Matt Barbet, host of The Saturday Show and 5 News Tonight, on the importance of a sharp suit, marathon training, preparing for the Tour of Britain and why London is the greatest city in the world
Words: Rachel Mantock
Recovering from the London Marathon, along with juggling The Saturday Show and the evening news on Channel 5, presenter Matt Barbet is surprisingly cheery. He gushes about his love of cycling, explaining that he will be taking part in the Tour of Britain in September, although he hasn’t always been a fitness fanatic.
‘I’d be lying if I said I was at peak fitness in my 20s. I enjoyed being in London and sampling everything the city had to offer back then. Any exercise regime I flirted with at university pretty much disappeared during my 20s,’ he says. ‘You become aware of your own mortality as you approach your 30s and settle down, especially when you are responsible for another tiny human.’
Barbet started training for his first marathon in 2010, which kick-started a lifestyle change. Being on the news, often discussing Britain’s health and obesity crisis, he felt hypocritical and decided to take care of his own fitness, sparking a love for cycling and running.
‘I’ve always been interested in cycling,’ he says. ‘I have always enjoyed watching the Tour de France and keeping an eye on British cyclists. Suddenly, British riders were up there with the very best and that inspired me a lot. The feeling of enthusiasm surrounding the 2012 Olympic Games really rubbed off on me also, as it did on so many people.’
Residing in east London, Barbet is no stranger to Stoke Newington’s Clissold Park where he runs and cycles regularly. Talking of green spaces in London more generally, he names Regent’s Park and Richmond Park as other favourites of his. He describes London’s parks as ‘a god send’ during the time he was training for the marathon, as well as being a fan of canal paths that are normally less congested.
‘I am lucky that I can take advantage of canal paths, you don’t have to worry about traffic or stopping. There are all these sorts of places to discover in London if you can just be bothered to go out there and do a bit of exercise,’ Barbet asserts.
1. Just do it, don’t think about it, you just have to try it. That was always my mentality, even as a boy. When you overthink things you start thinking negatively.
2. Always have something to aim for. When training for the marathon, I knew I had to get out there, even if it was raining. Once you are up and running, the weather doesn’t bother you as much.
3. It really helps if you have other people doing it too. I ride a lot with friends. It makes it so much easier if you have someone to run alongside you because they’ll be able to encourage you.
Born in Chester and raised in a small village up in the North Wales hills, the east Londoner describes his upbringing as ‘quiet and rural’, the lure of frantically busy London drawing him in from a young age. ‘London was where it was all happening,’ he recalls. ‘I have been here for 17 years and I am still passionate about the city.’
The face of Channel 5 news always had a knack for showing off and being in front of the camera. After studying language communication at Cardiff University, he stayed on to complete their post graduate Journalism course, then realised it was the perfect career pursuit for him.
‘You shouldn’t be coy. You have to be honest with yourself about what you want to do and where your strengths lie,’ says Barbet. ‘At 19, being involved with the student radio, I thought, yes, this is what I really enjoy. That is what set me on my way to what I do now.’
When asked about the big news stories of the last year, Barbet highlights the Paris attacks as one of particular significance, stating: ‘Paris and London are two sides of the same coin, it is like the tale of two cities. I went to Paris straight after the Bataclan attacks to report and the atmosphere there was eerily similar to the atmosphere in London on 7 July. There was a big sense of foreboding. These events have a big impact on the way Londoners live their lives.’
‘Despite the adversity London faces however, for me it is still the greatest city in the world. It’s full of such diversity, which is why it’s the best.’
In terms of Don Draper’s style, his look just has this attention to detail, like the pocket squares, which has rubbed off on me. A great suit is essential and just part of the job I do
Always appearing sharp and dapper on TV, Barbet is among the 21st century fashion-conscious gentlemen, his style reminiscent of Mad Men’s Don Draper. Of this, he says: ‘So much of what Don Draper emulates is just hideous misogyny; I obviously don’t align myself with that at all. In terms of style, however, his look just has this attention to detail, like the pocket squares, which has rubbed off on me. A great suit is essential and just part of the job I do.’
Speaking of misogyny and the current wave of modern feminism, Barbet leaves the conversation on an inspirational note, declaring that ‘equal opportunity is important for men, women and people of all backgrounds’.
‘I want my daughters to grow up in a society where everyone has the same shot. Society channels children into gender stereotypes; I don’t want my daughters hindered by that.’
Catch Matt Barbet on 5 News Tonight at 6.30pm on weekdays and presenting The Saturday Show with co-host, Gaby Roslin. See channel5.com