With skill, talent, and application Nikki Fox has become a regular face on British television. She might be presenting a piece on the nightly news bulletins as BBC News’ Disability Correspondent. Or she’s reporting on a consumer issue on BBC's Watchdog and increasingly, she randomly appears on The One Show. Last year she was named as the most powerful disabled person in the UK. How did she do this?
Unsurprisingly she’s had to work very hard to get to the place she’s is now. Be it early starts at 2 AM for Cambridge Radio, wandering down Oxford St interviewing the public for a fashion show, and learning how not to be overly self-deprecating.
Nikki says she’s always had a relaxed attitude to being disabled, it’s just the way it is. However, she doesn’t have a full diagnosis, a name for her type of condition and she is interested in the impact this can have on people.
We managed to spend an hour with Nikki talking about her childhood, her sister, University, and the early days of her career. Nikki is a fantastic guest. Open, honest, a natural talker not surprisingly, and good company. We hope you enjoy listening to her as much as we did.
The Disability Discrimination Act and Me - BBC Ouch podcast
This is The Way We Roll with Simon Minty and Phil Friend.
Simon Minty 0:12
Welcome to The Way We Roll with me Simon Minty.
Phil Friend 0:16
And me Phil Friend,
Simon Minty 0:17
We have a special guest on today, someone you may well know she's regularly on television. She is the BBC Disability Correspondent.
Phil Friend 0:26
It might be a feature on disability rights or support or she might be talking about consumer rights on the BBC's Watchdog programme.
Simon Minty 0:33
And I just really sort of understand her on a very deep level because she was also in the Power 100 list. I mean, when I when I say she was in it, she only topped it. We are talking about Nicki Fox. Hello Nicki.
Nikki Fox 0:48
Hello, guys. Oh, what an introduction. What's an intro? Yeah, did I topped it I know, I still can't believe it actually
Phil Friend 0:57
Simon, of course, didn't. He came somewhere else we featured this in another previous show? Simon's top 100. Nikki, you've reached a point in terms of working on TV that many people might envy. What they may not realise is the amount of hard work that's got you there. You started out on local radio, then joined a training scheme at Channel Four, then made a one-off documentary. and on it goes.
Simon Minty 1:23
And that one-off documentary was called Adventures of a Blue Badger. That was a radio one, wasn't it?
Nikki Fox 1:28
That's right. Yes. that was a radio one, Simon,
Simon Minty 1:44
And won Sony awards. And then you also presented the fashion show How to Look Good Naked with Gok Wan and our mutual friend Shannon Murray. So did anyone get naked on that show?
Nikki Fox 1:44
Shannon did a good job of it, didn't she? But she wasn't naked though. She was looking very beautiful in lingerie. And I'll tell you what my proudest moment for me. The best moment of that whole show was I had to go on the streets of London with a big poster of Shannon on a bus looking we know Shannon, she's just completely stunning, isn't she? Shannon on the side of a bus and I remember I stopped someone and I said, so what do you think of the poster then and he went it's you isn't it? You know, there's me. I was looking horrific. I had no eyebrows at the time. But none whatsoever. I think I was wearing a monstrosity of a furry cardigan. I couldn't have looked anything less like Shannon. But he said yes, it's you isn't it and I thought I'll take that.
Simon Minty 2:31
I always thought you were gonna be a producer. But was it always the plan to be the presenter?
