to find them in Wetherspoons than a Michelin-starred restaurant. “I’m a big one for coupons! When I go out in London I nearly have a heart attack!”
Concrete jungle is indelibly part of Richie. He remembers everyone going into one another’s houses and playing out all day on the broken swings in the park. Richie’s mum worked hard and his dad was a white van man and he says there’s a ‘realness’ that his upbringing instilled in him that he’s so proud of. And he’ll never ever lose the Brummie lilt. “I’m so proud of my accent and love that you can pinpoint me in the country. People know where I’m from immediately.”
After studying media at college followed by journalism at the University of Leeds, Richie bagged a week-long work experience spot at BBC WM. It was the week that Rover went bust which meant the place was buzzing and resources were stretched. When there was a call for someone to get down to the Longbridge plant to cover the story, Richie threw his hat into the ring. Initially people were a bit dubious about sending the work experience boy, but Richie persevered and shone.
“I love this city and I really cared about what was happening which I think showed. I just got stuck in chatting to people and set up loads of interviews.” One week turned into three months which turned into one year, etc. He says: “I was like an old boot that no one could get rid of!”
Richie’s own show on BBC WM was the first of his ‘pinch me’ moments which led to presenting on the One Show and Children in Need among other projects and ultimately led him to Zoe Ball. When Chris Evans left the Radio 2 Breakfast Show Richie got a call from his agent saying they were interested in him joining Zoe’s show.
The two met at the Hospital Club where Zoe was getting ready for Strictly It Takes Two. Richie recalls: “I remember waiting for Zoe in a hotel room feeling really nervous, but she arrived and flung her arms round me and was so lovely. We basically chatted about Strictly.” They got on like a house on fire and Richie was called back to do a demo in which the pair’s magic was obvious and Richie got the gig. “I was driving down the Hagley Road when one of the bosses from Radio 2 called to say I’d got the job and I just cried.”
Richie has met some big names – the morning we chatted guests included Robbie Williams, Jamie Cullen and David Walliams – but none will top his favourite guest of all time and his hero, Scary Spice Mel B who naturally arrived with a tiny dog and didn’t disappoint. “She was amazing!” Richie remembers putting on Spice Girls performances in the playground of his school, Uplands in Smethwick. He’s still a massive fan of the band and literally has the t-shirt – he’s wearing it.
For all the lols, there’s a serious side to Richie too. He’s completed numerous challenges for Children in Need like a gruelling 250-mile bike ride and a 24-hour karaoke. Inspired to do his bit after visiting local bereavement charity Edward’s Trust and Sandwell Young Carers as well as meeting children on a sickle cell ward, Richie felt he had to contribute. He says: “The bike ride was particularly tough. It sent me on a roller coaster. I cried about 85 times, but it was those charities and those children that kept me going.”
Richie’s short film for the One Show in which he came out to his football team-mates was an important piece of television that won an RTS award. “I’ve always played football, but I’ve actually left teams and moved on in the past when I thought team mates might suspect I was gay, so this was a big deal for me.”
He adds: “I’m so proud of it. The response has been amazing and if it makes even one person feel like it’s going to be okay then it’s worth it.”
In terms of what’s next, Richie is just revelling in his very awesome present. Having said that, there’s a Birmingham Mayoral election coming up. Richie for Mayor? Just saying…