Angellica Bell interview


Angellica Bell interview

TV presenter and Kingston local Angellica Bell tells us how she got through lockdown and who she’s nominating for our local hero awards

As a former MasterChef winner, it’s not surprising that one of the things that got Angellica Bell through lockdown was cooking. “That and trampolining,” she laughs. “It was therapeutic heading out in to the garden for a bounce! And I did a lot of crafting…” Even though we’re speaking via an unstable Zoom call, Angellica’s easy charm comes across, and it has made her a natural for TV, co-hosting programmes such as The Martin Lewis Money Show, The One Show, and, of course, winning 2017’s Celebrity MasterChef.

She says that the lockdown initially gave her a chance to pause. “It was strange. I had been on a bit of a treadmill – always busy, and I thought, if time stood still then I could get ahead and get everything done that I needed to. And I guess time did stand still. Although I would have obviously preferred that it wasn’t in these circumstances, but it was a time of reflection for me.” “And I went from recipe book to recipe book, making dishes I’d never done before.” She was also homeschooling her two children. “I can tell you everything you could possibly want to know about the Roman Empire!”

But she found the isolation of lockdown tough at times. “I’m a people person, my friends mean so much to me, and I missed being around others – the hugs, the interaction. I wrote a diary, which helped me to express how I was feeling.” Like many of us, she found some comfort in the community around her. Angellica put her cooking skills to good use, making food for neighbours. “It was a good way to stay in contact in a socially distanced way. What struck me was how much we were all helping each other. If someone needed something, they’d send a message and a neighbour could step in to help. It’s also taught me that I should ask for help with things, too. People like being useful to others.” “I really love where I live, and feel very lucky. I also made a carrot cake for the guys at Kingston Hospital.”

Angellica presents Kingston Hospital’s annual awards, which had to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic, but she is in regular contact with them. “They have told me that the community support they had was incredible.” As an ambassador of our Local Hero Awards, Angellica has nominated Sewing 4 Kingston. “They are brilliant and have been making bright scrubs and masks for medical staff and key workers. They have delivered so many.” A trustee for the Rose Theatre, Angellica was also involved in supporting the venue in lockdown, joining other celebrity supporters including Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack, reading their favourite poems to be watched online.

She is optimistic about the future of the arts, which have been so badly hit by the pandemic. “I hope that with this new package that the government has set out, it will help theatres get back on their feet, and we’ve seen the arts look for new ways to reach out to people such as the likes of Kingston’s International Youth Arts Festival going virtual this year. So yes, I am positive. We have to balance reopening with safety, but I look forward to what we can do next, including getting the arts out to a wide audience.”

Angellica was working through part of the lockdown, recording her show on Scala Radio from home and presenting The One Show and The Martin Lewis Money Show live – a surreal experience as everyone was socially distancing and wearing face masks. “It was worrying at first to go out at that time. But I think it was important – with The Money Show, we’re covering finance and this is such a big issue for people at the moment, with many people losing their incomes and facing redundancy. ”

Her husband Michael Underwood, also a TV presenter, who returned to teaching a few years ago, was busy, too. “He put everything into ensuring his pupils could still have that interaction, thinking of ways for imaginative learning. He’d be making videos every day and trying to upload them all night. And the wifi was down as so many people were online.”

“Everyone was the same – all of us trying to do our best and maintain some kind of normality. We should pat ourselves on the back. And, on the plus side, what the pandemic has done is really open peoples’ eyes to health. if there is a second wave, the awareness is out there now on how to better protect ourselves.”

During lockdown, the couple found time to support the BBC’s 500 Words campaign, as they’re both passionate about encouraging children to be creative. The campaign, fronted by Chris Evans, has been running for 10 years, asking children to write about a prominent topic. This year’s theme was #blacklivesmatter. “Children have seen what has been going on on the news – with the Black Lives Matter movement, we were hearing from everyone else but children hadn’t been given a voice. The stories we received were incredible and so moving. It was an honour to be part of it. And the 500 Words initiative will pick up on so many important topics as it goes forward such as climate change and coronavirus: children do have an opinion on what is happening in the world.”

So, what started as a quiet and reflective period turned into a packed few months. Is some actual downtime on the cards? “Well, I’m really looking forward to having my first meal out, and having someone else cook. And I plan to have the whole three courses. We need to rebuild the economy, after all…!