Nikki Fox 2:36
No, it wasn't you know, Simon, to be honest. I mean, I studied music going way, way, way back. And after my degree, I was working on the checkouts and I didn't really know what I was going to do. And then this place that I was working, it was like an office. They were making us all redundant. So I just sort of quickly, very hastily searched for jobs. I thought I did a music degree. I'm not good enough to be a performer. I don't want to be a performer. I wasn't a good enough songwriter. Let me try radio. And that was literally that's all the thought I gave it. Like, let's try radio. And then I found a job at BBC Radio, Cambridgeshire, that was in Peterborough and I lived down south. So it was, you know, getting up at two in the morning and getting there for six o'clock and my lovely Mum because at the time, I didn't really have any help. So my mum was the one that was getting out with me at two o'clock with us to you know, how we walk and help me get ready. She did it for well over a year. So I couldn't, you know, going above and beyond, isn't it really. But if I hadn't got that job, at local radio it was telephone answerer position, I got to do a few bits and bobs on air, but I wasn't very confident I didn't particularly enjoy it. My main job was just to, you know, get listeners calling up. And I'd be like, Hi, oh, would you want to talk about today? And then if there were good talkers, put them through to the presenter, you know, and I loved it. I loved it. But yeah, I wasn't confident on air. And I stayed there for about a year, a year and a half, I think, getting up at two o'clock does send you crazy after a while, you know, so I left and then I was unemployed for a time and it was actually my sister that found the Channel Four's disability researcher training programme. And I thought I could give that a go, did it, I didn't really think much again, didn't really think much about it. But just thought TV would be a good industry because I love people and talking to people and getting and finding stories. So I went for that. And I remember on the interview. I was very nervous. I was on my scooter because I started using a scooter at that point. I was on my scooter and my handbag got caught on the accelerator and I went flying through the door. Honestly, I ended up under the table. And they asked me questions like, you know, what do you think it means when a production company makes a programme in house? And I think my answer is something along the lines of, I don't know. Do you put us up in a flat? Thankfully, Alison Walsh was there. And who'd worked in TV for a time and Alison Walsh, thankfully saw something in me? And I actually did get a place. And that's how I landed at Maverick television who made How to look Good Naked. And I remember on my first day, I was a, I was a runner, and I was they were, I think I had to go through an inbox and try and find people who didn't like their bodies, and wanted to be on How to Look Good Naked with Goc call them, interview them and see if they were right for the show. And at the end of my first day, I thought, right, this is it, this is what I'm good at. It's really nice to find something that you feel you're good at, because I didn't for quite some time. And at that point, I remember it distinctly I was like, No, I can do this. And from that point on, my goal was to become you know, like a will go from runner to researcher to assistant producer to producer still had absolutely no desire whatsoever to go on TV. I mean, the state of me Minty honestly I'm not joking, I had crooked teeth, bright yellow hair, adult acne. I think I was on some very powerful medication at the time and to try and get rid of the spots! You know, I didn't want to go anywhere near a camera.
Simon Minty 6:09
You were very good interviewee because you you've managed to cut through our first seven questions in your answers which is remarkable. I love this. This is going to be the easiest one ever. (Laughter)
Phil Friend 6:24
I want to just pick up on a couple of things you've already said. I mean, first of all, I love this story of you on your scooter and getting jammed under tables or whatever. But also then describing being a runner, that that always amuses me when disabled people in wheelchairs and scooters. But tell us a little bit then you've referred to your impairment. But what is the story in your disability credential and I have to share with you I think we've got something in common you and me, which is that I believe you're a caliper person.
Nikki Fox 6:55
Phil Friend 6:55
For listeners who don't know, these are mechanical splinty things that are so delightful to wear and the most comfortable fashion items. I used to have them too and I used to saw through mine with hacksaw blades. So they'd snap,
Nikki Fox 7:07
Phil Friend 7:09
Yes, I couldn't wear the bloody things they were horrible. But your story what's the disability angle from your point of view?
