Angela Scanlon: We want to support girls getting into tech on Robot Wars
Three, Two, One, Activate! Irish television presenter Angela Scanlon is back to co-host another series of Robot Wars and with much at stake for this run's roboteers, she's ready to get stuck in
This is your third series co-hosting Robot Wars since the reboot – was there an initial fear in bringing back a show that was so loved?
Yes of course, but it's been really great. I suppose the fear was that [Robot Wars] has a place in people's hearts; you want to do it justice and not lose those core fans, but there was a sense of really being clear about fitting the original DNA of the show and making sure that you had that heart and soul. It's a bit bigger and shinier and this series, I think, it's more thrilling than ever.
Would you say you have to be a fan of the genre to enjoy it?
A lot of people when they hear the title 'Robot Wars', if they don't know the show or they're not intrigued, assume: "Ah, this is not for me." But I think what really comes through is that sense of passion and commitment that all the roboteers have and that is really infectious and endearing. That's what people respond to. So you don't need to have a PhD or even a base level of understanding about engineering, you can turn the show on and fall in love with somebody who has created a robot called Donald Thump or whatever. You can see that they're literally married to this, they've put everything into it, and you can't not love that.
Previous series' roboteers have been predominantly male. is this changing?
In the first series of the remake, what we found was there's a lot of people who'd watched the show as kids and who'd then subsequently gone into engineering or gone into different complementary kind of industries or universities. And then, when the show was rebooted, they thought: 'This is my time. I've been waiting for 15 years to build a robot.' There was a real legacy from the original series, [but] I feel back in the day, there was a sense that robots were for boys and not for girls, whereas now we're finding both boys and girls love it. Historically, tech and engineering have been very heavily weighted towards men, but that's changing and we definitely want to be seen to represent that and to support that where possible.
This show is wildly different to what you've done before. were you seeking a change?
When Robot Wars came about, I thought: 'What?! Really?!' And then I reminded myself about it and was like: 'Yes'. But for me it's just absolute nosiness. I want to get stuck in; I don't want to be separate from the people who are taking part, I want to feel what they're feeling and be really hands-on. That's definitely something I look for across whatever job it is, whether it's in documentaries or whether it's factual entertainment or a big entertainment show like this.
How have you found the transition from journalism to TV?
I suppose because I did it for a few years in Ireland it feels very new [to viewers in Britain], like I've just kind of sprouted out of nowhere, but I have been plugging away at it for quite a while. I love it and I guess that's the most important thing. I get up every day and I feel very lucky to go to a job that I absolutely love.
How do you feel about the 'celebrity' tag you've adopted?
It doesn't really feel like that's my life, so it doesn't feel like anything has changed for me at all. That's certainly not the way I view myself. Maybe that's a more gradual thing, but I haven't suddenly woken up and someone does everything for me – I still have to change my bed sheets! But no, my family are very grounding and my life is fairly normal.
Are you still inclined to remain on the side of the journalist?
One hundred per cent. I always will. I think, for me, when you've become [a celebrity] then you don't ask the question that everybody sitting at home wants to ask. So I always try to keep a healthy distance, so that I have the same sort of awe and natural curiosity that everybody watching at home does. I don't really mix in those circles; I've got a lot of friends, but I don't think of them as celebrities, even though they're in the public eye, because my friendship with them is in a normal capacity.
:: Robot Wars is back on BBC Two on Sunday October 22