INTERVIEW: Kate Fox | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“It’s nice to be in NARC., I’m really excited. My coolness rating is definitely rising.” I was a bit gobsmacked by Kate Fox’s parting comment because it hadn’t crossed my mind that Fox, who has performed her poems on protest marches and in concert halls, who is gearing up for a new show on Radio 4 and a support slot with spoken word poet Hollie McNish, might have thought she wasn’t cool.

The Price of Happiness, Kate’s new programme for Radio 4, which she’s recording at Live Theatre on Tuesday 17th March, started life as a performance at the Edinburgh Festival. In the show she wanted to look at things that she feels at odds with society about – things that she feels like she’s supposed to want, but doesn’t. The two episodes will focus on not wanting to have children and not wanting a big, white wedding. “I did a show about not wanting to have children and that came about because I noticed that it wasn’t something very many other people were talking about. A show is quite a good way to find out what other people think about something.” Participation is by no means compulsory but there’s an opportunity there for those who do enjoy getting involved: “I won’t pick on anyone who doesn’t want to speak, but for the gobbier audience members this will be their chance to be on Radio 4.”

Recording the show at the Live Theatre in Newcastle rather than the BBC Radio Theatre in London means a lot to Kate, because it will mean that the audience voices will be Northern ones. “It’s good because it’s quite an interactive show and there are points where I need the audience to join in or give their opinions.” Although the BBC has been trying to improve the representation of regional voices in its output, Kate thinks there is still a bit of work to be done. “There is still some degree of snobbery about Northern voices, especially on something like Radio 4. Until they’ve got a newsreader with a Northern accent on mainstream telly they’ve still got a long way to go.”

“It’s good because it’s quite an interactive show and there are points where I need the audience to join in or give their opinions”

Kate seems to be a bit of a workaholic – between writing columns for the Journal and appearing at events like the BBC 6 Music Festival – she also does a lot of work in schools. “The education stuff, for most poets, is a practical necessity but I really enjoy it actually. Even if I’m getting really busy, which I am at the moment, if I’m not doing an educational project or I’ve not got something coming up in schools I miss it. It almost reminds me of why I do poetry, if that doesn’t sound a bit corny.” At the moment she’s working on a project called First Story: “For the past two years I’ve been going into this Muslim girls school in Bradford, and I grew up in Bradford so it’s interesting to go back there. I go in for an hour and a half every other week and write with this really enthusiastic, bright, funny group of girls and we put together an anthology at the end of the year. It’s just great when you see their confidence improve.”

Her column in the Journal came about after the features editor saw her performing topical poetry at Latitude Festival. “Something that I always like is getting the chance to write in lots of different ways so the column’s really nice. It’s nice to have to write prose and it’s also nice to have to have an opinion on things.”

The Price of Happiness is at Live Theatre on Tuesday March 17th, tickets are free. Hollie McNish and Kate Fox perform at Gateshead Old Town Hall on Friday 17th April.

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