Simon Minty 7:16
Well, Phil, my sister, and I were both born with muscular dystrophy. So what they sort of described it as mild congenital muscular dystrophy, non-progressive is how that's what we knew at the time. And, and it's from birth. And we actually we have to stand in front of the TV with our calipers on. I remember us watch Pebble Mill or something. But I think my mum, you know, at the time was told we probably won't walk. We had to go to hospital appointments a lot. We had to go to Hammersmith Hospital three times a week, I think my mum used to get up and we lived in a flat with stairs. So my mum had a right job on her hands. My dad was a builder and was working a lot. So my mum would have to get up very early in the morning, get two disabled kids in the car and take all the way out and she parked outside Wormwood Scrubs, and then got us into Hammersmith ridiculously early. And you know, it's just I have memories of having to walk down the corridor in my vest and pants or something, you know, just so they could sort of look at the way that we were walking in our gait and all of that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I've done that at Great Ormond Street.
Nikki Fox 8:27
Simon Minty 8:28
You just walk up and down the corridor in your underwear.
Phil Friend 8:30
Yes you're an exhibit, aren't you.
Simon Minty 8:33
so unbelievably random and I remember it so vividly. As well as I don't think I liked it at the time
Phil Friend 8:38
What sort of age were you at that point. Do you remember? Five or six?
Simon Minty 8:43
Probably a bit older than that actually, kind of went on for a while with those appointments went on for for a long time, you know, and it was all you know, checking your resistance, you know, those sorts of
Yeah, yes. squeezing and could you push back? Yeah. And would you save all your strength? So when they said to squeeze it, you would squeeze their hand so hard to try and mildly hurt them. (Laughter)
Yeah, and I always wanted to be the best as well. And I always want to feel I can do this. I can do this. And we used to have muscle biopsies as well, but it was mainly me who had them because Rachel was younger, and I think mum and dad bribed me with cash. And I remember them being very painful. But actually, as it transpires, we don't as I've got older, I mean I'm 40 now we still don't know exactly what kind of congenital muscular dystrophy we have, the specialist that I found in Oxford who's now retired, said that there was very there's very little information about me and Rachel§§ despite all of those hospital appointments because there was a fire at Hammersmith hospital. And a lot of all of our notes were destroyed. But they have got one muscle biopsy from me. That's been saved. My mum and dad have gone for a blood test and my sister is going to go for one soon, so we'll probably go into that in the genome project. So we can know because, you know, we know we've got congenital muscular dystrophy, but within that, there are lots of different types.
Did they save your biopsy because you're on television?
Nikki Fox 10:17
Yeah, they knew they spotted it. They were like this girl walking up that corridor she's gonna be on How to Get Naked one day.
Phil Friend 10:26
Are your calipers in the British Museum? (Laughter)
Simon Minty 10:31
We'd be looking at FMD so it's Foxy Muscular Dystrophy you got your own strands. And if I was a kid, and I got Muscular Dystrophy Oh, what does that mean? You go Yeah, you got the Foxy type. Oh, cool.
Phil Friend 10:45
You'll end up being you know, beautiful and a presenter on TV.
Nikki Fox 10:48
Oh You two!
Simon Minty 10:48
Oh here we go Phil starts
Nikki Fox 10:53
The flirting begins.
Simon Minty 10:56
He never stops. (Laughter) We did have a question about Rachel. Are you like twins? Are you thick as thieves? Or are you very different as individuals?
No, we are best friends. Me and my sister. There's a two year age difference between us Rachel is two years younger than me. And we are very, very different. Even to the point where our disabilities are kind of different as well. Everything that I can do Rache can't everything she can do I you know, I can't it's really strange how we're very we're really chalk and cheese in that way. And also in our personalities as well. I mean, Rachel go anywhere near a camera be the last thing she does.
She's right next to which is why you're being really nice!
Yeah. When she's gone I'll tell you the truth?
Phil Friend 11:42
Yeah. Give us the lowdown.
Simon Minty 11:43
I'll be honest, we've got a podcast with her after this. (Laughter). So are you competitive? I can imagine the two of you kind of egged each other on in a nice way in a supportive way as kids did that happen?
