The programme is an almighty beast and it is a huge privilege to be occasionally trusted with the presentation of a true behemoth of arts broadcasting, but what I particularly appreciate about being in the programme’s driving seat is that it means it’s being presented by a voice and accent that sounds like mine, one that can only be taken for what it is: entirely of Yorkshire.
At the risk of starting an all out civil war, I’d also suggest it’s a proper Yorkshire accent.
That is to say, West Riding; none of your posh North Yorkshire cadence or the comical East Ridings lilt from my mouth. No, mine is a Keighley accent – as previously modelled by the Brontës.
That mine is an accent allowed to present as prestigious a programme as Front Row on a station as historically significant as Radio 4, is professionally fulfilling, of course, but it also feels important within a wider context.
Had I been raised in a Radio 4 household, which I was not, I very much doubt I’d have heard a Keighley accent emanating from the speakers at 7.15pm on a weekday night. As we continue our slow march towards equality, a Keighley accent on Radio 4 feels significant.
All being well, you will have heard me talking last night to comedian Rose Matafeo about her new BBC3 sitcom Starstruck. Matafeo was the first woman of colour to win the Best Comedy Show Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 and her new TV show is well worth watching.
It is also significant in that it features people of colour in a romcom sitcom that isn’t about race.
Matafeo’s character, Jessie, falls for Tom Kapoor, played by Nikesh Patel. Watching the first three episodes, it felt somehow revolutionary to see a brown skinned man on my screen and not have a ‘terrorist’ angle lurking in the plot.
It’s a small couple of markers: my accent on Radio 4, a woman of colour in creative control of a sitcom, meaning tired tropes of ethnic characters are deftly skipped over, but it feels like a moment.