Broadcaster, writer and cooking enthusiast Angellica Bell shares why she loves where she lives, the importance of shopping small, savvy and local and how hobbies can help in uncertain times.
Words: Lucy Donoughue
Broadcaster and local resident Angellica Bell has the kind of vibrant energy I would love to bottle for times when I’m sorely lacking. She’s instantly warm, generous and familiar when we speak, despite the fact we’ve not met before and our conversation is taking place over the phone, thanks to coronavirus.
Angellica’s ability to turn a negative situation into a positive is a theme throughout our conversation, and it’s clear that she works hard at living a healthy, fulfilled life. She’s somewhat of a polymath too – she’s a TV presenter, radio show host, writer – and a brilliant cook to boot.
2020 certainly didn’t stop Angellica pursuing a life of positivity, and professionally she remained as busy as ever; co-presenting The Martin Lewis Money Show, guest hosting The One Show, continuing her Saturday sessions on Scala Radio and becoming a judge for the coveted Costa Book Awards. But how did the uncertainty of the year impact her personally?
“2020 was strange, there were things that I really missed,” Angellica shares honestly. “I’m very social. I love my friends; I love people and I love a hug. Even if I’m interviewing someone I don’t know, I want to hug them, so they feel relaxed in front of the camera.”
“I just didn’t have that kind of interaction and I really felt it. I had to think of ways to counteract that loss of social and physical contact.”
Angellica’s positive reframing involved taking some much-needed time for herself to think about the future and what changes she might like to make moving forward. “I started writing a diary because I think that was a good way to process what I was going through and because whether we all like it or not 2020 will go down as quite a historic year for everyone,” she explains.
“I also threw myself into fitness, going on walks in Richmond Park, using my Watt Bike and running, all of which can be quite solitary activities, but they provided me with precious time to think.”
Exercising throughout lockdown also gave Angellica good reason to get out and visit the local nature spots and parks she loves so much. “One of the reasons I moved to this area was for the open space,” she reflects “It was quite a brave move; I didn’t know many people around here at the time.”
“Although we’re so close to London, it felt like we were deep in the countryside too. I just fell in love with the area.”
“I was living in West London back then; I’d signed up for the London Marathon and I was training with a friend who lived in Ham. I used to get the 65 bus down to meet him and I realised that although we’re so close to London here, it feels like we’re deep in the countryside too. I just fell in love with the area.”
Her joy at being in such close proximity to nature comes across in spades. “Running around the local parks, the openness and freedom it gives you is wonderful,” she enthuses. “But I can still get that fix of the buzz of city life whenever I want to, because I need a bit of both.”
It’s not only the nearby open green spaces that Angellica enjoys. Shopping small, independent and local is especially important to her too. “I’ve always shopped locally. I really rate my local butcher and there’s a wine shop near me that I always go to. I love the idea of community, people buying small and supporting each other like they did back in the day before the big supermarkets arrived.
“I’ve heard about so many small businesses that have sadly folded,” she says. “The ones that have survived have been able to do so because they’ve had the support of their community to keep them afloat.
“It’s people’s livelihoods we’re talking about when we promote shopping locally, and I’d rather shop small and have that familiarity, that interaction and that bond,” Angellica continues. “Then I know where my money is going and who it’s helping. It’s just so important. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and set up your own small business, and the people who do that work really hard.”
How we earn, spend and save our money is something that’s at the forefront of Angellica’s mind, thanks to her ongoing role on The Martin Lewis Money Show. She’s hugely passionate about the Money Show, as she is about all the projects we discuss, and this all comes down to one factor. Everything Angellica works on is her own choice.
“I only take on jobs that I really want to be involved in,” she says. “That’s one of the major things I decided in lockdown; I’ll only do things that I love from here on in. Sometimes that will mean I have to make tough choices and I’ll have to say ‘no’ but I don’t want to compromise on doing the school run, being at home to take the washing out of the machine or to make a lasagne for our tea.”
She pauses for a moment. “You know, I think you have to make these difficult decisions sometimes, but you also need to be happy about the path you do take. That’s my mantra – I have to be happy.”
Angellica shares that she’s deeply grateful for the opportunities that come her way and feels blessed to have such a varied career. Although live TV is her favourite medium (“I love the adrenaline rush!”), she massively enjoys her role at Scala Radio too. “It’s so different for me.
I grew up listening to soul and I love R&B, pop and clubbing but there’s another side of me that loves classical music too. I like how it makes me feel.
“It’s a bit like needing that mix of city and country life, sometimes you need that yin and yang and that’s what classical music is for me. I’ve really grown to love it.”
“Find something you’d love to do and do it. It’s always a good time to start something new.”
So, with a thriving happy career in classical music radio, presenting and writing, what else does 2021 hold in store for Angellica?
“I’m going to set myself a few goals,” she says emphatically. “2020 allowed me to focus on myself in terms of fitness and I like that I’m looking after myself, so I’m going to keep on doing that. I’ll also keep reading, something that I’ve started to do and love again, after becoming a judge for the Costa Book Awards. And – I’m going to find and join a choir!”
Finding new ways to engage with others and express personal creativity is something Angellica wants to champion. “I think having hobbies as an adult, especially now, to keep our brains active and to find a sense of camaraderie is so important,” she explains.
“To anyone reading this who is struggling with all the uncertainty at the moment, that’s what I’d say to them. Find something that you’d love to do and do it. It’s always a good time to start something new.”