Nikki Fox 11:56
Rache is not so I have no problems with being disabled. I quite like many things about being disabled. I really do. Rache is a positive person, but she's not as to how do I say this? She's right next to me! This I'd say this in a better way in a minute for you guys. (Talking to Rachel) But would you say the Can I say that? You probably don't love being disabled quite as much? In some ways. (Rachel responds) She doesn't even think about it. She's telling me I think well put it this way. When I first started using a scooter. It didn't bother me whatsoever. I didn't really think you know about it much. Because we both walked until well, for me, it was about my mid-20s. Rachel, unfortunately, had a few accidents where she broke her ankle. So that put her back a little bit when it comes to her strength because if we don't keep using our muscles, we lose them. So obviously, if you break your ankle, you can't walk for six months, you're going to lose a lot of strength, which unfortunately happened to Rache and for me, I sort of stopped around 25 because I was just falling over too much. But like I say to you know, I started using the scooter around the time I went to Radio Cambridgeshire, if I didn't have that scooter, I probably wouldn't have been able to have taken that job. Because at the time I had to take everyone's arm to walk. I couldn't walk on my own and it was only a very small radio station, I wasn't going to be able to say to the presenter who was on air, oh could you walk me to the kitchen. So I've got a very real fondness attached to my scooter. You know, I always say that, as my sort of walking declined, my career took off, because I actually could do so much more in the scooter than I could ever do when I was walking you know, even wherever I parked up, I used to have to assess why what's the pavement? Like? Is there a step? Am I going to stack it, you know, and that I couldn't walk for very long at all. So actually, my life was so much more restricted
Simon Minty 12:06
How many of you stumbled I'm interested in you in this field. I mean, your disposition to sort of be I'm happy this is me is a really lovely way to be I'm sure because you know we get enough grief as it is. I have a mobility scooter very similar to yours. And I was looking at moving house and everybody I spoke to said Oh look, there's a cupboard, you could put your scooter in there. And I never got it and I sort of get it as in if it's sticking out in the living room it's a weird thing to have in the middle of the living room. But I adore it and I need it and I want it immediately there. I don't want it tucked away in a cupboard that takes a while to get it out. So I didn't understand. Phil, do you? I can see your wheelchair right behind you and you're sitting in one. Do you worry about your bits of kit?
Phil Friend 14:38
No, no, not at all. I think a bit like Nikki I walked until I was I walked as an adult. But like you Nikki I fell over a lot and gradually and as my strength. Well, I had polio so yeah, you know, it's slightly different. So, so I ended up using a wheelchair initially for sport to play basketball and stuff I loved it and then I got out of it and I walked about. But then, as I say, I ended up in a manual chair and now I'm in a power chair because I'm just an old man and can't do half the things I used to do. I have never, I like you I felt truly liberated by my chair. It made life so much, better but I know Simon when I first met Simon he didn't use a scooter at all. He walked everywhere and I've watched Simon liberate himself by using his scooter.
Simon Minty 15:29
Actually, you have reminded me so and we'll let you back in at some point, Nikki. (Laughter)
Nikki Fox 15:36
I'm enjoying this.
Simon Minty 15:38
When I first got the scooter, I left it at our office for the night had an office and I left it there. Was that because I lived upstairs or was it because I didn't want it hanging around?
Phil Friend 15:49
it was more of the latter. I think you were just still adjusting to using it. I remember social working you for hours and hours. (Laughter)
Nikki Fox 16:00
Sorry, took you a while to get used to it then Simon?
Simon Minty 16:02
I am trying to remember I did live upstairs there's no way I could have physically carried it up there. It was impossible. Then I graduated from in the office to having it in the car. I think it was a mixture. Because there's that little bit of you have to think about it. You have to think about charging it and all those sorts of things. But the liberation was huge.
Phil Friend 16:03
I was going to ask you, Nikki about the image thing, because you said you know, Rachel had more difficulties than you did? Did you worry about the way it made you look when you were out and about on it, or just it just wasn't an issue?
