Helen was born in Crawley but raised in East Grinstead and Old Coulsdon/Purley, Surrey. She graduated with a BSc (hons) in geography from Bristol University in 1990 and joined the Met Office in September 1990, working in the commercial services division as a consultant, providing climatology reports for the building and transport industries. She wrote climatological reports for county councils and often had to go out to rural locations and report on whether proposed road routes would be fog prone or frost prone. Helen commented: “It was a great job, but you were certainly less popular than being a TV weather forecaster!” She trained as a forecaster in November 1992 and moved to Bristol Weather Centre in February 1993. She appeared as a forecaster on local TV for HTV for one week as emergency cover. Later, she would move to BBC Bristol, appearing on Points West.
Helen joined the BBC Weather Centre in November 1993. She presented forecasts on BBC Radio (1993 – 2005) and initially appeared on BBC World Service Television News. Helen’s first domestic BBC TV national forecast was on 10th April 1994. Her final broadcast was on 11th November 2005. Helen went on maternity leave c. August 2003 and returned in summer 2004. She was the Christmas Day BBC One weather presenter once, in 1996.
Helen answered some questions in a BBC press release:
Why did you want to be a weather forecaster? “I didn’t originally! At university my friends used to tease me and say you’ll be on telly doing the weather one day. I always used to answer that there were far more important jobs in the Met Office than being on telly, and that I wanted to be a proper weather forecaster behind-the-scenes. I have to eat my words now, don’t I? Once I had got through my first broadcast, I was hooked.” Do you get nervous before a broadcast? “Yes, but not as much as I used to. You have to learn to control your nerves. That’s the hard bit.” Have you ever made any mistakes? “Yes! It is live after all. I’ve been known to say ‘show showers’ and ‘shattered showers’ amongst other things. I have on one occasion forgotten to put my microphone on, and the unusual ‘frog and fost’ has been uttered instead of ‘fog and frost’!” Is your job hard? “Yes, it is very tiring. We work 10 – 12 hour shifts. Most of the broadcasts on BBC One and BBC Two are live and that is hard work in itself.”
Helen was appointed lead BBC weather presenter in August 2002. During her broadcast career, she has presented the weather live and unscripted on all BBC channels. Throughout her time at the BBC she helped train new members of the team. Helen was also BBC Weather Centre deputy manager (April 1998 – January 2000) and broadcast manager (from January 2000). She left the BBC in 2005.
Helen also made occasional appearances on BBC TV’s Breakfast News (1995) and was one of the main presenters on The Weather Show. She presented two series of Strange Weather Days for BBC Radio 4. There was also a weather series for children’s programme Zig Zag. She presented the weather on the BBC’s Total Eclipse: Live programme (BBC One, 1999) and the 2000 Today millennium programme (BBC One). Helen has written a children’s book about the weather, which was published in France, Poland and America, and is now available on Amazon. She also acted as a consulting editor on other weather/science books. In 1992, she completed the London Marathon, raising £5,000 for her charity, the Guillain Barre Syndrome (a disease of the peripheral nervous system) Support Group (GAIN). Helen has continued to raise money for GAIN. In 1999 she was part of a team that ran the Great North Run. Her other sporting interests include swimming and skiing. Helen is currently working for PWLC, delivering assemblies and lessons to schools on air quality, fulfilling some of the projects funded by the Mayor of London.
She designs and leads presenter training courses for beginners and for those looking to enhance their skills. This includes training for presenting on all media platforms. She has provided tailored training packages for individuals and for small groups of professionals.
Helen regularly delivers talks to all age groups, ranging from nursery school children up to learned adults. Her talks range from ‘Behind-the-scenes at the BBC Weather Centre’ to ‘Strange and peculiar weather – everything from Tornadoes to Green Flashes’, to her latest talk ‘Climate Change: Trump – a new global threat?’ She has given many more lectures on climate change for groups as diverse as the Environment Group at the House of Commons to The Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society Regional Tours Programme.
Helen is married to a British Airways pilot and they live in Surrey with their two children.
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with Helen in June 2018 and asked how she got her first TV work in Bristol? “Part of my forecaster training included working at a Met Office Weather Centre – Bristol. I had already been told by the Met Office that I had potential for TV following an interview with Bill Giles. However, I wanted to be a behind-the-scenes forecaster and had no interest in being on TV. However one Friday the head of the Weather Centre approached me saying that the usual presenter on HTV had a family emergency and they had no-one for the Monday broadcast. He told me I needed to do it! That’s how I started – in at the deep end. I spent all weekend worried about what to wear, as I knew the weather would take care of itself! By the Wednesday I was hooked on doing the weather on TV and the rest is history.”
Paul asked if it was hard to manage a team as a woman, as well as being younger with less service? “I did end up managing Mike Fish, John Kettley etc. Huge household names and more senior than me. However, most were extremely supportive and were happy for me to manage! Being a woman didn’t make any difference! It was a diverse team with plenty of younger presenters due to the arrival of BBC News 24.” Paul asked what spin-off TV work she particularly enjoyed working on and whether she had done any broadcasting since leaving the BBC weather team? “BBC Two’s Airshow, as I got to combine my love of flying with the weather. Since leaving I have presented for The Weather Network and the Canadian National Broadcaster, when they expanded into UK in 2015, as well as online presentations. There are presentations of mine on YouTube.”
Are you still in touch with any ex-BBC colleagues? “Yes Richard Chapman, ex-BBC editor; some of the girls especially and others on Linkedin etc. I met up again with a lot of my colleagues at Ian McCaskill’s funeral. He is sadly missed.”
Video Clips on the Internet
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Helen Young's final weather forecast on BBC Four.
PICTURED: Helen Young. SUPPLIED BY: Online. COPYRIGHT: Helen Young.