She may be one of the hosts of new prime time Saturday evening game show Ready or Not, but former Shelley College student Laura Jackson is not content with just being a television presenter. She’s also the author of a cookery book, founder of a lifestyle brand, fashion guru and interiors designer.
In short, the 31-year-old, who was raised in Kirkburton, describes herself as a modern day polymath. As she says: “I don’t want to be defined by my job, I can do lots of things and I’m fortunate that I’m passionate about the things that I do.”
Laura, who now lives in London with her husband, photographer Jonathan Gorrigan, is yet another of Shelley College’s entertainment industry successes and joins the likes of Natalie Gavin, Jodie Whittaker, Joanna Christie, Zoe Lucker and Lena Headey in the school’s hall of fame.
She recalls Shelley (then a high school) as being “a pretty free-spirited school” where students were allowed to pursue the arts and sport. “I was dyslexic so I had a lot of extra help at school,” she says, “I took food tech because I was always interested in food. We were allowed to do some of the classes we wanted to do, it wasn’t so driven towards academic subjects. I also did drama.”
At 16 Laura moved to a dance and drama college in Leeds and then began an events management degree at the city’s university. Taking a year out in London to work for an events management company proved to be a turning point. She explained: “I loved being in London. It opened my eyes to so many different things that I could do. At school your careers advisor said you could be a nurse or a teacher or maybe a journalist, but there wasn’t that array. You didn’t know about what amazing exciting jobs you could do.”
And so she switched to a course at Greenwich and began doing what Laura does best – networking and creating opportunities. She got a foot into both the music and television worlds and teamed up with BBC presenter Alice Levine to present a supper club. Like many young aspiring people in London she waitressed and worked in a shop while getting her name known. “I have worked really hard,” she says, “being in London you realise there are a lot of people here whose parents are wealthy and they have got connections. It’s easier for them because they are already well connected. But I was so excited by it all that I went out all the time and met lots of people.”
To date her CV includes hosting the Clothes Show Live at Birmingham’s NEC and Channel 4’s music show Freshly Squeezed; presenting Channel 5’s dating series Stand By Your Man with Westlife’s Brian McFadden; offering fashion advice on This Morning; launching the Jackson & Levine food and lifestyle brand; and joining forces with Clara Amfo and Alice Levine to host The BRITS red carpet and after show for ITV2. Jackson&Levine also recently created a home wares range for interiors chain Habitat and published a cookery book entitled Round to Ours. “I have a large skill set,” says Laura.
She is also blazing a trail for Yorkshire, with her distinctively Northern accent. The fact that the BBC is now not just accepting, but encouraging, of such diversity is something that pleases her greatly.
The new BBC show, which was filmed at the end of summer 2017, features a voice over by comedian Paddy McGuinness and sees Laura out on the road with a mini quiz tournament. She visits beach resorts, including the Blackpool familiar from her own childhood, with her Quiz Me Quick stand, challenging unsuspecting members of the public to take on a series of games. Laura describes the programme as a “family friendly, generation game style show” and says: “I got to meet lots of exciting, interesting people on the street. It’s really good fun but very light hearted - and we don’t make people feel bad.”
Now a city dweller, Laura says she really misses the Pennine countryside around Huddersfield. She explained: “My parents moved to Leeds when I was 18 and I don’t have any family left in Huddersfield, but I feel really nostalgic about it. Sometimes my life feels surreal. I’m just a girl from Huddersfield who used to work in Pink Cadillac (fashion store) and I get these really exciting opportunities. But I’m really grateful and really humble.”
Ready or Not is screened on Saturdays at 6pm on BBC1.