Nikki Fox 16:37
It's strange. I didn't in the scooter. I mean, I do care about how I look, I mean, Simon knows me very well. I like to always be dressed up I full face of makeup on fashion is very important to me and how I look and how I present myself. In the scooter I didn't, I didn't worry so much. I do remember at Radio Cambridgeshire when I used to walk. It used to take so much energy for me to put one foot in front of the other. You know, my little heart was always racing. And I was actually I could eat whatever I wanted, you know, why would you literally pull up to a fast food place and be like have nine hashbrowns and a bacon roll, wallop that down two hours later I'd do something else. But then I started using the scooter I do remember gaining about what felt like two stone in about two weeks. Because I sat down with it all I was conscious about that. It was like okay I need to be a bit careful because, and again, it's not a vanity thing because you know, I've got no problem. You know, I like having boobs and a bum, and all of that it's just, you know, I was still doing a bit of walking all be it very limited. You know, the heavier I am, the harder it is for me to walk. So I do have to be careful with that. But no in the scooter apart from thinking about that I was fine. However, at home, I do use an electric wheelchair, I can take that chair out and about onto the high street. And actually, I was a little self-conscious The first time I took out on the high street. Don't get me wrong. This was a bit of a fleeting thought and it didn't last for long at all. When I'm you know I bowl around anywhere in anything, to be honest with you. For me, it's never how other people really view me. It's how I view myself and how I view how I've managed everything because like I say, you know, I do want to be as strong as I can. And that's not because I want to walk everywhere. You don't care. You know, that's fine that ships way sailed.
Phil Friend 18:36
There's no I mean, having a serious impairment that limits your mobility and so on doesn't mean you don't want to be fit.
This is The Way We Roll hosted by Simon Minty and Phil Friend.
Phil Friend 18:50
Just go back a bit Nikki, I mean we didn't get from you was your education pretty normal.? Did you go to the sort of normal school stuff? (Laughter) Oh! Dear!
Nikki Fox 19:00
It was rubbish know I we went to mum found a school which was in Ruislip and that was a primary school. We didn't live in Ruislip we lived in Hillingdon and I remember mum managed to sort school transport which I think at the time was quite a big deal. And so we managed to get there but I think it was very difficult for my mum really. And but the school we went to it was like a mixed school so there were people there that didn't have a disability and people that did like myself. And it had a brilliant banging hydrotherapy pool I remember it and I love swimming and I know that's where my love of swimming comes from. And it was brilliant. But I do remember I've said this quite a lot for being taken out a lot of classes to go for a swim. And these are like your English, your math, you know, your real essentials subjects that you know at that age, you really need to try and get your head around. So I always say I was a great swimmer but I'm just a bit thick. I'm not but I did struggle. And I do think that that was partly an issue because I, you know, I missed a little bit in that primary education because after then I think that the option was to go to a school for disabled people, you know, just disabled people ought to go to mainstream, my mum wanted to put us in a mainstream school. So she literally had to put us in the only school that didn't have steps. And that was a school called Swakeleys in Hillington. And I have very, very fond memories of my school life. Or, you know, I didn't have any friends at my school who were disabled. I was kind of the only one so I think that's where I learned to be funny, because I probably thought of I do remember at the very beginning thinking, right now Foxy, I was a bit sort of, I was a bit cunning. I was like, right, Fox, if you're going to survive this, you're going to have to be really funny. Really, really funny you'll have to make people laugh. And you're gonna be really good at lots of things. I think I remember once thinking and maybe one day be famous. I don't know why that crossed my head.
Simon Minty 21:08
I want to jump forward your degree in music you mentioned, this was piano, opera, music criticism. I love music criticism as an idea. Is Lloyd Cole, still part of your top list of favourites?
Nikki Fox 21:26
Do love, do love
Simon Minty 21:27
I can't think of a better question? And how important is music in your life? And is this You started it so you enjoy it as a pastime, or where does it fit?
