Come rain or shine, Barra loves being 
a weatherman

Barra Best outside the BBC in Belfast
Barra Best outside the BBC in Belfast

The weather is, without doubt, always a serious topic of conversation in Northern Ireland. What is the summer going to be like? Will it rain at the weekend? Should I risk putting the clothes on the line? And the man with the answers is BBC weatherman Barra Best.

Now firmly established as the face of the weather here, 35-year-old Barra, who hails from West Belfast, began his career as a journalist before a chance opportunity to fill in for someone on screen led to him becoming one of the most recognisable men on Northern Irish TV.

After leaving school, Barra completed a degree in Information Systems and worked in the industry for two years. But it was when a friend told him that she was going to study Journalism that he really discovered his passion in life.

“I was more into maths and science so it was more the creative side of journalism that got me into it. My background was in IT so I was interested in graphics and editing.”

After studying at Edge Hill University, just outside Liverpool, Barra decided to come back home to Belfast.

“In 2003 I had used up my student loan so I had to come home,” he continued. “I am glad I came back and I have been fortunate enough to fall into jobs so I have no regrets about coming home.”

Barra has now been at the BBC for 10 years but his journalism career first got under way in radio rather than television.

“I started in local community radio and worked at CityBeat for nine months,” he explained.

He never had a burning ambition to be in front of the camera but when an opportunity came along he jumped at the chance to step out from behind the scenes.

“I worked as a multi-platform journalist and covered TV, radio and writing for the BBC website,” he said. “About three years in there was an opportunity to cover for maternity leave.”

This was a golden opportunity for Barra which would see him presenting live television for the very first time.

“It was a great opportunity but it was nerve wracking because there is no autocue.

“You have to be very flexible because at the last minute you might have to add time on to the bulletin or cut something out.

“I covered maternity three times in a row and I’ve been a permanent part of the weather team for seven years now.”

Viewers would say that Barra makes sharing the weather with millions of people completely effortless but the job means having to think on his feet and being able to multi-task, as a producer gives constant feedback in his earpiece while he has to appear cool and calm no matter what happens.

“I have to be honest, it is the hardest job I have had to come to grips with,” confessed Barra. “It is difficult going live without a script or autocue, especially when you have someone talking in your ear at the same time, telling you how much time you have left.

“Now it is just part of life, but at the start it was the hardest job.”

Barra admits there have been a few times when he has stumbled over his words and viewers are never shy about pointing out mistakes. But he still loves interacting with people, even if they are highlighting his faults.

“I have had a few moments when I have slurred my words but what I love about our viewers and listeners is that a lot will get in touch on Facebook or Twitter and make sure you know they spotted it,” he revealed.

“The first time it happens you hope that no one notices but you meet people on the street all the time and they tell you it wasn’t quite right, but it’s always fun banter.”

As well as presenting regular weather bulletins on television, Barra is also still involved in the news side of journalism and writing for the BBC website.

The two sides often come together, especially when dramatic weather dominates the news.

“I still do part news and part weather, especially when there are news stories around the weather I can write for the website and I like doing a bit of both,” he continued.

“In 2010 when the big freeze came I was thrown in at the deep end. I was just learning about weather systems and weather data at the time.

“When we have big weather events here they tend to stick out because our weather is pretty much the same all year round, which is disappointing for some people but when you do get extreme weather it really drives you forward.”

Outside of work, Barra is passionate about travelling and socialising and admits to watching more than his fair share of television as well.

“I watch too much TV,” he confessed. “I love Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, and I have only just started watching Game of Thrones.

‘‘I am only on the second season but so many people were watching it that I felt left out.”

Ten years after starting work at the BBC, the outlook for this Northern Ireland weatherman looks promising.