Homes Under the Hammer host Martin Roberts, 57, on bullying, Glee and why he’s sending his book to every primary school in the UK
Why are you so passionate about kids’ mental health?
I was badly bullied at school. I had an awful time and want to do anything I can to stop kids going through what I went through.
My book Sadsville will hopefully be read in schools to 800,000 children. If just one of those is saved, as far as I’m concerned it’s job done.
Did you turn to anyone for help when you were bullied?
I didn’t tell my parents because I didn’t want to worry them. There was no support back then so I suffered in silence.
I was 13 and it was proper physical bullying from a group of boys and then it felt like it was fair game for the whole school to go after me. I remember one day running from the school to avoid a pyramid of people who were coming after me, meanwhile having an asthma attack.
Looking back I feel very sad for that little lad who went through a pretty terrible time on his own. I got through it but as anybody who has been bullied will tell you, it stays with you forever.
Tell us how your book Sadsville might help…
I’d written a series of kids’ books called The Villes – Tiredsville, Boredsville etc. In each land, something has gone a bit wrong. I decided to adapt Sadsville to get kids thinking about emotions.
But it’s not a heavyweight book, it’s a silly, whimsical story – everything has gone wrong because the man at the crisp factory is putting real onions in the cheese and onion crisps, so everyone cries.
But the story will hopefully start a process of discussion and that’s the main thing. I have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old of my own. Kids are such lovely little things and I would do anything to stop them going through any kind of trauma.
Who can get hold of a copy of the book?
We gave out 35,000 copies in Somerset and Hampshire but when Covid happened I decided I had to fast-track it because there were lots of reports saying primary school kids were suffering quite badly.
Calls to the NSPCC’s helpline increased by almost a third. So I managed to raise the money to give two free copies to every primary school in the country.
There’s also a lesson plan in the book and links for teaching resources so teachers can use it to talk to kids and get them to open up.
How did you spend lockdown?
Some people learnt foreign languages or a new musical instrument, I developed an addiction to the TV show Glee.
Didn’t you also end up in A&E after doing some gardening?
I chopped a plant down and got some of the sap on my hand. I then accidentally touched my eye. Apparently this particular sap is obnoxiously toxic stuff. My eyes swelled up really badly and I had blurred vision for a couple of weeks.
Homes Under The Hammer has been running for 17 years. What’s the appeal?
It’s a cosy, familiar show that never wins any awards but it makes people happy and I’m very proud of that.
Has the pandemic affected filming?
We were in the middle of filming series 25 and it totally stopped. But they have now found ways to make the show so we are tentatively starting to do a few bits and pieces again.
We’re guessing you’re always moving house yourself…
Rather ironically, I’ve actually not lived in that many. There was the house I grew up in, the first one I bought and did up, and then I moved from that to the house I’ve lived in for the last 35 years!
You had a great time on I’m A Celebrity… but you weren’t quite so successful on Celebrity MasterChef, were you?
Thank you for bringing that up! My downfall was sage butter. I chopped up a little bit into the butter but apparently you’re supposed to fry it.
When John Torode took a mouthful of raw sage he wasn’t that complimentary.
Fancy going on Strictly too?
I’d love to. I’ve got a ghost to expel when it comes to ballroom dancing. When I was 14 I went to Germany to stay with my pen friend.
He had a cousin, Gaby, and she was absolutely lovely. They had a party and she asked me to dance but I couldn’t. I came home and for two years I learned ballroom dancing so I could return and sweep Gaby off her feet.
I went back two years later, armed with my cha-cha skills, and they arranged another party. Gaby turned up… with her fiancé. Strictly would almost cut it as compensation!
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love being outdoors in nature, I play the piano a bit and I love DIY – I’m always pottering about in my seven sheds. My wife would say I’ve got too many sheds but you can never have too many!
The Martin Roberts Foundation recently provided all 22,500 UK primary schools with a specially created ‘teaching version’ of the Sadsville book. To donate visit martinrobertsfoundation.org.uk
Credit: Original article published here.