Iain and I went to talk to students at the St Albans Girls school this week, and because they’re…ahm…girls, we thought it might be an idea if I let them have the inside track on what it’s like being a woman working in media.
I was a bit uncomfortable about that, if I’m honest. Who am I to speak for the experience of a whole gender? Sure, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride over the years, but I’m not sure how much of that’s related to being the proud owner of a cracking set of ovaries. Maybe I’m just a div*.
That said, it turns out I have been the recipient of a fair bit of bullshit over the years, stuff my male colleagues won’t have encountered. I’m not just talking about hiding in the stationery cupboard to avoid a particularly ‘enthusiastic’ co-worker – although I have been there, done that and sadly, there was no t-shirt for my trouble.
No, the bovine excretia to which I’m mostly referring came in the form of well-meaning ‘pearls of wisdom’ such as these…
“What you need to understand is, statistically**, women don’t like listening to other women.”
“The trouble is, Kath, clever women can sound a bit…stuck up.”
“It’s women’s voices, you see, they can so easily become shrill when pressing a point.”
And my personal favourite…
“What you need to remember is that the average listener has trouble distinguishing one woman’s voice from another.”
Of course this is all utter balls. But this was the stuff I was getting from various sources during the late 90s and well into the 00s from people (not just men) who thought they were doing a newbie a favour. And if my experience is anything like that of other women trying to make it in radio, where surely your voice and the contents of your head are more important than your genitalia, no wonder there’s been a big push to get more women on-air – they’ve been benevolently talked into support roles for years!
Sad to say, I swallowed the guidance offered so breezily and spent far too long struggling to be acceptable despite the terribly off-putting matter of my womanhood until I got some really great advice from two broadcasters I really rate, and get this…they were (and still are) both men!***
They convinced me that the hang-up I’d been labouring under wasn’t mine, or even the listener’s. Your audience responds to authenticity, regardless of whether it comes in a package with a packet or a hoo-ha.
Which is why I now know that rather than nodding, smiling and trying to overcome a barrier that wasn’t there, I should have responded to the helpful hints offered back then with the following ten little words…
*Undeniable, I’m afraid
**I was never shown these statistics.
*** One was the fantastically free and creative Ronnie Barbour, the other was the bloke who owns this website…although I’ve totally forgotten his name. Ewan? Owen? Anyway THAT guy.
Well, it’s happening. My first speaking tour is actually going to take place. Nice, small and very friendly venues. I’m so lucky with all of the places I’ve been asked to play. Absolutely gorgeous, just right.
There aren’t too many dates at the moment (a few more coming) but I am very nervous. To be undertaking my first ever solo show, let alone an actual tour, at the age of 41, seems a bit of an exercise in self flagellation. Still, I know the show works, and I am very proud of it.
My friend Simon Roberts has helped put the thing together and will be joining me to help with the technicals. Also, schedule willing, Mackenzie Crook will be joining me via satellite link up (actually Skype. And also, he may not, so, you know, don’t hold me to it).
I’ll be hanging around after all the shows to have a chat and have pics and stuff, if you want. You may also smell me.
It’s about 85-90 minutes, plus an interval. Me chatting about radio and playing some brilliant bits of shows by other people, but really funny bits. James Whale, Anna Raeburn, Big George and others all pop up.
Anyway, here are the dates. A couple more are coming along and I will post them here when I get them. They’re small venues, so I suggest if you want to come, get them quick.
I am talking to a few other places including London and Manchester….
Looking forward to meeting some of you.
Norden Farm Arts Centre, Maidenhead
NEW DATE 1st AUGUST
The Horsebridge Arts & Community Centre
Kent CT5 4HS
Tickets Horsebridge Comedy
0845 293 8480
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester
Arts Centre, Swindon
The Junction, Cambridge
Rondo Theatre ONSALE NOW!
St Saviour’s Road
Bath BA1 6RT
10th October (2 shows)
7pm & 9:15pm
NEW DATE 17th October
Luton Library Theatre
Hangar Farm Arts Centre, Totton