13 Aug, 2009

‘A lot of arts stuff is quite snobby’

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

Lauren Laverne tells Hannah Pool why snobbery in the arts world doesn’t bother her

When you started on TV there was quite a bit of fuss about you being blonde, with a brain, and knowing your music.

Yes. At the beginning I got offered loads of stuff about football. It was the era of the ladette. I just passed on those things, but it was amazing how for such a long time people only offered you that Loaded view of what female presenters were all about.

Did you consciously think, I’m not going to be a ladette?

I just wasn’t one. I only ever do things that I watch, or I would enjoy. I don’t just think, that’s the most money, so I’ll do that. That’s not a very good path for any aspect of your life. It never bothered me, the “oh, you can’t look a certain way and be clever at the same time” thing, because it’s always better to be underestimated than to disappoint people. If they think I’m a bit thick, maybe they’ll get a nice surprise.

Do you think radio is sexist?

Radio’s not really sexist. It’s just run by boys so it’s the most socially maladjusted industry that you could ever wish to be involved in. I love it. Anybody with a brain who does both TV and radio will tell you radio’s better. It’s more fun, it’s immediate, it’s engaging and people really care about it. It’s for geeks and I’m a geek so it completely resonates with me and I’ve loved it from day one. But it’s run by people who haven’t left a studio in decades. Those kinds of boys just don’t know what to do with girls; it’s just a bit like [comic shop] Forbidden Planet. Would you want to go in there? It smells weird and sells funny stuff. That’s what radio studios are like. Ladies just walk past.

You got quite a lot of flak when you started on The Culture Show because you’re a woman.

It was a mixture of things. It was also because a lot of arts and culture stuff is quite snobby and I’ve got an accent and I didn’t go to university. They were virtually having to sponge the coal off me before I went on set. There were obviously a few feathers ruffled.

Did that upset you?

No, only small people take offence. I don’t care.

You must care a little bit.

Nobody likes to hear people saying horrible stuff about them but to be honest, I’m a happy person. I know my shortcomings really well and I know my strengths too. If criticisms are accurate then it’s more hurtful, but if it’s “you’re a brainless northern dolly bird”, that’s actually inaccurate, so it doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m not looking for approval. I’m going out and doing my job, and I think largely I do my best at creating interesting programmes.

Have you toned down your Sunderland accent?

No, I really haven’t. I moved to London when I was 18; I’m 31 now. That’s a fair while ago, so it’s definitely mellowed. And being married to someone from Stratford-upon-Avon you pick up each other’s accent. My little boy’s got a weird hybrid accent.

You’ve been referred to as “the thinking man’s crumpet”.

What is there to say? It’s very flattering.

Are you political?

I had a leftwing upbringing. Both of my parents are academics, professional brains. I grew up in Sunderland in the 1980s. One of my very first memories is my grandad being on TV in the miners’ strike, so people can draw their own conclusions. But we’re not allowed to talk about politics on the BBC.

Are you a feminist?

Yes, of course. I know why you’re asking it, because people now say no. But how stupid do you have to be to say, “No, I believe in gender inequality”?

What are you listening to at the moment?

Ape School are really great; they’re newish. The new Bonnie Prince Billy stuff; Tiny Masters of Today’s new album, Skeletons – that’s really good. Friendly Fires, even though everybody loves them – they’re great.

Lauren Laverne will be hosting the Edinburgh Festival Show, 19 August, 11.20pm, BBC2. Her 6Music show will come from Edinburgh on 15 and 22 August at 4pm.

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