Linda Barker, the nation’s favourite interior designer on her school days in Bradford
PUBLISHED: 17:04 13 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:12 24 October 2015
There’s something very likable about Linda Barker. She’s got an open, honest way about her and a ready, borderline-raucous laugh that makes you feel immediately at home in her company.
Presumably she was the life and soul of the party at school; always enthused, always positive and always at the front of the class with her hand up. Well, not always.
Which schools did you go to?
Cooper Lane Primary School; Lady Royd Prep and Bradford Girls’ Grammar School.
What’s your first memory of school?
I remember my first day very clearly because I really didn’t want to go. I cried and cried. I had two older sisters who were already there, but I still didn’t want to go. But it was my turn and I didn’t have a choice.
I absolutely hated it. I was really free at home, running around outside, doing what I liked, and I just didn’t want to be hemmed in by the school day.
I remember being almost hysterical for about a week. In fact, I got told off for making such a fuss.
Did you like school?
It got better as I began to make friends. I did learn to love it eventually, but it took a long time. My best memories – and the most vivid – of my school days are all about my friends: Cathy Baker at primary school (I remember her so clearly even though we haven’t kept in touch), then all my really close girlfriends at prep and senior school. It was my peer group that got me through it.
Were you a good student?
No, not really. I got by – I think that’s the best spin I can put on it. I was at a very academic school and I was not a very academic child. I was really good at sport and art and that’s about it.
What was your best subject?
Art and sport always appealed to me, partly because I was good at them and partly because they allowed me to be free and creative.
And your worst?
You might think I’m going to say maths, but I actually quite enjoy mental arithmetic. I remember vividly having a big sheet with my times tables on behind the kitchen door. I might not have been brilliant at it then, but I’ve developed a real love of arithmetic over the years, so I’m glad I persevered with it.
I think my worst subject was chemistry. Although I loved the look of the science lab; the Bunsen burners and all the bottles and jars. I’ve actually got some old lab tables in my kitchen in London, complete with graffiti.
Did you have a teacher who particularly inspired you?
Some of the women who taught me were absolutely extraordinary. Miss Turner at primary school was a bit of an old hippy and was forever playing songs on her guitar, so I thought she was lovely.
There was also a pair of unmarried women, Miss Briggs and Miss Marks, at Lady Royd who looked like they’d just stepped off the film set of Brief Encounter. They had perfectly coiffured hair and looked immaculate at all times. They were very elegant, although sometimes they did rather remind me of Alistair Sim in the St Trinians films.
When I got to senior school, Mrs Wilkinson spotted my artistic talent and was very encouraging. It’s funny isn’t is to think I was taught exclusively by women. I think a male teacher turned up when I was in sixth form, but he never taught me.
What do you think was your finest moment?
I was usually the one who won the sports awards. I was a team player but I also liked competing on my own in athletics and swimming.
If you could go back and change something, what would it be?
I really wish I’d understood more about the pleasures of studying. I felt at the time as if I was always out of my depth and I think I let that define me at school and for some time afterwards.
I love learning now, but I still get very nervous. One of my big problems at school was that I got extremely nervous about exams, almost to the point of being phobic. I had a terrible time trying to recall information; it would just slip away from me.
Do you think schools have improved or are there some lessons they could learn from the past?
Schools have improved beyond measure. I only know from my own experiences and those of my daughter Jessica (now 21 and just out of university) but it seems to me that the pastoral care for the whole human being is much more prevalent.
Students are now looked after as individuals. Jessica had a wonderful education at a school that took care of her as a completely unique human being. She absolutely loved school and, frankly, I can see why.
Really Linda Barker
Linda was born in Shelf on the outskirts of Bradford in 1961.
She originally trained as a fine artist, but moved into commercial design after college, quickly establishing herself as one of the country’s most innovative interior design consultants after her own Battersea flat was featured in House Beautiful.
She joined the BBC in 1994 as a presenter-cum-designer on the wildly popular primetime show Changing Rooms and, in 1999, House Invaders.
She appeared on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity in 2002 (she came third), which led to more presenting on the channel: With A Little Help From My Friends, Building the Dream and Under Construction.
Linda has appeared on numerous television shows since, including Come Dine With Me (she came joint first with singer Lee Ryan) and Splash!, the celebrity diving show with Olympic medal-winner Tom Daley (she came third – and made it into FHM’s 100 Sexist Women in the World chart).
Over the years, her home design books have been translated into many different languages and have sold in excess of two million copies.
Linda launched her eponymous mail order business in 2003. To find out more, visit reallylindabarker.co.uk.