Interview with radio star Sara Cox
PUBLISHED: 11:33 18 July 2017
From party girl to pottery, radio and television presenter Sara Cox has come along way since she burst onto our screens 20 years ago
From her debut on Channel 4’s controversial Girlie Show to being the ultimate party girl presenting her Radio 1 breakfast show live from Ibiza on a few snatched minutes of sleep and then her gradual move to peaktime BBC television and radio, Sara Cox has always taken her audience along with her whatever the ride.
Her irreverent humour and acerbic wit, delivered in that unmistakeable and unchanged Bolton brogue, makes her instantly relatable and her funny stories shared with listeners have always reflected, with honestly and warmth, the different stages in her life.
“Occasionally I have a little laugh to myself, thinking I was that girl presenting from Ibiza for Radio 1 and now I am lucky enough to sometimes appear on Loose Ends on Radio 4 with Clive Anderson. Who would have thought it? At Radio 1 I did feel like I was really clinging on at the end, but it feels good at Radio 2. I was 39 when I joined and I could finally admit I was in bed at 9.30pm after a busy day with work and the kids and not pretending to have pulled an all-nighter in some sort of club. That said, Radio 2 is in no way a comfortable, cosy place either. We still celebrate and champion new music, have excellent live music and some fantastic presenters. When you think a lot of our listeners were the original punks, we wouldn’t get away with anything less,” she says.
It is her popularity on her weekly Radio 2 show Sounds of the 80s which this month brings her to Norfolk.
She will host a DJ set at Great Yarmouth Racecourse as part of Ladies’ Night, and, as a farmer’s daughter who has always been around horses and as a huge equestrian sports fan - she has ridden in charity races at Goodwood and Ascot - she says the event combines her two favourite things. “I love 80s music and as you know I absolutely love horses and riding. Add in some chips and gravy and it would be a dream,” she laughs. “I am so thrilled as I will get to watch the racing and will also be able pop in to the parade ring to meet the horses as well, then I will get to DJ. I love that feeling of putting on a song and then seeing the crowd react, heading straight to the dancefloor as they recognise those first few notes. The music from the 80s has a meaning for everyone and takes them on a journey back to different stages of their lives – it could be their first kiss as a teenager at the school disco or for someone else it could be dancing at their wedding.”
She began presenting Sounds of the 80s three years ago on Radio 2 and it marked a new stage in her career. She is now also the go-to girl as regular stand in for Chris Evans on the breakfast show, bringing her own very distinct style to what is a staple of the broadcasting schedule.
“I love doing breakfast, it is very much about the listeners and their stories, the occasional funny story from me, the news, the travel and some music. For my 80s show, the focus is very much the music. The 80s covers a huge range of musical styles, from the end of disco to the new romantics, dance music and the start of the indie and alternative scene.
“There were a lot of firsts during that time as well; boys were wearing make up and challenging gender stereotypes, people were embracing being openly gay for the first time and celebrating all of that through music. It was incredibly exciting; it wasn’t just shoulder pads and perms.”
Sara, who lives in North London with husband Ben, three children, Lola, Isaac and Renee and Maltese terrier Beano, recently completed a televised 24 hour dance-a-thon for Comic Relief, raising more than £1m.
“It was a lot of fun, but also a surreal experience with all these people randomly dropping into the studio, some of who were real heroes of mine. At one point the comedian Shappi Khorsandi came in and started talking about the regime in Iran and her childhood and there was me, still dancing away in the corner; it was madness.
“I have always watched and donated to Comic Relief, but it was the first time I have been so involved. It was an incredible privilege to go to the slums in Nairobi, to meet with orphaned children, to see how these people live and cope and to be reminded how lucky we are to be born in a peaceful democratic country where our children are largely safe. You feel such pressure to make sure you get across the stories of the people you are meeting, to make people at home understand just how important their donations are and what a difference they are really making.”
She has just finished series two of the hugely popular BBC2 show Great British Pottery Throw Down which she describes as a “joyous cup of tea for the eyes” and says she would very much like to do another series. But she dismisses talk of it being hard to balance a busy work schedule and being a mum with typical directness.
“There are a lot of people that work a lot harder than I do and also I never hear men asked that same question. There is a woman out there right now who is working three jobs, on a low wage, managing three kids and I can’t imagine anything more annoying than hearing me say how hard it is when all I do is chat on the radio.
“I think what I have learned, though, is that when I am at home, I am at home, not answering emails or dealing with work. Then when I am at work, I am focussed on that. When I try and merge the two I find I am not much good at either.”
Great Yarmouth Racecourse Ladies’ Day, July 19. See www.greatyarmouth-racecourse.co.uk; 01493 842527.
Radio 2 Sounds Of The 80s, Fridays, 10pm-midnight