Vick Hope

Getting To Know Vick Hope

Luxe editor Elysia Fryer is delighted to check in with Vick Hope for a virtual cuppa to discuss her career, goals and growing up in Newcastle

Vick Hope is ‘the girl next door’ with the power to speak up for a generation. She’s bright, bubbly and a bundle of fun, but she is also passionate about human rights and how we can all do our bit to make the world a better place.

She is a familiar face in the entertainment world, clocking up appearances live from the BAFTAs, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity… The Daily Drop and many, many more. Amongst various other projects, her day job is presenting, but she’s not one to hide behind the microphone.

She is everywhere – and we’re loving seeing her flourish.

Her portfolio doesn’t stop in entertainment. She is a tireless human rights activist and campaigner, an ambassador for Amnesty International and she also volunteers at a refugee charity local to her in Hackney, London.

She’s a trailblazer when it comes to all things innovative, relevant and meaningful. She’s a natural when it comes to educating and inspiring.

Described by Sunday Times Style as the ‘voice of a generation’, she’s certainly one to look up to.

Drive and determination are some of the words that instantly spring to mind when chatting to Vick.

Having worked in the industry since she was 19-years-old, she knows a thing or two about finding a voice and using it as a tool to make a change.

A passionate, multi-skilled and multilingual individual, the power is in her hands.

She’s a generational leader in the media world, and as we see her popping up on a number of different platforms up and down the country, we were delighted to get some time to check in with the talent who quite proudly hails from Newcastle.

As her career reaches new heights with recent projects including a judging role in the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2021, an inspiring new podcast and the release of her second children’s books with Roman Kemp, we go back to where it all began… “I grew up in Newcastle and went to Dame Allan’s School,” says Vick.

“When I was starting to think about further education, I had my sights set on a languages degree at Cambridge. My school didn’t actually do Spanish, so I had to do extra night classes at Gosforth High.

“I was adamant I wanted to study languages. I’d read The Kindness of Strangers by Kate Adie, a foreign correspondent from the BBC, and I had imagined that I would do that job – in a hard hat and a bullet proof vest, reporting from a warzone. So I decided that I needed to do languages so it would open up the world to me.

“I went on to study languages at Cambridge and did my year abroad in Argentina. I got an internship at a newspaper called The Argentina Independent, covering everything from Latin American current affairs and politics, to news, arts and culture. I did lots of other odd jobs – I worked for a human rights film festival as an events organiser, I did some translating, I worked in cocktail bars, I worked for a taco company – handing out nachos followed by a mariachi band – I even worked as an online dating assistant. All sorts of jobs.”

Vick’s next venture came after meeting the team from MTV US while working out in Argentina.

“They were filming a pilot and needed a presenter, so I screen tested, and that was my first little taste of presenting,” explains Vick.

“It never went any further than that, but I really enjoyed it. I love communicating and telling stories, so it just clicked.

“When I came back to finish my degree, they put me in contact with MTV UK and I did some work experience with them. It was literally helping out around the office during the holidays. As soon as I graduated they offered me a paid internship and taught me everything from shooting and editing, to script writing and interviewing. It was such a brilliant training ground.

“I then moved over to ITN to work on the breakfast news. I was doing the full reporting 360, right from scripting and picking the footage, to editing and then presenting. I did that every night from midnight to 8am – it was nuts, but it was great. From there, other television work followed, with the likes of 4Music, ITV2 and Channel 5. I was just doing lots of freelance work, building up my contacts.

“Every job is as important as the next one, so there was no real destination in mind. The only thing in my whole career that I had on my dream ‘to do’ list was Life Hacks on Radio 1.

“When I was growing up, I religiously listened to the Sunday Surgery show on Radio 1. They talked about mental health, they talked about sex and they talked about relationships. I felt like they were my friends, there was a real sense of community. They talked about things that I felt, but I didn’t know that other people felt it as well. It was a really special place for me, and I knew that they helped me, so if I could help others in that same way, then that would be a really brilliant job.

“I’ve always loved radio and broadcasting as a whole, but this year I’ve realised just how important it is as an outlet. It’s a companion, a community, a comfort at a time when people need it most. I like to imagine that I’m talking to one person – they could be in their car, sitting in the living room, cooking dinner – whatever it
is that they’re going through, hopefully we can be there for them. Life Hacks is a show that has the power to do just that. I know that there’s other young people listening in the same way that I was in my bedroom all those years ago.”

Between her regular work for the BBC and many other presenting gigs, Vick uses her time to enlighten and educate, whether that’s through charity work, working with children, writing or using her voice as a platform.

One of her most recent projects, and something she is particularly proud of, is her new BBC Sounds podcast, Songs To Live By.

“The podcast is a celebration of black voices, of black culture, of black history, but through the music that we love,” Vick explains.

