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HLN Meets: Vick Hope

As she publishes her next children’s book, Vick spoke to HLN’s Jo Dunbar about her epic reading list, broadcasting through a pandemic and boogying her way through lockdown.

By Jo Dunbar

Lockdown 3.0 hasn’t meant downtime for Vick Hope: she’s at the helm of Radio 1’s Life Hacks show at a crucial time for mental health; she’s holding a judging role for the Women’s Prize for fiction and she’s publishing her own work of fiction – co-authored with her Capital Radio former colleague and pal, Roman Kemp – Shout Out: use your voice, save the day. We hear why books make Vick tick, why she wants to empower young people and the North East places she can’t wait to get back to.

Do you miss the North East?

The North East is the coolest place in the world. You get this feeling when you’re on the train and you’re crossing the river, you can see the Tyne Bridge and I just get a jolt in my stomach. It’s the best feeling in the world, it’s so exciting. That sense of being home. You step off the train and you breathe the air, and it tastes different. It’s a whole mood. I love being home, I love the vibe, I love the people. My mum and dad are in Northumberland. We grew up in Heaton and moved when I was 10 or 11 to Minsteracres in Northumberland. I did get to come back up when restrictions relaxed a bit last summer. We had a couple of really nice nights out in the garden barbecuing, it was just nice to be together.

When you can visit, what are your favourite North East haunts?

Being in Northumberland. We absolutely love walking to Derwent Reservoir, it’s a really nice walk all the way around the reservoir. It’s so stunning, especially at sunset in the winter. The light looks like something from a cartoon, it’s vivid. I could look at that view forever. We like Corbridge for a nice day out and I used to work as a cleaner at Slaley Hall so we might go for a fancy lunch there, or Matfen Hall. I also used to work as a waitress at the Punch Bowl in Edmundbyers – I worked there for ages and I got to know my bosses pretty well, so now I always go back and see them. Sometimes we get freebies too! They do great food and drink.

You’re presenting Radio 1’s Life Hacks at a time when mental health is so vital. How does that make you feel?

When I was growing up, I listened to the Sunday Surgery on Radio 1. There were issues that they tackled that I had never heard anyone talk about. It gave me a sense of solace. For young people, students in particular, this time is so difficult, overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. Not knowing when it will end, or how your job and education prospects will be affected. Your future is up in the air. This time has changed my whole feeling about the job. I always loved chatting, communicating and telling stories but being there for the listeners has become something else. You feel so much closer to them. The traction we get, the amount of texts and calls and tweets that we get now, whether it’s questions or just people wanting to communicate, has made me love what I do even more.

Your audience has got even younger with the publication of your Listen Up books.

Getting kids reading has always been something I care about deeply. That feeling where you can’t wait to turn the next page but, equally, you don’t want it to end. It’s such a magic and every child deserves that. Recently Marcus Rashford campaigned to make sure as many kids as possible have access to books. It’s right – they should be able to have that escapism, especially right now in a world which is overwhelming. This pandemic has affected kids and it will for years to come. Their futures are in jeopardy and their educations have been disrupted.

Your heroine in the books, Grace, is mixed race. Was it important for you to represent this group?

I remember all the insecurities I had growing up and all the ways I had to work to overcome them, and if I had seen myself represented, for example, in a book, like I have tried to do with Grace, I think I would have gained a lot of confidence. It’s not just books – it’s TV, magazines and all parts of the media where you don’t feel represented. And when you’re a kid, all you want to do is fit in and as soon as you realise you don’t, which is exacerbated by the lack of representation, you just feel a bit rubbish! You want to hide the things that make you different. I straightened my hair until the age of 27, from as soon as I was allowed to use straightening irons.

Shout Out: use your voice, save the day feels hugely timely when we’ve seen so many protests these last 12 months.

We didn’t see it coming, but last year saw a lot of uprising and our voices and the voices of younger generations were heard – whether it was Black Lives Matter or the voting in the American election changing the course of history. We want kids to think they can do anything, that they are important, they are valued and that their voices matter. We see that in the plot, they realise that by protesting, their voices together have the capacity to incite change. Our characters in Shout Out have all got different things to offer and that’s how they solve the mysteries. If we collaborate, we’re much, much stronger.

Are you a major reader yourself?

I love reading. I’m now judging the women’s prize for fiction, which is obviously an incredible honour, but it does mean reading 57 books in two months! Every minute of every day I am reading. I’ve got through 30 of them so far. Our long list compilation meeting is mid-February, so I’ve got a month and a bit left. I’ve got post it notes all over the house; every time I have a thought, I have to stick it to the book before it’s too late. Bernardine Evaristo is chair of the judging panel. I’m obviously incredibly nervous about having to argue with her over the validity of a book being on the long list – she’s a legend!

What’s your self-care routine?

I love getting lost in a book, it’s my way of winding down. Right now, we’re all in our homes and it’s hard to set boundaries between work time and rest time. Usually, it’s having a glass of wine and sitting down with a book, that’s my home time. I try to get outside each day, but I also like to dance. It’s not just exercise, I just feel so happy dancing to bangers that are tracks I would be dancing to in the club. We’re not going to clubs and gyms: combine the two, put on an amazing track list and dance around like no-one is watching – it is pure, unadulterated joy and that’s my biggest self-care.

Shout Out: use your voice, save the day is out now. Click here to order from Waterstones. 

 Vick is judging this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the winner will be announced on 16 June 2021.

And for anyone looking for a little kids education inspo, check out Vick’s guest slots on BBC Bitesize and BBC Celebrity Supply Teacher.

PIC CREDITS: BBC and Arron Dunworth.

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