Nikki Fox 21:35
It's, for me, I think it was what got me through through life really, which sounds a bit dramatic. But like I said before, I am blessed to be a very optimistic happy person. So I don't, I try not to dwell on a lot of stuff for too long. However, we all have our moments. And when I did have my moments, music was the thing. It was my escapism, you know, whether that was back when I was younger, you know, putting on Wuthering Heights and dancing around the dining room, which I used to do because I appallingly wanted to be a dancer when I was younger can you imagine the horror when I tell people that I wanted to be a ballerina. But my mum was very good. She said she got me like a little sort of ballerinas outfit. And I used to dance around the living room. And you know, and listen to music, and I grew up but you know. Simon knows this. I'm a huge Kate Bush fan as well. And my family very much into music. And you know, I used to go around the school in the 90s, listening to Sergeant Pepper and, you know, Kate Bush and the B52s and all of this sort of music that I could just, I don't know, just escape and dream. And yeah, it got me through a lot actually music and I love it very much. Actually, when I studied it I was I know I do sometimes I'm a bit too self-deprecating, but I wasn't I was never excellent at music. I was grade seven piano I was, you know, going from my grade eight, I did a bit of guitar. I sang I wasn't a brilliant singer. But I did opera and stuff at uni. And but you know, I wasn't really good enough to be a performer neither did I want to be a performer a§§ctually, I actually wanted to write music. But I knew that that wasn't going to be a possibility. I was quite I'm quite realistic. And when I did it as a degree, it was a very long degree because I for the first couple of years, I didn't do very well and I thought well, I can't my parents have spent money. You know, I can't come out of uni after three years with a, you know, fail. So I deferred and moved closer to home because partly at the university, the first university I went to, I was assured at the time that it was very good when it comes to disability. Actually, it was a honker, it would have been alright if I knew about the mobility scooter at the time, but it was huge. And little things I couldn't park outside my lodge, you know where I lived. So I had to walk and I often stacked it. It was just it was difficult for me. So my mum said why don't you defer move closer to home and then finish and I got a degree in the end. But the point of that is the whole experience of being University which I don't think I would do again. It did sort of slightly spoil it a bit to me with my love for music and I had to take a couple of months out of I just sort of forgetting about it and then you know now I'm I just appreciate music and I have a go at karaoke and that that's what I love.
Phil Friend 24:39
I was just gonna ask you did your impairment affect your ability to play and so on at that point or?
Nikki Fox 24:46
Yeah, I the piano when because I was lucky enough to get lessons right from primary school that was another really good thing about the primary school that I went to. And then mum and dad's, you know, must have worked very hard. You know, it's expensive, managed to keep me in lessons with the same teacher that I had a primary school. And because I was playing a lot, it was fine. But what happened was when I, after my degree, I saw it was like, I'm done with this for a while now just got it. Yeah, I didn't play. And because I didn't keep up with playing, I lost the ability to play because my hands have gone a bit, well, a lot would have gone very stiff. And I can't even get them in the right position on the piano now, that was just not a lack of understanding really, about my disability. I've learned things over time, but I didn't really think back then didn't twig Nikki if you don't keep doing it, you're gonna lose the ability to do it. And so I can't, I mean, I could read music now. I know, I would know what to do. I just, my hands won't do it. But I've got a ukulele!
Phil Friend 25:52
How does that make you feel that you used to be able to play but you can't?
Nikki Fox 25:56
Yeah, it's a shame that I don't have more photos Phil to be honest. Because I was like, honestly, I was really good. Like, I was grade seven. And I was, you know, I was gonna do my grade eight. But yeah, I think I'm annoyed at myself. But I try not to dwell on it too much. But, you know, it's just one of those things, isn't it? It's just one of the things I didn't know. And I should have just carried on playing. I should have just carried on playing
Simon Minty 26:24
Well, I'm trying to think of using your nose or using one of those paddles in your mouth. can't really do the piano with that. You'd have to be so fast. (Laughter)
Nikki Fox 26:32
Could you imagine you'd be like, fizz-fuzz fuzz fizz fizz I've got big enough head for it. But yeah, now it does. I'm a bit silly. Really. I was I was silly. But you know, there are worse things. And I'm, you know, I can still play the ukulele.
