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Review of the year: 2020

Covid-19 has dominated the headlines this year and will continue in 2021. Mostly unrelated to the pandemic, it has been been a year where much-loved friends and family have passed. Like everyone, social contact has been limited, unless it’s taken place over a screen. There has been a lot of sadness, that’s for sure. It doesn’t need dwelling on, which is why I thought I’d make this review a look back at things to be grateful for.

JANUARY – MARCH

Life continued relatively normally up until March, although the virus was starting to spread more widely. At work I was out and about, reporting on stories. Then, the week before lockdown, I achieved a long-held dream which was to studio produce the breakfast programme.

A holiday of a lifetime had been planned for April to visit New York City to watch a Broadway show and see the sights. It wasn’t to be this year but I’m glad to have took the plunge to book something I had wanted to do for so long. The plans will hopefully not go to waste, when life gets a bit more normal and holidays can resume.

STAYING AT HOME

I started working from home on 19 March 2020, shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the nation to do the same, during the first lockdown. Underlying health conditions mean I’m classed as clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. As restrictive as staying at home for such an extensive period may seem there are advantages.

Not having to commute to work gave me extra time in each day. It’s been lovely to spend this with my fiancé, who has been shielding with me. When we both worked together in Blackburn we were able to take our lunch breaks together and it’s been nice to do this again, usually with our cat sitting on one of our knees!

In a busy life it’s all too easy to overlook some of the simple things that bring joy. I’d never paid too much attention to the changing of the seasons before. Noticing the plentiful flora and fauna around us and the way it transforms and continues – despite what nature throws at it – became a metaphor for the year. This enhanced awareness of the world around us is something I hope to take with me beyond 2020.

TECHNOLOGY

One of the best things I did at the start of the first lockdown was to set my parents up on an iPad. Something we won’t look back on because it’s been a great way to communicate. I normally visit my family in Manchester a lot and vice versa. To have this contact restricted has been difficult. Video calling on FaceTime has helped massively to feel a sense of connection, for which I’m grateful.

Using Zoom and Microsoft Teams has kept me connected to colleagues too. I was delighted to give a talk to journalism students at my former university, UCLan, remotely using this technology. Video conferencing also enabled me to be involved in BBC’s England’s Diversity Action Group. Connecting people and ideas across the north. I’m passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality and am glad I can be involved in this important area, alongside my job as a journalist.

This blog was updated more than I expected, as a way to document and diary my time, particularly as I was shielding. It’s been cathartic to do this and I hope one day I can look back on these posts when Covid-19 is a distant memory. This year has allowed me time to expand the pages on this website and very soon the content will all be able to be accessed by visiting www.katybooth.com.

A DREAM COME TRUE

In this challenging year, for so many reasons, a career ambition of mine was realised…

I’ve had such a varied career in broadcasting and journalism which has given me valuable experience. For the majority of time, this has either been as a freelancer or via fixed term contracts. I’m at a point in my life where I want to settle, which is something I can now do thanks to becoming a permanent member of BBC staff on a continuing contract. I’m delighted this can be in Cumbria – part of a talented team at a fantastic radio station.

The positive reactions to my posts on social media about this step in my career have been phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who has got in touch with kind comments It’s been nice to share such a joyous moment with so many people.

AND FINALLY…

2020 has taught me not to take anything for granted – to take a day at a time. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to Covid-19 or other causes. Just because the date changes doesn’t mean the problems of the pandemic will go away. We all need to be as vigilant as ever. However, a new year brings new hope. I wish you health and happiness in 2021. Stay safe.

Happy new year sign
Happy New Year!

Timing is everything

Listening to the latest episode of The Diversity Gap podcast on Spotify, something instantly struck a chord with me: “Timing is everything”.

“There are some thoughts you can share… and they fall completely flat. It’s almost as if no one was listening. But then, you can share that same thought in the right cultural moment and it sets the world on a different trajectory altogether.”

Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.

You could make a statement at one point in time and nobody would take any notice but you could say it at another moment in time and it resonates. I feel that’s what we’re currently witnessing for the Black Lives Matter movement. For years, decades and even centuries people in the black community have been speaking of their views about prejudice. Now others are taking notice.

