King's Worcester

4 October

Award-winning author and leading broadcaster Clare Balding visits King’s

On Tuesday 3rd October, well-known broadcaster and author Clare Balding visited The King’s School, Worcester to talk about her second, brilliant adventure story featuring young heroine, Charlie Bass and her hilarious family of humans and animals in her latest book, The Racehorse Who Disappeared – the follow-up to her best-selling debut The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop.

Clare talked to almost five hundred children from across Years 4 to 7 from The King’s Foundation, Pitmaston Primary School, Nunnery Wood Primary School and St Clement’s CofE Primary School. She demonstrated how her inspiration for her latest novel stemmed from overcoming adversity and following your dreams – subjects close to Clare’s heart.

As one of Britain’s best-loved broadcasters, Clare has over twenty years’ experience in television and was awarded an OBE in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting and journalism. In the same year, Balding was presented with the special BAFTA for her work on the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

Her work ranges from coverage of six Olympic Games, the annual Crufts dog show, the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, Wimbledon, The Ryder Cup and, most recently, her own television chat show on BBC 2.

When she was young, Clare Balding apparently thought she was a dog. Disappointed to discover she was merely human, she nevertheless did her best to spend every waking hour in the company of dogs and ponies. She could ride before she could walk and, growing up surrounded by racehorses trained by her father, she always dreamed of winning The Grand National or riding for Great Britain at the Olympics. Those dreams never quite came true but her career has kept her pretty close to the action.

Clare’s first book, My Animals and Other Family, was a runaway number one bestseller and won Autobiography of the Year at the 2012 Specsavers National Book Awards. Her subsequent book, Walking Home was also a Sunday Times bestseller. Clare’s debut children’s novel, The Racehorse Who Wouldn’t Gallop was the second bestselling children’s debut of 2016.

Annabel Jeffery, The King’s School Librarian, writes: ‘We were absolutely delighted to be chosen to host an author event on Tuesday with none other than Clare Balding. Pupils from all three foundation schools were present, along with large groups from three local primary schools. With so many young visitors we were lucky to have the help of a group of Upper Sixth who enjoyed a rather different key Skills session to the Research Skills that was timetabled! They were all fantastic on the day.

From the moment she arrived – to be greeted by a very excited Upper Sixth Reception Committee – to the moment she left after entertaining five hundred children and staff in College Hall and signing hundreds of books, she created a buzz wherever she went (even in the cathedral cloisters where lucky visitors may have noticed her whilst passing by her as she ate her lunch and chatted to Sixth formers.)

Clare’s talk was full of enjoyable anecdotes about her childhood spent surrounded by animals, which taught her valuable life lessons (as well as being the inspiration for her new children’s books about racehorses), such as the importance of self-belief, doing what you enjoy, trying everything without fear of failure and not worrying about being different. But the highlight was the way in which she engaged and interacted with the children.

College Hall will never see the likes again of Clare Balding cavorting with great drama and commitment on stage, to re-enact great sporting moments of recent times with the help of King’s St Alban's children who were brilliant. Firstly she re-staged the final of the triathlon world series in September 2016 when Jonny (played by Henry Hawes of KSA) was helped over the line by his brother Alistair, thus illustrating the power of selflessness in sport. Fen Harper and Martha Burden from St Alban's (by lucky chance in their hockey kit) then had the chance to act as the favoured Dutch hockey players in the Rio Olympic final, taking on Clare as Maddie Hinch the England goal keeper. Despite their skill, Clare (as Maddie) proved that belief and preparation can help you to win against the odds.

She was also very brave in inviting up on stage young writers of the future from each school to interview them about their ideas for a story. I don’t think she was expecting to have the kind of complex synopsis such as that given by Amalie Prewer-Jenkinson!

The line of pupils queueing patiently with books seemed to be endless, but Clare waited until the last book had been signed and the last pupil hoping for a selfie (each one granted) had turned up. She was even happy to give Miss Jeffery’s spaniel a birthday hug!

Clare Balding was a passionate and inspirational speaker, who will have left many of us with unforgettable memories of the day that she came to King’s.