‘Get up, you massive horse!’ How TV’s Dan Walker keeps going in faith and work

Dan Walker’s Twitter feed describes him succinctly – and conveniently, for the purposes of this article – as ‘that bloke off BBC Breakfast, Football Focus and The NFL Show. Also author of Remarkable People’ which, as it happens, is the reason for our interview.

He is, moreover, an evangelical Christian who wears his faith with a light and winsome touch.

In person, Walker is as boyish, blokey and chipper as on screen. I start with a zinger of a difficult question, just to get it out the way.

en: So, Dan, tell us about your new book…

DW: The publishers approached me a while ago and asked if I would like to write an autobiography. I said: “No thanks… Would it be better if I was able to write about other people?” They said: “Like who?”, so I gave them a few ideas, and they said: “Yes, that sounds interesting; please write 100,000 words”.’

en: The book is called Remarkable People. How would you sum it up?

DW: ‘I interview very important individuals – Prime Ministers, Princes, Kings, Queens, sporting heroes – but none of them are in the book! The book is about the people who have made a real impact on me over 20 years as a broadcaster and journalist. The people who I wonder if they are okay, who have been through some real struggles. Very often in life it’s the struggle that unites us all. I’m fascinated by people who come out the other side. As someone with a strong faith, I find it remarkable how people manage to do that without a faith.’

The book includes, among others, people such as Winnie Mabaso and Lisa Ashton who set up an orphanage in South Africa; a Christian called John Sutherland, a former Met. Police Superintendent and hostage negotiator, whom Dan met at a church event; two mothers who lost loved ones – one in the Manchester Arena bomb, and another whose daughter died one Christmas Day aged three; also a friend of Dan called Gary Speed who sadly took his own life.

en: It’s not explicitly a Christian book, and yet matters of faith shine through.

DW: ‘The feedback has blown me away. I’m a Christian, and unashamedly a Christian, and happy to talk about it, and I think my faith comes through clearly in the book. But it’s not a book about faith – it’s a book about other people. As a Christian, I react to those situations. Writing the book has strengthened my faith but also made me ask questions, which is I think a healthy situation to be in.’

en: How do you find it being a Christian in a media setting? You’re well known for not working on a Sunday.

DW: ‘I work in an industry where you are encouraged to believe that the world revolves around you – and that is a really unhealthy position for anyone to be in. But my faith gives me a real grounding, along with my wife Sarah and family, of where I am in the world, and who I am… As a Christian I know my value does not come from what other people think of me.’

en: You must have to get up at some extraordinarily early time…

DW: ‘I’ve got four alarms starting at eleven minutes past three… The last two are labelled: “Get up, you massive horse,” and “The klaxon of disaster”. I’ve never got to that fourth one!’

en: How do you keep your own prayer life going in such a situation?

DW: ‘I travel a lot up and down on trains and motorways so I fit it in where I can, but this is where phones can be so helpful – there are so many good apps and studies. Technology is really helpful.’

en: And is your church supportive of what you do?

DW: ‘Yes. The minister has been particularly helpful. He’s been really wise and great over the years. And there’s another guy I meet with whose wisdom I really value. Over the years I’ve developed strong friendships with people I know I can trust.’

en: What would you like en readers to pray for when they see you on TV?

DW: ‘That I continue to do a good job… I think if I do that then I know what that looks like. I’m my own harshest critic. Whenever I meet Christians I find they are some of the most encouraging people. It makes such a difference. And I know there is plenty of support from people I’ve never met, and that is a huge encouragement.’

Remarkable People by Dan Walker is published by Headline Books and is widely available.