News, Culture & Society

Inside the head of… Gareth Malone

Gareth Malone OBE, 41, is a choirmaster and TV personality best known for his appearances in programmes such as ‘The Choir’. He lives in north London with his wife Becky and their two children.

What is your earliest memory?

Being sick on the carpet at my third birthday party because I was overexcited.

What sort of child were you?

Creative and dextrous. I was always making Lego models and pulling out those safety plugs from sockets. I was absolutely lost in my imagination. If I went to a new place I would knock on all the walls to see if there were any hidden passageways.

Gareth Malone OBE, 41, is a choirmaster and TV personality best known for his appearances in programmes such as ‘The Choir’

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

When I was nine I fell into the pond at school. I went into the shower to clean up, and a girl ran in, pointed, squealed ‘Hahahaha’ and then ran out again. It affected me in all sorts of ways that I can’t begin to describe. I now have a pathological fear of ponds. And nudity.

What is your greatest fear?

I have this phobia of the underside of ships – the massive propellers on cruise liners. I hate the idea of being submerged in water and looking up, seeing an enormous ship overhead and knowing that you’re going to get chopped up by a propeller, eaten by a shark, destroyed by the pressure, or just subsumed into the darkness.

What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

An actor I’d inadvertently crossed said, ‘You will never amount to anything.’ He was in a production I was involved in when I was 22. He’d done a small film and said in an email to the cast: ‘I don’t want anyone to be worried by the fact I’ve been in a film’, and I replied with something like, ‘All right Mr Hollywood Bigshot, I think we’ll be OK.’ I wrote the email in haste, thinking I wouldn’t send it because it was a bit harsh, but I shut the computer and it automatically sent. He drove 60 miles to berate me.

Tell us a secret about yourself

I’ve been learning to ice-skate. I go to Alexandra Palace and I’ve got so into it that I’ve bought my own skates. When I was a child, all the cool kids in Bournemouth went ice-skating on a Sunday afternoon, but I wasn’t allowed. I’ve been waiting for a point in my life where I could change that.

What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

Picking up cigarette butts from the beach in Bournemouth when I worked as an ice- cream seller during the university holidays. Everyone was sitting out enjoying themselves and I was rooting through the sand.

What one law would you change?

I’d ban piped music in public. Only live music should be allowed. If you want music you must have a pianist in the corner.

When did you last cry?

Two days ago. I called my wife by my daughter’s name in a moment of mental aberration, and was reminded that my grandmother called me by the dog’s name. It led to a very powerful recollection of her.

What was the best kiss you’ve ever had?

The last one. I always think that’s the best one, because it’s fresh in your mind.

Who would be your dream dinner date?

Bach, plus a translator. My German is poor.

What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?

My wife once met me at King’s Cross after I had been working away. She had tickets for the National Theatre – she’d queued all day for returns to the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. The scenery got stuck halfway through because it was a preview, but that made it more exciting.

What song do you want at your funeral?

Wake Me Up by Avicii. No, I’m joking. The Beatles’ Blackbird, or any of their songs.

What’s the best thing in your life?

Music. Making music gives you a release, but it’s also an addiction. It’s like a massive bag of sweets: incredibly moreish. 

Gareth Malone tours the UK in November. Visit 


Last film you saw? 

The most recent Alien film. Somewhat disappointing. I love the suspense of the original – but the new one gave up its secrets too soon. 

Last TV show you loved? 

Fake Or Fortune? You have to get past the Sunday-afternoon style of the whole thing, but it’s actually a brilliant programme about art and provenance. 

Last book you read? 

Stewart Lee’s Content Provider. It’s very, very funny.