Tue 05 May, 2024

Kathy Burke on National Prison Radio

The beloved award-winning actress and comedian Kathy Burke recently took a visit to HMP Brixton to be interviewed by our team at National Prison Radio.

Kathy is one of the most loved British actors of her generation and is known for playing notoriously funny characters over the years.

She’s been involved in her fair share of shows and films, notably French and Saunders, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Kevin and Perry Go Large and Harry Enfield.

More recently however, Kathy has fronted a series of documentaries for Channel 4 that address challenging topics such as what it means to be a woman in today’s society, wealth and societies relationship with money and whether ageing still defines us today.

Her interview with National Prison Radio touched on her experience of being in care, mental health, cancel culture and wokeness, and the current debate of the middle class domination of the arts.

Kathy told National Prison Radio presenter ‘M’ about how her mum passing away at the age of 2 resulted in her spending time in care for a period of time in her life – something that many prisoners can identify with as nearly half of all under-21s in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care.

“I was fostered for a bit and we were under the care of social services, very similar to a lot of your colleagues. It was tough, but I look back, and I’ve said this before, I never felt looked down upon but I think nowadays people in care systems, people on benefits, they’re really looked down upon and I think its outrageous. Things need to change. I just think the world should be a better place by now”

Kathy has not been shy over the years about discussing her struggles with mental health and it’s opened up a lot of important conversations.

‘M’ asked what advice she would give for anyone listening to National Prison Radio who is struggling with their own mental health:

It’s talking, sharing, if you’ve got things on your mind, talk to someone because it does ease whatever is troubling you”.

She mentioned how she is a big advocate for therapy and that a positive of today’s society is that men are getting better at talking and there is lot more understanding about men’s mental health. She said “it used to be they were told to buck up and get on it” but now it’s encouraged to open up: “if you’re struggling, ask for help, there is nothing wrong with asking for help“.

Since 2022 Kathy has also interviewed a wide variety of people from comedians, film directors, musicians on her popular podcast Where There’s A Will, There’s A Wake which asks guests if they could plan their perfect death, what would they do?

National Prison Radio presenter ‘M’ asked Kathy out of the people she’s had on her podcast, whose answer was the most memorable? She told us the comedian Bob Mortimer – he wanted to die by fighting a bear to his death!

‘M’ asked the common question guests receive when they visit HMP Brixton for the first time: what do you think?

Kathy told ‘M’ it was her first time ever setting foot in a prison. She joked that when she walked in, it was only the prisoners aged 40 and over who recognised her.

She also talked about the irony of this being her first ever time visiting a prison as her very first acting job in 1982 was playing a prisoner in the film ‘Scrubbers‘ – which depicts women’s experiences in prison. She told ‘M’ a lot of the actors were ex-prisoners and it was one of the best jobs she’s ever had.

Recently it’s been reported recently that ‘fewer than one in 10 arts workers in UK have working-class roots‘. Kathy told National Prison Radio that we should be encouraging diversity amongst the arts, as it’s great thing. This is one of the main motivators behind our talent development programme, which aims to provide opportunities and pathways for talented producers and presenters with prison experience to break into the broadcasting sector post-release.

She said that young people being able to create content through alternative media outlets, such as TikTok and Youtube is ‘marvellous‘.

‘M’ was intrigued about how she thinks she’d get on if she ever got sent to prison. Kathy laughed and reckoned she’d be the nanna of the wing.

Kathy’s interview will be broadcast on July 10th on NPR Talk.

National Prison Radio is the world’s first national radio station for people in prison. It’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on in-cell TV.

NPR Talk is our talk show helping listeners find their future. The show focuses on issues in prison and features news, interviews and banter. NPR Talk broadcasts every Wednesday at 12:00 and 18:00 on National Prison Radio and reaches over 80,000 people behind bars across England and Wales.

National Prison Radio was founded by the Prison Radio Association – a registered charity. Shows like NPR Talk help people to cope with life inside prison and thrive on release. If you would like to support our work, and enhance the futures of people in prison across the UK you can make a donation at prison.radio/donate.