Simon Minty 26:49
Is that new are you good at the ukulele?
Nikki Fox 26:53
It's very, you know, I started playing a couple of years ago. Stopped for a bit. I've got a new ukulele I had to play a bit for a Watchdog film that I was doing recently. So I dusted it off. Minty.
Phil Friend 27:04
is George Formby your favourite?
Simon Minty 27:07
Frank Skinner plays as well.
Nikki Fox 27:09
Frank Skinner does, yeah, he does. But you know I'm gonna practice a bit more on that actually. Yeah, I just love listening to music. I appreciate music. I am a music nut.
Simon Minty 27:20
I love now that you do. Sometimes you do very serious stuff on BBC News, or you're doing Watchdog, and your also your very own personality, you've got a way that you come across when you present. This is a long way as ever with my questions, which is, do you think you've deliberately stopped being self-deprecating as you were? And was that helpful? I,
Nikki Fox 27:43
I would say yes, I have tried to stop it. I think I do have my moments. People tell me off my loved ones tell me off. My professional colleagues tell me off. I do have my moments, but I have tried to stop because also, I've been mentoring some, some journalists at the BBC and I tell them to not be so self-deprecating, so I have to take my own advice, because it is a defence is a protection, isn't it? It was a good gag as well. I mean, I've got some good gags where I put myself down, but you can't you can't do that forever. And at all and actually, I've got to the point now, where I have confidence in the amount of work I've done and how hard I've worked. And I'm yeah, I think that it does come with time and when your confidence grows, it helps me hugely helps. And, you know, I think back I think No, do you know what didn't walk the stuff. I mean, even to the point when I was a Maverick television and we used to these away days at Channel Four as part of our training. I had no PAs I was literally just turning up in London and stopping strangers to ask me to get my scooter out of the car, you know, I had nobody to help, go to the bathroom and do stuff like that I was just the stuff that I've done but yet, I've still got to the point I've got and I've, you know, I've made countless documentaries, and I've got this job now. And I do Watchdog and you know, don't get me wrong. I still think there's a lot more that I can do. I think I can still be better in a lot of other areas. But I know I've worked hard and I know that I'm good in certain areas. So I've tried to stop being so self-deprecating, because I think I did take it to the old XXL extreme.
Phil Friend 29:21
I have in my head an image of you, which I'd love you to tell me about what it means for you. It's the clip of you on the News with all the children running along with your scooter. And you're in a desert environment, you know, a village in a desert. And for me, that is such a powerful image of, your a woman in that environment. You know, there's a number of things that go off in my head every time I see you in that and I do see you in that very many times at night. So I mean, when you look at that yourself? What does that say to you?
Nikki Fox 29:59
It does make me feel quite proud actually Phil. That's very, that's really lovely of you to say, I think that was when we were filming in Jordan, we were making a documentary on what's it like for disabled refugees, Syrian refugees in Jordan. And we were out there with a charity. And I remember that I have such It was difficult but I have such fond memories of that documentary. It's one of the actual documentary itself is one of the things I'm most proud of. But that particular moment with the kids was just, it was so memorable. And when I look at that, I just feel joy, that I actually got the opportunity to go and to meet these people. And they were pretty phenomenal and what was nice is I got to go there and it was it you know, I saw that the situation that a lot of people were in was so impossibly difficult, you know, there was all different kinds of impairments people had all different kinds of impairments. And for whatever reason, but then, you know, when we weren't filming, we were all sort of like, like hooking up on Facebook and having a laugh. And there was also a lot of joy. And I think you can find a lot of joy in a lot of desperate situations. And that's how I feel when I see that particular shot, which runs on the countdown clock doesn't it. I thought they got rid of it.
