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

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Josie Long is 34. She thought by now she’d be in love, have children, and live in a country that didn’t vote for far-right parties who seem intent on marching us all off a cliff. Her new show, Something Better, highlights a few of these frustrations. “Something Better is kind of about grief, and it’s about losing. It’s about wanting to write an optimistic show and finding that really difficult, and gradually coming round to a position where I feel able to be optimistic again,” says Josie. “The main thing I’m trying to get across is what hope means. Hope isn’t just being good and being like, ‘Oh, everything’ll be alright.’ It’s not about conning yourself about when things are difficult.” She also mentions that she’s been reading Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, who discusses the idea of hope as an active form of resisting: “Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch,” Solnit writes. “Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency.”

Josie is very keen to draw attention to the good things that are still happening around us at the moment. “At the end, I talk about activist groups that I find inspiring, and it reminds me every night that there are these people who are treating everything that people are frightened of at the moment as an opportunity to fight for the good,” she says. “It also reminds me that I’m not alone and that even when I’m feeling really hand-wring-y and like everything’s difficult, there are these people who aren’t feeling that, who are going to keep going. Or who have to keep going! So it’s kind of cool.”

Hope is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency

But does she believe that the arts have any power to affect social change? Apparently so. “I genuinely believe it pays to stay positive and determined no matter what, ‘cos the alternative – feeling bitter or desperate – is worse! I really believe that [comedy] can provide a lot of consolation. Laughing together, especially when you’re not doing something cruel or attacking people, really enforces your common humanity and it does give you some consolation,” she says. “I can’t have delusions of grandeur as to what my silly comedy shows would ever do, but I do hope they might inspire the right person to do something big and good. I would rather be doing this than not doing this, or doing something negative.”

Josie has a new series of her Radio 4 show, Short Cuts, coming soon. “I hope [Something Better] provides a bit of fun and a bit of consolation, and, without sounding too wank, the concept of fellowship. When you’re with people and you feel there’s a little communal thing going on that’s positive and warm.”

Her closing message? Josie mentions her “fantastic” support act, Tez Ilyas, describing him as “absolutely wonderful” and it was worth coming along to her show for in his own right. “What I would say, is,” she concludes, “Don’t give up. But also, please come to my silly show, because I think it’ll be loads of fun.”

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