Arts Q&A:Pamela Ballantine on Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, crime thrillers and horse racing

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, UTV Life presenter Pamela Ballantine

UTV Life presenter Pamela Ballantine is a veteran broadcaster

1. When did you think about a career in broadcasting and what were your first steps into it?

I fell into broadcasting. I did a private secretary’s business course in the College of Business Studies. Downtown Radio had just started a few years previously and were still recruiting staff. I applied for secretary to head of programmes and all the DJs and got the job.

In those days, the journalists read the news, but being mid-to-late 70s they were busy reporting from the streets. When they realised they had nobody to read the news on air, the head of news said "that new secretary, she can speak a bit – get her down".

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

Bon Jovi – I first remember seeing them in the King’s Hall. I saw them recently in the RDS and they are just as good as ever. One of the best gigs I’ve ever been to was Bruce Springsteen in Wembley in the early 80s. It was three-and-a-half hours of solid music and at the end they brought a stretcher on and carried his guitar off.

When I worked at Downtown I remember being in Leixlip Castle after one of the concert with the guys from Polydor Records. All the acts were milling around. Squeeze and The Police were the two headliners and we were sitting in the back courtyard with Sting singing and Jools Holland on keyboards having a jam session. It was amazing.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

A mash-up with Jon Bon Jovi and ABBA, with Cher joining in.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Can I have two? Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon and the soundtrack from Jesus Christ Superstar.

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island?

The Golden Treasury of Poetry. My granny gave me it in 1965. I still to this day dip in and out of it and, if someone asks me to do a reading at something that’s a bit lighter, I always go to that book and find something relevant to the occasion.

6. Top three films?

The Quiet Man, Goodfellas and Love Actually. I love a bit of nostalgia and can’t wait to see Love Actually – Live in Concert, with the Ulster Orchestra.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Solaris. I go and watch movies before I interview film stars. If it’s an absolute turkey, you are thinking 'what on Earth am I going to ask this person?' In this case, I was interviewing Natascha McElhone, but we managed to get through the whole interview without me once saying "I loved the movie", because I didn’t.

8. Favourite authors?

I’m more of a genre person and enjoy thrillers, serial killer and 'tracking down the baddie' type books. I love Val McDermid, the Scottish writer who wrote the Wire in The Blood books that were made into into a television series. She looks like everyone's favourite granny, but the horrible murder weapons and plots she comes up with are unreal. I also enjoy Helen Fields and Michael Connolly's Bosch detective series.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

Horse racing is my number one love. I'm in syndicates and racing clubs and currently part-own eight or nine horses. I do it for fun, not to make money.

I also love rugby and motor sport.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

I loved Singapore and would love to go back and see more of it. I also just love going to the sun and collapsing.

11. Pet hate?

So many; bullying, cruelty, litter and incompetence. If you can’t do something, don't bluff it.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Sunday roast dinner.

Dessert? There was a dessert my mum always made for me called Devil’s Food Cake and it was repeated layers of meringue and a dark chocolate and brandy sauce, left overnight so it all sank together.

Drink? Champagne.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I’m lucky to have some very good friends and wouldn’t want to pick one out. I’ve had them for many years. I trust them and they trust me.

14. Is there a God?

I was brought up to go to church. I don't really go now unless there is an occasion. I respect everybody's own views of their god. I talk to angels and I do believe we have people who keep an eye on us.

:: Pamela Ballantine will be speaking to Lady Mary Peters and actress Caroline Curran on UTV Life on November 22 at 8pm. She will host Bowel Cancer UK’s Carols Together on November 29 in the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, Stormont. The festive fundraiser will feature performances from The Methodist College Chapel Choir and singer-songwriter Róise McHugh. For tickets visit

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access