“So, it is reggae, hip hop, R&B, soul, gospel, afrobeat – the tracks that really mean something to people. My guests include sports people, artists, actors, activists, poets – the list is endless. We’ve had the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah and Doc Brown and Mica Paris.

“We have two guests of two different generations on each episode. The idea is that we talk about our history and where we’ve come from, but also learn from that and discover where we’re going. They pick two coming-of-age tracks – it could be the track that you remember dancing to with your parents on a Saturday night, it could be the track that you snuck out to go to hip hop clubs and listen to, it could be a song that sparked your activism.

“It’s basically a listening party. We find out the stories behind them, why that track means so much to them, what was going on in their lives at the time and how it made them feel. It’s like Desert Island Discs, but celebrating black voices. We talk about some pretty heavy issues like civil rights and Windrush and racism, but equally, it’s about joy and how magical music can be.”

Vick and I are catching up on 21 April 2021, the day following the George Floyd verdict – an incredibly significant moment in history.

“Songs To Live By feels more important than ever right now,” she says.

“The Tuesday after the death of George Floyd, I remember Clara Amfo speaking up on Radio 1 and it was probably one of the most powerful pieces of radio I’ve ever heard. She was so distraught and distressed, but also showed extreme passion.

“She said: ‘Look, you cannot enjoy the rhythm and ignore the blues.’ And that’s what this podcast is all about. It’s about acknowledging how far we’ve come, but also understanding that we’re not there yet. There are obstacles that we’ve had to overcome, but let’s look to the future with optimism. Music has the power to tell that story, and that’s what we aim to do, in an uplifting, joyful way.”

Vick’s work as a human rights activist takes her way back to her school days. It’s something that is instilled in the way she lives and works.

She is here to make a change, and that’s exactly what she has set out to do, since her teenage years. “I’ve worked for Amnesty International for over 15 years now,” says Vick.

“I remember being in a religious studies class at school; we were learning about freedom fighters – people who had been detained, tortured and even killed – for peacefully standing up for what they believe in.

“When you’re a kid you actually have a more clean-cut sense of morality. You understand that one thing is right and one thing is wrong; it’s only as you get older that you start to realise that there’s a difference between the truth and remaining true (to a cause). At that age, I remember thinking, that doesn’t seem right, what can I do about it?

“I raised the question with my teacher and she introduced me to Amnesty International. We got involved in a letter writing campaign where you write letters to governments who are wrongfully detaining people and put pressure on the media to report on it to bring publicity to these injustices.

“We’d get together weekly and write our letters. I carried that into uni – we had a little crew of us who would gather in my bedroom.

“When I went to live in Argentina I started reporting on the improper use of tasers by the metropolitan police in Buenos Aires. I was interviewing some people from Amnesty for that and started helping out with the campaign. I came back to London and worked on a few campaigns for Amnesty including the Women Breaking Barriers campaign and also led the women’s march.

“What they do is very tangible and practical. I care deeply about human rights. I really can’t stand injustice and inequality, and it’s really as simple as that. Every single person on this planet deserves to enjoy the rights that are enshrined in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I was so honoured to be asked to be an ambassador last year.”

When she’s not presenting and campaigning, Vick spends time writing with friend and once co-presenter, Roman Kemp.

“Roman and I have worked on two books together. We’ve got Listen Up and we’ve got Shout Out – they lead on from one another and they’re all about Arthur and Grace, who are two kids that start a radio station in their school and they have rival radio shows, but they realise that they’re more powerful together.

“They’re books about using your voice, about speaking up for what you believe in and telling your own story. They’re about realising that we all have different talents and different things that we’re passionate about, but actually, if we work together and learn from one another, we can make positive changes.

“I was a very avid reader when I was younger and I just remember loving that feeling of getting to the end of a book. Every kid deserves to feel that excitement, to have that escape, to see themselves represented on the pages of a book.

“Our books are full of all the different personalities we experienced growing up, because sometimes, if you don’t see yourself represented, you’re not sure where you belong. Kids just want to fit in, but the truth is, we should all be celebrating our differences. When you do see yourself represented, you get confidence, you belong and you find your voice.”

Vick’s love of literature doesn’t stop at children’s books. Not only does she use the Women’s Prize For Fiction as her own reading list, she has actually been involved in the judging process for 2021.

“I started working for the Women’s Prize For Fiction two years ago on their Young Adult Reading List campaign. It was a push to get as many kids reading as possible,” says Vick.

“Following that, I was asked if I would be interested in judging, which is such a massive honour – to be on a judging panel with Bernardine Evaristo – it’s insane.

“It starts with reading 144 books, choosing 16 for the longlist and finally narrowing it down to six. I’m so proud of the list because it covers so many different topics, genres and backgrounds.

