Jake Humphrey: life in Norfolk and GoGoHares
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
As he prepares for the auction of the fabulous Break hares, the charity’s patron Jake Humphrey reveals he is hoping to add to his own collection of GoGo creatures
Jake Humphrey is a whirlwind of energy.When we meet for breakfast, he is the throes of organising his 40th birthday bash in his garden – photographs of which popped up in the tabloids – the football season is back in full swing so he is zigzagging back and forth across the country and then there are the usual demands of family life and his many other commitments.
But, despite his hectic schedule, his easygoing nature isn’t just reserved for television presenting duties; he is as laid-back off screen as he is on it.
As we chat, he laments his beloved Norwich City’s poor start to the season, discusses the plot of BBC series The Bodyguard and reveals his frustration that more people don’t ‘get’ how incredible Norfolk is.
The last point is particularly pertinent as Jake and his wife Harriet decided to move back to the county two years ago with children Florence and Sebastian and he describes it as “the best decision we have ever made.”
“I just love it. I left Norwich in 2000, so it has been a while but it was the right time. When I was presenting Formula One, I had to be near Heathrow as I was travelling non-stop, but when I moved to BT Sport, that travelling was to the north west, or London, or the south coast or midlands, so it didn’t really matter where in the country I was based. It felt it was the perfect chance to live somewhere we really wanted to live and that place was Norfolk. It has been fantastic for Florence and Seb as they now have all these cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles on the doorstep.”
Both Jake and Harriet grew up in Norfolk and, he says, Norwich in particular has changed beyond recognition. “It is just a fantastic place. It feels like people are really investing in the city. People who would previously have gone to London for opportunities in the past are now seeing those opportunities here and there are some incredible companies and talented individuals here.”
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This month, Jake will be wearing another of his hats, as patron of the charity Break – which he has been involved with for almost a decade.
On October 11, Jake will host the auction of the fabulous GoGo hares on behalf of Break, of which he is a long-standing patron. And, he says, he has his eye on one to add to his collection.
“There is an artist we love called Alex Egan and we actually have her gorilla and elephant in our garden. It’s quite random having them sitting out there, but the kids lovely playing around them – and they are quite a talking point.”
The GoGo trails and auction not only raise vital funds for Break but also awareness which, says Jake, is essential.
“I love seeing families with their trail map walking around Norwich. It is a great way of getting the message out there about the charity. Although I am like the ‘hare police’,” he laughs. “I was with the kids doing the trail earlier in the summer and saw a dad and his kids climbing on one and felt the need to politely tell them off; my daughter was a bit embarrassed!”
Jake says the work of Break has become increasingly important in recent years as support services elsewhere are cut back and funding pressures increase.
“In the shadow of the recession and Brexit, we hear all about big businesses struggling and high streets suffering, but we tend to forget about the impact on charities. Now is when they are most needed as it is always the most vulnerable who suffer the most in times like this and we do not do enough for the most vulnerable in society.
“There are all these huge companies who are not paying anywhere near enough tax, making millions, and while it is an extremely complicated issue and we still want Britain to be attractive for these companies to operate in, if we keep supporting them then nothing will change. We have to find a balance.”
Having started his career on CBBC, he hasn’t stopped broadcasting since. For many years he was a key part of the BBC’s sports team, covering Commonwealth and Olympic Games, European Football Championships, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards and of course Formula One, as well as countless other sports shows.
When he decided to leave the BBC to go to BT’s fledgling sports channel, it was, he says a massive gamble. “My old boss at Rapture TV, where I started as a teenager in Norfolk, said you should never sit in the comfy chair for too long.
“I must admit, I had moments where I wondered what I was doing. To start with I would get tweets saying stuff like ‘why are you ruining this football match’ and it wasn’t very positive,” he laughs. “But I think I have settled in to it now. It has been a challenge but I absolutely love it.”
Jake and Harriet have also set up their own production company – Whisper Films – which now employs 30 staff in London and is responsible for producing coverage of some of the biggest sporting events in the world – including the Paralympic coverage, the US Open Tennis and Formula One.
“Some people might just think I am a typical television presenting ‘gob on a stick’, so I think they are surprised when they find out about the production company. But I really enjoy doing something different to being in front of the camera.”
As he turns 40, celebrating with a party in his garden for family, friends and a few famous faces, he is a contented man.
“Do you know, I have never been happier. I have two beautiful children, a wonderful wife, Norfolk has given us more time to be together as a family and we feel massively at home here. Harriet and I have both had friends who didn’t reach 40 so I think we feel incredibly lucky and that has certainly driven my mantra to not let the little things in life get you down. They don’t matter. I am really trying hard to remember that.”