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Monday, 24 November 2014

Hannah’s forecast looks fine

HANNAH Bayman was just 13 when she got her first taste of the power of the press.

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Set fair: Look North weather presenter Hannah Bayman.

Working for her school newspaper, she published a story about a recent party and was subsequently chased by a group of boys and drenched in water as punishment.

“I thought to myself, ‘This is the power of the press’ – I was exhilarated,” she says with a touch of irony.

“I thought: publish and be damned.”

Since then, Hannah, who lives in Heddon-on-the-Wall with her grandmother, has come a long way, carving out an enviable career as a BBC weather presenter and journalist.

It’s a difficult job, involving 5am starts, numerous broadcasts a day for Look North, as well as three radio stations, and seemingly endless checks with observation stations, the Met Office and the like.

Hannah, though, takes it in her stride, describing the pace of her days as “manageable”.

It’s only when broadcasting live on location that the pressure can really get serious.

“But live broadcasting is also one of the best parts of the job You get to see so many beautiful and interesting locations.”

Hannah feels a close connection to life in Tynedale and, along with her colleague Paul Mooney, has opened plenty of fairs and similar events.

She’s a self-confessed weather geek and is happy to discuss the subject with anyone.

“There’s an awful lot of people here who really care about the forecast,” she says.

“It can be absolutely addictive, particularly if we’ve got an interesting weather system; I know people who stay up all night watching observations.”

Hannah is from Heddon originally, but she and her family lived in various locations around the North-East as she was growing up, including Allenheads, Consett and Newcastle.

Television was always seen as important in her household – she recalls Wincey Willis presenting the weather on TV-AM, while Mike Neville and Wendy Gibson were the big names on Look North.

It was, however, through school that she developed a real interest in the media.

“I was doing my A-levels and the teacher used to get us to bring in news stories each week – international, national, regional and local – and I was fascinated by the difference between those types of stories,” she says.

“Also, when I lived in Newcastle, I had a paper round and used to deliver the Evening Chronicle.

“It really interested me to see how a story would move on from day to day.”

She did her journalism training at the renowned City University in London and got experience on national publications like the Daily Express and The Big Issue, before freelancing, predominately on the trade press, for the next three years.

A period of travel followed, leading to a job on an English newspaper in the Spanish Canary islands, which Hannah describes as “unconventional”.

“I was the only reporter, so I was chief reporter,” she says.

“The editor was keen that it didn’t look like one person was writing all the news, so I was invited to create pseudonyms.

“My teddy bear, Harriet, became fashion and beauty editor and she was sent lots of free things, but the invitations she got were pushed on to me because they tended to be for events past her bed time!”

Much of the work, Hannah says, was focused on ex-pats and tourists, who sparked a number of memorable headlines.

Examples included “Romeo rat stole my Christmas: help me get my cash back, says jilted Julie” and the questionable “Gay man staked: attackers impaled victim’s buttocks”.

The latter story was a deeply unpleasant tale of a holiday liaison gone wrong, ending up with a tourist being mugged and attached to railings by his posterior.

“My editor knew no bounds,” Hannah recalls. “She wanted photos!”

For all the absurdity of the time, though, her spell in the Canary islands proved crucial as far as career direction was concerned.

She was out there during 9/11 and was struck, for the first time, by the disadvantages faced by newspapers when it came to covering large-scale events.

“On the day, I was in a crowded internet cafe along with everyone else and it became clear people were getting their news from the internet and broadcast media,” she says.

“The newspapers were a day behind with the story and that really made an impression.

“I was then very clear I wanted to work in broadcast media or the internet, which was absolutely taking off.”

The BBC, meanwhile, was also having an epiphany sparked by 9/11.

For the first time, its website crashed because of the number of hits it was getting and soon great investment was being put into expanding internet resources.

Hannah eventually joined the Beeb’s Southampton office in an on line capacity, then went on to work as a researcher on the Politics Show.

A reporting job in the Channel islands followed, during which she covered the arrival of democracy on the tiny island of Sark.

“Then the job of weather forecaster was advertised in the North-East and I thought it sounded fantastic as it was a chance to work in the region I grew up in and where my family lived,” she says.

“I went to a screen test in London in the weather centre and I remember asking them where the auto-cue was.

“They said, ‘There isn’t one – you’ve got to talk off the top of your head’.

“I got briefing notes and had 10 minutes to put together a forecast for the UK.

“They were very friendly and gave everybody a couple of goes. They chose the best take and I got the job.”

Hannah’s role, however, has not been limited to weather presenting.

She’s also been able to take on some news, forging a specialism in environmental issues.

Her extensive training has included courses in meteorology and planetary science and she’s currently undertaking a physics degree, focusing on astronomy.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how Hannah has a single minute to spare, yet she’s able to balance her work life with hobbies like running and leading the Heddon-on-the-Wall Brownies.

“I did think I’d keep moving every couple of years, but, to be honest I really think I’ll stay in the North-East now,” she says.

“I just think the Tyne Valley is beautiful and it’s one of the best kept secrets in the UK.

“I know it’s a cliche, but with somewhere like Heddon, you’ve got town 15 minutes away, the coast half an hour away, and beautiful hills and open countryside in the other direction.”

What more could a weather girl want?

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