“The list is out now, so go and check it out. Every year, I go to Waterstones, buy every book on the long list and go from there, so to be involved in the decision making, is just a total pleasure. The list serves to uplift and champion women’s voices. It’s a wonderful thing to be involved in.”

Everything Vick does, in her working life and in her own time, serves a purpose. From presenting and writing, to podcasts and charity work, much of what she does is about finding a voice – something so important in a world where it is proving more difficult to speak up and be heard.

“If we can do something to shine a light on those voices that aren’t being heard, we can really make a difference,” says Vick.

“Particularly when it comes to helping those who have not been given the same start in life. It’s our responsibility. Everyone deserves to tell their own story – to own their own story. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been silenced or exploited. Everyone needs to be given a megaphone every so often I reckon!”

There are many ways in which we can find our voice, Vick tells me. Writing and telling stories – an outlet we share as fellow journalists – is certainly one of the ways; but for Vick, music plays a pivotal role.

“Music has just always been everything to me,” she smiles.

“I remember walking around Newcastle with my Walkman and just enjoying the moment. It was my chance to just ‘be’. The best music is the music where you lose yourself, but you also find yourself.

“I grew up in a very musical house – not in terms of talent,” she laughs.

“They just loved it! My mum would make up dance routines to Diana Ross and The Supremes, I learnt about Nigerean history through afrobeat and highlife, it was so important in our household. We would have people round and my dad would just jam with his friends in the living room. Everything had a soundtrack.

“I used to go to The People’s Theatre in Newcastle and I remember walking home listening to my favourite tracks, breathing in the city – I love my city, I love Newcastle. I’d walk down the Quayside, I’d walk through Jesmond where my grandma lived, and I’d have a soundtrack that spoke to me. At that time, it was The Coral and Athlete and Snow Patrol – I was really into indie.

“As soon as I could go to gigs when I was about 13, we’d go to the student unions. My first gig was Athlete on my 13th birthday, but before that, I was literally breast-fed at festivals. My parents used to take us to WOMAD. All of my pocket money would go towards going to gigs, I just loved it so much.

“I can’t wait for live music to be back. There’s nothing like that feeling of being pressed against people you don’t even know, and all of a sudden, the drop comes in and everyone feels that same thing at the same time. What a powerful thing. I miss the drop!”

That is exactly what the Songs To Live By podcast is about. Whether it’s music that sparks activism, or a track that brings nostalgia, it’s fascinating how it can be radical, it can be political, and it can be educational. There’s so much to learn from it, and Vick is excited to take us on that journey.

Alongside music, Vick’s family heritage and culture has a lot to do with the way she has the power to, not only light up a room, but enlighten the people within it.

“I am grateful for my mum and dad in everything that I do,” she says, smiling.

“I’m always in awe of my mum’s resilience and her spirit. She has overcome so much and you wouldn’t be able to tell because she’s really happy all of the time. She lived through a very bloody civil war in Nigeria, she went through a famine, she was running from air raids and bombs.

“She came to this country when she was 11 and lived with her siblings on a street where there was a ‘get the darkies out’ petition. She didn’t speak a word of English. For me, it’s unimaginable, yet she’s so unbelievably happy and full of joy. It’s black joy – it’s radical – and it’s instilled in me. The importance of hard work, graft and kindness.

“I’ve got three brothers and I’m probably the most neurotic out of all of us. I’m a worrier and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t stop. I’ve got better at it, but there has been a lot of time where I’ve been letting things get on top of me rather than taking stock of the amazing things going on around me.”

When she does enjoy a well-deserved break, Vick likes to read, visit flower markets, watch the world go by from her flat in Hackney, walk, run and dance.

“Being able to put on a track that I love and dance in my living room is a real escape for me. For those three minutes, nothing else matters, and that is just magic.”

But real downtime comes when she returns to her home, her beloved Newcastle.

“Before the pandemic, I really upped the amount of time that I was going home,” says Vick.

“Fresh out of uni, I was sort of caught up in setting up my own life, but now, whenever I can, I like to get home and spend some time with my family.

“Admittedly, I don’t get out much when I’m back in the North East because my parents are now in Northumberland, near Hexham, so I just like to eat my mum’s home-cooked Nigerian food and take in the countryside.

“We go for walks around Derwent Reservoir and get together for a pub lunch out somewhere nice. One of my best friends lives in Stocksfield, so we’ll go to the Dr Syntax for a drink and a much-needed catch-up.

“Newcastle will always be home to me. My heart is always going to be there. I wouldn’t be able to live there and do the job that I do currently, but I wouldn’t rule out moving back at some point in my life.”

Songs To Live By Is available now on BBC Sounds The Womens’ Prize for Fiction winner will be announced on 7 July.