‘Why we decided to do our podcast in the buff,’ say the women behind the Naked Podcast

Kat Harbourne and Jenny Eells are the women behind the award-winning Naked Podcast. Catherine Scott reports.

Jenny Eells and Kat Harbourne the women behind the Naked Podcast

When Kat Harbourne told her friends and fellow BBC Sheffield journalist Jenny Eells she wanted to make a podcast that explored issues around body image she jumped at the chance.

Even when Kat said they, and their guests, would be naked, she didn’t change her mind.

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“For me being naked isn’t really an issue but I know that’s not the case for everyone and we wanted to try and find out why,” says Jenny.

Kate Harbourne and Jenny Eells Picture: by Claire Wood.

Ironically it was Kat who was more bothered about stripping off.

“I don’t particularly like getting naked, so at points I’ve wondered why we’re putting ourselves through this,” she says.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve not felt confident about my body. In my thirties I decided it was time to change this and question why so many of us feel the same way.

“Why are we ashamed of what’s beneath our clothes? Why do we spend so much time worrying what other people think? Why don’t we celebrate the amazing things our bodies are capable of?”

Kat grew up in Eaasingwold with her family. Her mum died aged 54 from Huntingdon's Disease which she has a 50:50 chance of inheriting

She wondered what difference it would make interviewing people with no clothes on.

“Before we started recording, I wondered if conversations with no clothes on could be, quite literally, more revealing. And from the frank, open and honest chats we’ve already had with amazing women from all walks of life – they most definitely are.”

That was three years ago and two series of the Naked Podcast – the third series will go live on Monday, postponed from its original transmission date at the end of March due to coronavirus.

Both woman admit that to start with it was embarrassing as it is very personal – they hadn’t even seen each other naked before recording started.

Kat with her mum

“Taking your clothes off with strangers is quite an unusual experience, but it is a shared and intimate experience,” says Jenny.

“We’ve found it provokes an honesty and openness. There is a vulnerability but also a strange empowerment to the whole process. Kat and I have each shared stories about ourselves that the other didn’t know about.”

They feared they may struggle to find women to interview who would be prepared to be naked – they need not have worried.

“What’s surprised and amazed us is the number of women coming to us asking to be on the programme,” says Kat, who grew up in Easingwold, North Yorkshire.

Guests have included transgender radio and TV presenter Stephanie Hirst, who talked about spending decades in the “wrong body”, Isma Almas, from Bradford, who talked about attitudes to nudity growing up in a Muslim household.

Another guest was Sam Cleasby, from Sheffield, who described herself as a “blogger, body-positive feminist and a self-proclaimed ‘poo-lady’” after being diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease and undergoing life-changing surgery.

But it is not only the guests who share their intimate stories.

Kat’s mum died at 54 of the inherited condition Huntington’s Disease and there is a 50:50 chance she may also have it.

She talks about whether or not to have a test to confirm whether she has the condition which affects the brain and can result in memory loss, stumbling, moving difficulties and breathing problems. She has even made a documentary about her journey.

“If we were expecting our guests to have the courage to talk about things that were very personal to them then we had to be prepared to do the same,” says Kat.

“There’s a 50:50 chance I will have it, I am in my thirties now and I have to face the prospect that my body will just stop working. I just wanted to find somebody to tell me what to do but what I realised after speaking to a lot of people, was that it is better to live a life with hope than to live a life in fear.”

Before lockdown she was in training for the London Marathon for the Huntington’s Disease Association which has now been postponed until October. She has already raised £2,600 for the association, which works with families affected by HD, raises funds for cures and campaigns for more awareness.

“I’m not a runner and I never thought I would be running a marathon. Jenny and I have both done two half marathons and I wanted to see just what my body was capable of.”

Jenny talks about juggling her career and being a new mother, and how exercise helps her mental health.

Guests in the next series include BBC Look North presenter Keeley Donovan who wanted to talk about her changing body during her first pregnancy and Dr Victoria Bateman, a feminist and economist who often protests naked.

“We talk to her about how she uses her body to protest,” says Jenny.

“We try to talk to northern women about how their bodies empower them in different way,” continues Kat. “It is amazing how people are more open when they are naked. It fascinates me.”

With the Naked Podcast series Kat and Jenny hope to inspire a generation of people to feel more self-assured and proud of what is underneath their clothes.

To sponsor Kat in the Virgin London Marathon visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=KatHarbourne&pageUrl=1

Subscribe to BBC Radio Sheffield’s the Naked Podcast on BBC Sounds.