Sara Cox interview: Bonding over chips and gravy Till the Cows Come Home

Sara Cox, a Lancashire lass in London
Sara Cox, a Lancashire lass in London

Her dulcet tones grace the airwaves every teatime on  BBC Radio 2, she has a new TV show on the cards and this week her very first book has been published.

So some might forgive Sara Cox if her accent had gone a bit, well ‘Laandan’.

But no, the DJ and TV presenter may have lived there longer than her upbringing near Bolton, but the northerner in Sara remains strong.

And if her new book is anything to go by, her heart is still very much in the Lancashire she identifies as the home of her childhood, even if strictly speaking (whispers) she’s from Greater Manchester.

Like so many with Red Rose blood running through their veins, for Sara old Lancashire will always be home.

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Her love of the place resonates strongly through her autobiographical ‘Till the cows come home’, a book described as a ‘love letter to childhood, family and growing up’.

At 44,  married mum-of-three Sara is clearly feeling nostalgic for her northern roots .

“If I lived up north I’d definitely have a horse, my kids would have ponies and I’d have  a little bit of land but that isn’t going to happen in London. I can’t really buy Hyde Park , probably quite spendy!” she laughs.

Things are really talking off again for Sara, born Sarah with an ‘h’, whose career is on fire again after what she once described as a little time in the wilderness – though it was hardly that.

From her start in TV on the ‘Girlie Show’ (not what is sounds like as she explains in the book) to her stint in the plum job as Radio 1 breakfast show host, she has enjoyed a glittering career  in TV and radio by anyone’s standards.

She now,  among other things,  shares her unique brand of warm, quick-witted, and self-deprecating chat with millions of Radio 2 listeners, steering the helm of her own drive-time show.

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If that’s not enough, it was this week announced she will host her own  weekend show on ITV.

The Sara Cox Show will feature entertainment, live music and celebrity guests.

As Sara enthusiastically tweeted: “What a year! How many dream jobs can one woman get?”

Safe to say she’s quite busy  and is speaking to me on the day of her book launch, after appearing on Lorraine, then leaping around in various book shop windows for social media for her book launch, undertaking phone interviews – and all before her radio show that night (where she does an extra hour because Jo Whiley got stuck on public transport).

“When you’re  freelance you never quite relax – you always feel you should make hay while the sun shines – and can’t say no!” she explains.

No wonder Sara occasionally has pangs for her childhood in the semi-rural north, where she grew up partly on her father’s cattle farm.

She has fond memories of the whole area including nearby Preston and Blackpool.

“The main thing I know about Preston is Preston Farmers as I used to go there  with my dad to pick up cattle feed,” she says.

“ I also used to drive through Preston en-route  to Blackpool which always has positive connotations for me”

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The seaside resort was a particular favourite.

“Usually as a family we used to go to the illuminations or for days out.

“I absolutely love Blackpool. So much didn’t make it into the book. So much goes on when you’re  a kid – I keep remembering bits and pieces from that time.

“We used to go clubbing at The Zone in Blackpool near the seafront and we used to get whipped by the wind as we stood outside shivering in our hot-pants.”

Sara has always dreamed of writing a book – but wasn’t sure if she even could despite her column duties for various newspapers.

“My agent looks after Graham Norton as well and Graham’s now on his second novel and written two or three books about himself.

Sara Cox - Till the Cows come home

“Every time they said Sara should write a book.  I didn’t want to  do a parenting guide and people kept suggesting random subjects but whenever I talked to anyone I always ended up talking about the farm or going to the carnival.

“ So I thought the best place to start was with what you know about. So that was what I did!”

Till the Cows Come Home is true to Sara’s personality and moves deftly back and forth from life on the rural adventure playground of the farm and living above a pub, to her childhood and teen dramas, horsey anecdotes,  her start as a model and in TV and her revenge on the school bullies that made her life a misery  – live on radio.

Perhaps surprisingly for the original ladette, she writes with aching sentimentality about the North West with highlights of growing up in the Madchester years, with trips to the Hacienda and wearing Kickers and Joe Bloggs jeans, something anyone of a similar age will be familiar with. But her heart clearly lies on the farm.

“My dad’s farm is not in the middle of nowhere, not quite a city farm, but it was surrounded by houses which gradually creep ever nearer but I did absolutely love it.”

She says she loves  her London life though she aches for a bit more green space.

“The ability to have that bit of space, a couple of big dogs. I’ve thought about hens pecking about the place, laying eggs, but there are so many foxes in north London they wouldn’t last long!

“Tortoises, a cat and dog and hamster is my little farm.

“One day I’d like to get back out to the countryside.”

She makes up for it through her love of camping, taking the whole family to a Camp Bestival each year and taking in the fresh air.

“There’s the same kids there every year, they run off in little gangs in the countryside, they are not near a screen, sort of what we did.” she says.

But the north will always be her spiritual home.

“I am biased but I do feel like people in Lancashire are more friendly.

“London is my home now and I love it but I do feel it’s so bustling and people don’t have time to pass the time of day – which you don’t always want to do as you rush to work.

“But people up north do try and strike up a conversation.

“Also, I miss chip shop gravy which is the first thing that springs to mind – before the people,” laughs Sara.

Her accent is a talking point only occasionally now:  “Cabbies always think I’m from Yorkshire! I put them straight right away…

“You can’t mention a barm cake or a bap on the radio or you get the world’s biggest bread debate.

“I’m really proud I come from the North West.

“I’m painted on the back of a lorry somewhere with  Peter Kay, Vernon Kay and Fred Dibnah!”

She’s made it.

This feature first appeared in Lancashire Post and associated titles HERE


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