Me and my school photo: Matt Baker on his dedication to gymnastics and his first role in college theatre

Me and my school photo: Matt Baker on his dedication to gymnastics and his first role in college theatre

By
Paula Kerr

UPDATED:

23:58 GMT, 9 March 2012

Currently Matt lives in Tring, Hertfordshire, with his wife Nicola and children Luke, four, and Molly, two

Currently Matt lives in Tring, Hertfordshire, with his wife Nicola and children Luke, four, and Molly, two

This is me at my primary school, Easington Village School, County Durham, when I was eight. We lived on a farm five minutes away and I’d walk to school with my older sister, Samantha. It was a tiny school, with no uniform and just four classrooms, so different ages were taught together.

When I went back there to host a bring-and-buy sale for Blue Peter, everything seemed so much smaller than I remembered.

At that age, I was training as a gymnast six days a week so school was more of a social experience than an academic one for me – it filled in time between gym sessions.

I’d train before school, at lunchtime and after school at a club in Middlesborough that my parents would drive me to. I learned that if you put in the hours you got a result – I became a junior gymnastics champion the same year and got into the British squad when I was 11. I’ve always tried to bring the same dedication to everything I have done since.

Unfortunately, my gymnastics led to me being bullied a lot, both verbally and physically. I ignored most of it, because I was doing something I loved, but one lad in particular kept giving me grief.

My dad was a boxer and had taught me how to punch properly for self-defence. Eventually, this kid pushed me too far and I hit him as hard as I could and knocked him out. He didn’t bother me again – and nobody else did either.

My secondary school was Belmont Comprehensive in Durham. It was a sporty school, so my parents thought it might suit me. Going to buy my uniform was quite an event. I wore a white shirt under a blue jumper with a blue-and-white striped tie and grey trousers. I remember thinking I looked quite smart.

My first day felt very strange. Belmont
was much bigger than my primary school and not as cosy. My sister had
gone elsewhere and it took a day or two to make new friends.

Matt Baker, 34, presents The One Show with Alex Jones

Matt Baker, 34, presents The One Show with Alex Jones

My problem
with school was that if a subject didn’t take my fancy, I found it hard
to learn. I was happiest working with my hands – I loved science because
it involved learning in a practical way.

I had to stop gymnastics at the age
of 14 because I was anaemic and not growing properly. When I started
training less, I began to shoot up. But I missed gymnastics so much that
my parents agreed I could switch to acrobatics – I ended up as junior
British champion.

By
the time I’d given that up to concentrate on my A-levels, I’d got
everything out of it that I wanted to. I still commentate on gymnastics
for the BBC and will do so for the Olympics, which I’m really excited
about.

I went to
Durham Sixth Form Centre to do A-levels in biology, sports science and
drama. I loved the college productions – my first part was a T-Bird in
Grease.

Then, halfway through my drama degree at Queen Margaret
University in Edinburgh, I dropped out after my application to be a Blue
Peter presenter was accepted. I couldn’t believe it, and it set me on
the path I’m on now.

Matt Baker hosts The One Show, Monday to Thursday at 7pm on BBC1