Kirsten O'Brien

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Kirsten O'Brien
Kirsten O'Brien 1.jpg
O'Brien at Lighthouse Gala Auction, in aid of Terrence Higgins Trust, 2007.
Kirsten Lindsey O'Brien

(1972-02-23) 23 February 1972 (age 47)
OccupationPresenter, actress
Years active1995–present
Known forPresenting SMart (1999-2009)
Spouse(s)Mark Drake, -present, 3 children

Kirsten Lindsey O'Brien (born 23 February 1972) is an English television presenter and actress. She is perhaps best known for her work presenting for the BBC, including the popular CBBC art programme SMart from 1999 to 2009.


Appearing in the Kidz Field Big Top at the 2010 Glastonbury Festival

O'Brien studied media and communications at the University of Central England in Birmingham, graduating in 1993.[1] She got her first broadcast experience on the university's student radio station which led to her first job in 1995 at Tyne Tees Television where she made her presenting debut on a children's science programme. In 1996 she joined the team presenting the continuity links during the BBC's children's programming CBBC. She stayed there for three-and-a-half years during which time she became best known for her partnership with puppet Otis the Aardvark. Both O'Brien and Otis also co-presented with other people (and often solo). The 1997 Saturday morning spin-off Saturday Aardvark was entirely built around them. Puppeteer Dave Chapman would often reduce O'Brien to tears of helpless laughter with his ad-libs.

O'Brien left the CBBC on-air presentation team in 1999 but is still a regular on children's TV and radio. She has co-hosted SMart and its spin-offs SMart On the Road and SMarteenies (for the pre-school CBeebies channel). On radio she was one of the presenters of BBC 7's Little Toe Radio Show. In 2004 she played Peter Pan in pantomime. The same year O'Brien successfully took part in a lumberjack competition for the BBC series Bring It On. She performed a sketch show during the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2006 entitled Lesley's Lunch Hour - Not During Lunch, And Not Quite An Hour along with double act partner Ruth Bratt. Then in 2007 she took her comedy show Kirsten O'Brien - Confessions of a Children's TV Presenter to Edinburgh.

Between 28 May and 15 June 2007, she co-presented Springwatch Trackers alongside Steve Backshall. Transmitted live on BBC Two from a farm in Devon and repeated later in the day on the CBBC Channel the show featured teams of boys and girls who were set a series of Tracker challenges.

She has been a guest on Stephen Merchant's The Steve Show on BBC 6 Music, Through the Keyhole and several times on Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive.

O'Brien filmed Kirsten's Topless Ambition, a documentary for BBC3 that aired on 28 April 2009, in which she was "facing a huge decision - whether to do what many other female presenters had done before her and take her clothes off for a lads' mag to try to clinch bigger, better presenting jobs and a more adult audience."[2] Ultimately she only received one offer and opted against doing this and decided to perform more stand up comedy. She also stated on the show that she had been ready to leave SMart since co-presenter Mark Speight's death and felt it was not right to stay. Kirsten then stayed with CBBC to take over as host of game show Gimme a Break.

Kirsten took part in a celebrity version of TV show Total Wipeout, which aired on 2 January 2010.

From 2009–2010, she made appearances on the morning show GMTV presenting on-location. On 19 February 2010 she and George Lamb presented EastEnders: The Aftermath where they interviewed members of the cast about the live 25th anniversary episode.

In 2010 O'Brien, along with actor and friend Will Mellor, appeared in The World's Toughest Driving Tests, a driving challenge. They travelled the world mastering the biggest and hardest-to-drive vehicles to find out who is the better driver. In the first episode, which aired in February 2010, O'Brien won when she beat Mellor driving a Romanian TR-85 combat tank. She went on to take wins in the third and sixth episode. Three wins, together with a draw in the fifth episode meant that Kirsten was the overall winner of the series.[3]

On 31 December 2010, she appeared on BBC1's Celebrity Mastermind answering questions on Reeves and Mortimer (scoring 13) & 24 overall with 1 pass, coming third. She donated her fee to Teesside Hospice. On 9 January 2011, she was spotted at the V&A Museum of Childhood during filming of a secret new TV series. On 26 March 2011, she was a compere for one of the Teenage Cancer Trust shows at the Royal Albert Hall at which Editors headlined. On 3 March 2012, she appeared on BBC 1 Let's Dance for Sport Relief. She danced to Van Halen's "Jump".[citation needed] This was followed by an appearance on Big Brother's Bit on the Side in June 2012.

O'Brien was announced on 12 June 2013 as the co-presenter of Heart Wiltshire's Breakfast programme alongside Ben Atkinson, effective 1 July 2013.[4]



Year Title Role Notes
1996-1999 CBBC Presenter
1998 Get Your Own Back Herself Guest Presenter for Christmas special
1999–2009 SMart Herself
2002–2003 SMarteenies Herself
2004 Bring it On Herself 1 episode
2005 Little Einsteins Annie Season 2 UK Version
2005–2007 Smile Herself
2007 Springwatch Trackers Herself
2007 The Fanbanta Football Show Herself
2007 Totally Doctor Who Herself
2008–2009 Help! Teacher is Coming to Stay Herself
2008[5] Thank God You're Here[6] Herself
2009 Kirsten's Topless Ambition Herself Documentary for BBC Three
2009 Britain's Most Embarrassing Parents Herself Documentary for BBC Three
2009 Gimme a Break Herself Replaced by Joe Swash for 2011 series.
2002–2011 Big Toe Books Herself
2009 We Need Answers Herself
2009 Total Wipeout Herself Celebrity Special Episode
2009–2010 GMTV Herself
2010 The World's Toughest Driving Tests Herself Won Series (4–3)
2010 The King is Dead Herself
2012 Let's Dance for Sport Relief Contestant
2019 The One Show Reporter


Year Title Role Notes
2004 Peter Pan Peter Pan

Personal life[edit]

O'Brien plays tennis, and has taken part in swimming, abseiling and netball events for charity. She is a keen Middlesbrough F.C. fan; she has been involved in charity work with the club, including the Premier League's Creating Chances programme.[7] She has asthma.[8] She is married to Mark Drake. They became parents for the first time on 15 December 2011 when O'Brien gave birth to a baby boy whom they named Fox Michael Drake.[9] In September 2017 O'Brien tweeted that she had given birth to twins.[10]


  1. ^ Birmingham School of Media Alumni Archived 6 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "BBC Three - Kirsten's Topless Ambition". BBC.
  3. ^ "Driver of the Series - World's Toughest Driving Tests - BBC". BBCWorldwide Youtube Channel. 2 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Heart Wiltshire gets a new Breakfast show". 12 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Thank God You're Here" – via
  6. ^ Phil Nichol. "Thank God You're Here (UK) - Series 1 Show 4 - Warm Up Games" – via YouTube.
  7. ^ "Creating Chances week of action kicks off... early!" (PDF).
  8. ^ "Triggered by grief, the asthma attack that nearly killed me". Mail Online.
  9. ^ Ford, Coreena (8 October 2011). "Baby joy for Middlesbrough star Kirsten O’Brien". nechronicle. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  10. ^ O'Brien, Kirsten (5 September 2017). "So, prob should mention we've had twins!So much love for our wonderful @NHSEngland & all the amazing staff in @BabiesinBuscot #ThankyouNHS". Retrieved 26 January 2019.

External links[edit]