In news for something to be on the agenda there needs to be a ‘peg’, something to hang a story on. This could be an anniversary, event or development. The death of George Floyd was that moment. He died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

I cannot profess to be an expert in racial issues. I’m a white woman of privilege; someone who has experienced prejudice in life but in a different way to that of racial tension or oppression. However, I’m someone who can hopefully be seen as an ally, who’s passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality. I’ve tried to educate myself in the issues that are being discussed, watched the coverage, read articles and spoken to black people to hear their views.

It should not have to take the death of a man to make people take notice. When anyone raises concerns over the way they are treated we, as a 21st century society, must listen. (Not just pay lip-service. Lip-service is akin to ignorance.) Then, if necessary, make any changes that come out of those conversations to quell inequality.

Systematic changes can take time but, as Bethaney Wilkinson says in The Diversity Gap podcast “timing is everything”. Social change is possible and maybe the time for that in terms of race relations is now. We’ve already seen global protests, statues taken down and police officers charged, in the three weeks since George Floyd’s death.

“Diversity is about dignity. It’s not about metrics and marketing and money. It’s about real people, real stories, real lives.”

Bethaney Wilkinson – The Diversity Gap podcast.
Episode: Building equity from the ground up with Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson.

Racism is wrong. Diversity is something to be celebrated. And, when prejudice occurs, it must not be ignored.

#BlackLivesMatter

Hear the Lionesses roar!

I’ve loved football for as long as I can remember but there’s something about this World Cup making it extra special. It’s seeing fellow females competing in the sport at the highest level and given priority in broadcast schedules. It’s as simple as that – but long overdue.

The games have been of a superb standard and seen by more people than ever before, with a record for the match between England v Norway of 7.6 million viewers. It was even shown on big screens at Glastonbury Festival, thanks to this tweet from forward, Georgia Stanway:

Women’s football is nothing new. One of the first teams in association football were Preston’s Dick, Kerr Ladies, that was founded in 1917 and in existence for more than 48 years. However, a ban in 1921 by the Football Association prevented the women’s game being played at its members grounds.

Retrospectively, players from that pioneering era are now starting to be given the recognition they deserve; a statue of Dick, Kerr player Lily Parr was unveiled in May at Manchester’s National Football Museum. The first female player to be honoured with a statue anywhere in the country.

Trailblazing in those footsteps have been many, but arguably at a time when there was less attention on the women’s game. The England team of 2019 are currently in the spotlight and manager Phil Neville told BBC Sport about the legacy his team want to create:

“We had a camp last year and we set out the objectives for the next 12 months… all I wanted them to say was ‘win the World Cup’.

“But they were thinking bigger than winning a World Cup, which knocked me in my stride a little bit.

“We want the Lionesses to have a name that people around the world can relate to… badass women. That was our mantra.”

Now games have been broadcast on BBC One, rather than tucked away on another channel or shown via the Red Button, it subtly helps to normalise the women’s game and makes it available to as many people as possible.

The consequence of this should not be underplayed: inspiration. Young people watching may want to follow in the Lionesses ‘ footsteps and become footballers themselves. It also shows young girls quite clearly that you can do this too. In 2019 Britain, gender shouldn’t be a barrier for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams.

There’s still more to do in this respect. The previous team England played was Norway, in that country there’s parity of pay for players of the women’s and men’s game. For equality to be achieved between both genders then pay must play a part.

It’s also quite acceptable for women’s teams to be managed by men but not vice versa. However, as seen by the calibre of play in this World Cup, I could see members of this England team: Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Ellen White et al managing a male team in years to come.

That would be fantastic. I hope that if / when it happens the overriding view of society sees it that way too. I grew up with boys telling me I knew nothing about football – just because I was a girl. How wrong they were! I trust those archaic sexist attitudes, particularly in school playgrounds, are starting to change for the better. What England are doing, as well as having broadcasters on board for this World Cup, is surely helping.

I didn’t think I could love football more but seeing the Lionesses in action, smashing stereotypes along the way, I couldn’t be prouder to support their campaign both on and off the pitch.

The next step is to face tournament favourites USA in the semi-final. Come on England!