“Growing up, I always wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter. That sounds cliche, but it’s a fact.”
It’s billed as one of the best jobs in the world. The ultimate. A dream. Presenting Blue Peter is something just 37 people on the planet have done. The 37th of that prestigious bunch is Radzi Chinyanganya.
The most iconic programme in children’s television, Blue Peter’s presenters travel the globe, interview celebrities and become a dab hand with sticky back plastic. For Radzi, it really is a dream come true.
“I had dreams when I was younger,” he recalls. “In those dreams I had dreams that I was the Blue Peter presenter. Now all I want to do is do Blue Peter and the legacy proud.”
The son of a Scottish mother and Zimbabwean father, Radzi was always destined to be unique. With a Sideshow Bob haircut and beaming smile, he attended six different schools, and yet despite always being the new kid, Radzi’s bullish self-belief was plain to see.
“In Year Six, in the books you sign when you leave school, I said ‘do you want my name or autograph because when I become Blue Peter presenter, it’ll be worth something?’
“That said, I also wanted to be American president but my mum supported my candidacy!”
Ah, so maybe he didn’t always want to be a Blue Peter presenter then?!
Constitutional issues aside, the 27-year-old is one of those annoying people that’s good at pretty much everything. Being a Loughborough student, it’s no surprise that our new broadcasting icon is a handy athlete.
Not satisfied with breaking county long jump records or reaching a national standard in karate, Radzi appeared on Gladiators in 2008, reigniting his competitive edge. He turned his natural speed to Skeleton, where you begin to appreciate his willingness to sacrifice everything for the ultimate goal.
“I committed to Skeleton through my last year at Uni and then training full-time for 18-20 months after,” says Radzi, who worked for the university’s Sports Development Centre on graduating. “I had to travel to and from Bath and took myself to Germany, Salt Lake City and Norway.
“I was looking to compete on the Europa Cup, the entry level of the sport. It came to a culmination when I came top 10 in the GB trials in 2010/11 and got told to come back next year.
“It was here I thought that I couldn’t keep giving years of my life away.”
So from hurtling head first down an ice track to hurtling head first into a presenting career.
Having thrived presenting shows on LSUTV and LCR, Radzi’s showreel earned him an audition for Blue Peter in mid 2011, where he was one of just three screen tested. He was unsuccessful.
Undeterred, he turned his hand to running before his biggest gig to date. Hosting Weightlifting and Powerlifting at London 2012.
“Working at the Olympics was beyond belief,” he beams. “You should have to work for a decade before you get an opportunity to present daily in front of thousands.
“The country came together and you were at the heart of it. I learned an incredible amount and came out a better presenter.”
A better networker too by all accounts. An industry conference called ‘The Network’ introduced Radzi to CBBC’s Head of Presentation Ewan Vinnecombe, where contacts and work experience opportunities were snaffled, at a cost.
“Whilst running at CBBC, I was eating microwavable rice and tinned mackerel, my staple diet for four months. I couldn’t afford to do anything, barely breaking even, travelling to meetings, auditions, trying to put myself in the right place at the right time.”
Although running was in Radzi’s DNA, presenting was in is heart. His first major breakthrough came early in 2013, fronting a new CBBC show called ‘Wild’. Little did he know that these eight shows would irreversibly alter his career.
Naturally excelling through the series, the pinnacle came at CBBC Live in Leeds in July, following which Radzi had the sweetest tasting coffee of his life.
“I had a meeting with Ewan, just a catch up,” he recalls. “With him were the controller and commissioner of CBBC. I thought I was about to get the sack. All three of them never turn up.
“They made me fill out a confidentiality agreement. Then they told me Helen Skelton would be leaving and would I like to be the 37th Blue Peter presenter? I cried my eyes out.”
The disbelief in Radzi’s voice is painted in his carefully selected words.
“You didn’t have to fight,” he continues, pausing between each sentence. “It was just given to you. So many uncontrollable factors all came together for me. This just couldn’t be true. It was surreal.
“To be able to honour my mum’s faith was the most overwhelming emotion.”
As fate would have it, his first project for Blue Peter was filming at Loughborough. He credits the university with his development into the presenter and person he is today.
“Loughborough Students’ Media gave me access to great facilities, equipment, equally ambitious people and a legacy of success. It’s very inspiring.”
Legacy. Inspiration. Ambition. It’s like London 2012 and Loughborough really has rubbed off on Radzi.
But what of his legacy? What of his future? What of the thousands he will now inspire at Loughborough and beyond?
“Firstly, I just want to do a phenomenal job but you can’t plan it. I’d look for opportunities in sports, hip hop or politics afterwards but my ambitions extend exclusively to Blue Peter for now.
“My advice to others? Are you willing to accept that it probably won’t happen? If you can embrace that and go all out living a lifestyle beneath that of your friends, you can only achieve success.
“It’s easy to call it quits but you must be ready when the opportunity comes. If I’d been given Blue Peter when I first started at Loughborough, I would have bombed.”
And in those few sentences, you get Radzi in a nutshell. Honest, driven and modest.
Somehow Radzi, I don’t think you would have bombed.
Sunday, 10th November 2013