As a Eurosport TV commentator, Carlton Kirby, often finds himself juggling an apparently impossible schedule.
He is required to cover the world’s top cycling and motorsports competitions in his busy role, as well as enjoying his family life. It is an art he says he learned as an undergraduate on Lancaster's compact campus in order to fit in rowing for Lancaster, working for the university radio station and keeping on top of his studies.
“I could be on the river at 5am, eat eggs and beans at the bar on the way back, stroll to lectures and even fit in a training swim at lunchtime,” remembers Carlton. “The proximity of excellent facilities allowed me to run my life well, so that there was no dead time. It was a fantastic preparation for a high-pressure life as a journalist.”
He knows the life he leads now as a specialist sports broadcaster, speeding between Tour De France, Giro D’Italia and Le Mans, would not have been possible without his undergraduate experience at Lancaster - made more precious by the fact that he had to struggle so hard to get there.
An undiagnosed dyslexic, the young Carlton was set from childhood on being a broadcaster, but failed his 'O' levels first time. Undeterred, he obtained the syllabuses, studied in a corner of Sheffield Library and paid to redo the exams, when his school refused him the chance to do so. Helped by a move to Richmond College, Sheffield, he was successful second time round in his 'A' levels and gained a place to study Politics and Economics at Lancaster. The attraction was the possibility of studying Marketing in his second year, which might help his media career.
“I completely fell in love with both the University and the City,” says Carlton. “There was such a positive vibe from the locals, a cosiness to the University and such a spectacular setting, that I felt completely welcomed. I thought ‘why would anyone not want to come here?’”
He admits that his studies were a struggle because of dyslexia, as reading took him so long and he was often in his room when his fellow students were relaxing. He switched from Politics and Economics to Marketing after his first year and was stunned to be awarded a First for his first essay comparing United Biscuits and Metro-Cammell Tube Train.
When he was not rowing, training or studying, Carlton worked for University Radio Bailrigg, guesting, filling in for the regular presenters and learning the mechanics of radio broadcasting. “I was not good enough to have my own show and I didn’t really have time,” he says, “but everyone had the right to have a go - It was very welcoming.”
He had found the Marketing course demanding, but his degree gained him his first step on a competitive ladder - a job on Marketing Magazine in London, which provided the journalistic experience to gain him a place on one of the UK’s only two broadcasting courses at the time at the London College of Printing. From there he went into a string of BBC local radio and TV jobs, including a two-year foreign posting to Funafuti Attol, in Tuvalu in the South Pacific as Head of Broadcasting, which he abandoned early because he found the island paradise so boring.
On his return to the UK he soon found his way into the newly formed Eurosport channel via TV AM, first as a news journalist, then as a sports ommentator. He has worked for the company on a self-employed basis ever since and covered every Olympic and Winter Olympic Games, specialising in cycling and motorsports.
Organisation and stamina are key to keeping on top of his career during the sporting season, when he can be away from home for weeks at a time. During the winter months he also does voice-over work.
His enthusiasm about his Lancaster days is reflected in his anecdotes - about using his Triumph Herald Convertible to transport his friends and their bags of groceries during the ‘Spar Wars’ when they boycotted the campus supermarket in protest at its prices, going on the occasional political march and eating steak and kidney pudding with his father in Lancaster city on his first day.
“University is the introduction to the rest of your life,” says Carlton. “Lancaster was a crucible of learning, as well as allowing you to do everything else that you needed to do - and all delivered in a calm and welcoming way.”