Lockdown has been “up and down” – but losing the ability to concentrate on books hasn’t been a problem for Vick Hope. Which is lucky, as she had more than 50 to get through this winter, as one of the judges for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.
“I’m not gonna lie, I love books, but I was a bit delirious!” says Hope, 31. “I’d spend every minute when I wasn’t working just reading. But my favourite thing is books, so I feel very lucky. It’s a massive privilege to be part of the Women’s Prize.”
Not least because chairing the judges’ panel this year is Bernardine Evaristo, author of 2019 hit Girl, Woman, Other – “one of my favourite books”. It’s been a welcome way to fill time, too.
“I take escapism from books,” says Hope. “We don’t have that escape in any other way right now – you can’t travel, can’t see family, friends. That’s why reading’s so important, it gives people that.”
It doesn’t sound like Hope’s struggled to stay busy though. As well as her presenting work (there’s BBC Radio 1’s Life Hacks, among others), she recently had her own children’s book out – Shout Out, written with her former Capital co-presenter Roman Kemp. Hope, who grew up in Newcastle with a Nigerian mother and white English father, is also closely engaged with activism around diversity and empowering young people.
During the pandemic, alongside helping raise awareness and vital funds for Red Nose Day, she’s been supporting community volunteering work in East London where she lives. It’s helped her realise “just how hard it is for some people” in lockdown, especially disadvantaged families. “It’s Red Nose Day on March 19. The T-shirts are available in TK Maxx, with Pixar characters on, and the money goes towards helping people who are struggling at the moment.”
Here, Hope tells us more about following her own path, finding joy, and soaking up the journey…
Has finding balance with work and self-care been a learning curve?
“Definitely. I have completely tired myself out before – but I think that’s natural, we all find it difficult to find balance. It’s something I’m a great advocate of now, because I’ve had to learn the hard way, but I think 2018 was the year I burnt the candle way too brightly at both ends.
“In this industry, you’re trying to make something of yourself, trying to build something, you want to do a good job – so I did every job under the sun, I did the graveyard shifts. I used to sleep on the floor of the BBC in Cambridge when I was doing the Sunday morning graveyard shift; the last train was too early and the first train was too late and I needed to be there. At 4Music and ITN when I was on the entertainment desk there, I used to do graveyard shifts – and in those days, I used to go on to another job during the day. I barely slept.
“You kind of get used to it, and you’re young. But I learnt – in 2018, when I when I did have a bit of burnout – you need to look out for yourself – life is too short to just work. I love working so much, but I taught myself to be a bit kinder to myself – and it makes me enjoy work more and be better at my job.
“Working on breakfast shows was an amazing experience, but the lack of sleep over those years had a huge impact on me. I didn’t realise until I stopped. Everyone says, ‘Get enough sleep, get eight hours, drink two litres of water’ – all these things. As soon as I actually started doing it, I was like, ‘I’m a whole new woman!’ I take time out now and try not to pressure myself to always be achieving. I’ve learnt to find peace in day-to-day little things.”
How else are you taking care of yourself these days?
“Trying to take a walk every day, get fresh air and be in nature, that does wonders for my mood. Just looking up at the sky and the vastness of it… Sometimes I think you lose sight of your place is in the world, it can be quite overwhelming, you can sort of feel really big and really small at the same time. Getting outside helps blow the cobwebs away.
“I try and write down my thoughts and feelings if I’m feeling a little bit jumbled, just articulating them and getting them down on paper can make them feel less insurmountable.
“And exercise, music – I’m a big fan of dancing in my kitchen. If you’re stressed and there’s a lot going on, it doesn’t even have to be more than three-and-a-half minutes – put your music on, let everything else go out of your head and just dance like no one’s watching. No matter what else is going on in your day, that’s three-and-a-half minutes of pure joy that no one can take away from you.”
There can be so much pressure on us, especially women, to do things a certain way and follow a set path – is that something you relate to?
“Definitely. I think it’s a thing for every woman. I’m 31, and 30 is the age we’ve assigned this notion of readiness to, this notion of settling, which is neither here nor there, is it? You know, are we married with children? I’m not, and I think sometimes you’re encouraged by society to be a bit worried about that. But I’ve got to keep checking myself, to be like, ‘No, it’s OK, that’s not your path, you haven’t met the right person yet, so don’t worry about it’.
“We all suffer from loneliness from time to time and we’re isolated at the moment, and sometimes I do really feel that isolation, but I’ve learnt to be OK with my own company. I enjoy and choose to be taking great pleasure in doing things by myself, it’s liberating. And I don’t mind being on my own, I actually quite love it. It’s not necessarily a traditional trajectory, but I’m not really prepared for anyone to tell me what I should and shouldn’t have done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of having a body-clock, I’m aware I would like a family at some point, but that’s not really my focus right now.”
Is there a piece of advice that’s really stuck with you?
“People always say what advice would you give your younger self? Mine’s really simple; just enjoy yourself. A lot of people have said that through my life, but it’s surprising how often we forget, especially when you’re young and always looking at where you’re going next.
“When I did Strictly, I think it was Daisy Lowe who’d done it a couple of years before, she said, ‘My best advice is just really enjoy it’. I was like, ‘Of course I’m gonna enjoy it’ – but truth is, I did keep forgetting, because I was so worried or getting nervous about the Saturday night. I mean I absolutely loved it – the hair, the music, the team – the best thing though was to stop and think: ‘Just enjoy it, because this is never going to happen again’.
“So my mantra is remember to enjoy the ride. Enjoy the journey – soak it all up.”