Phil Friend 31:20
No, no. And I think the other thing that strikes me about it, I don't know if you've thought of this, but because to me, is it's the one-shot in that montage that's joyful. All news isn't bad, but it's the disability bit what message are you sending out to other disabled people?
Nikki Fox 31:41
I haven't thought about it like that actually Phil. Because I do think about things like that I do. I am you know, I do get I've got to that age now where I get very annoyed if tonally things are wrong when it comes to disability. And I have been known recently to fire off very many emails to my bosses, who appreciate them very much actually. But I'm just thinking particularly now, especially with the use of the word vulnerable that we're hearing an awful lot with the extremely vulnerable list. And, you know, I've just got to be in my bonnet that has the BBC, we make sure that we use the right language and we use a positive, you know, more empowering language and not so yeah, I'm firing off emails left right and centre at the moment. But that's what they want from me. That's what they said. That's why they pay me so that's good. But yeah, I do I that's nice of you to point that out Phil to be honest because I hadn't actually noticed that all the rest of it is very serious journalists.
Simon Minty 32:47
Phil has it as a screensaver Nikki which kind of spooks me. (Laughter) I like you do that role within the BBC and that goes back to you give them feedback, you are very assured in your position and your ability that you can feed that back in. We all know people work on television, it's exhausting. It's tiring, all the other things, any top tricks for those who are listening going? Yeah, I want to but it is exhausting. Or my impairment might be an issue. How have you navigate your way through and any top tips?
Nikki Fox 33:21
Well, I would say I did it the hard way because I was learning at the time. And also there weren't so many opportunities, as there are now for somebody who's disabled that wants to work in journalism and TV. So I got lucky with the Channel Four scheme. But there are a lot more popping up. And there are a lot more brilliant opportunities at the BBC, I would say, don't necessarily do it as hard as I did it. I would say yes, you do have to work hard, but also, I can only speak on behalf of the BBC, because that's what I know, mostly now. But there, for example, some absolutely phenomenal disabled journalists who have come through the BBC Extend scheme, who have now got full-time jobs at the BBC. And they have so many different types of impairments from invisible disabilities, you know, they've got the whole range. And they have taught everybody that they have been with over these last few years, how they need to work for the BBC to get the best out of them. And I've been hopefully I've been there to sort of back them up if they need it. But like I have a wonderful, wonderful friend who I've been mentoring, she has an invisible disability, and she needs to work in an entirely different way. You know, she's not going to be in the office every single day. Not a chance, you know, but the girl is as bright as a button. She's talented. She has so oodles to offer. And she has to do that sometimes from her bed. And that's just the way it has to be. And I think the BBC definitely can see you but there's still a long way to go in many areas with disabilities. But they are definitely making progress on that front. And I'm trying to do my part now as well and be a bit stricter with certain things. also, you know, put my foot down when, you know, things are, you know, a call sheet comes back, and it's like, just, I don't know how I'm gonna do this, you know, I'm actually no I'm gonna have the confidence to say, that is a little bit too much. I am going to be outside a bit too long. If I do get too cold, that is going to affect me, I'm not gonna be able to walk or move for a good six hours after that. So no, because I'm thinking, well, these guys are doing it. So I'm going to do it as well. So I think I know what you have to offer, and being realistic with what you can do. And there will be an opportunity for you. And if there's not speak to me,
Phil Friend 35:48
I suppose. I'm wondering, Nicky, you know, I'm older than you. And I go back to the days of the Peter White, you know, dear old Peter White who is still doing his thing, and how far it's come in that, you know, there you are now. And I was saying to Simon before we started our conversation that the first disability news correspondent and I'd always thought Peter was the first correspondent, but he wasn't news was he was doing magazine type programmes and stuff. You were covering live news events and commenting on news events. How I mean, the responsibility on you must feel at times very heavy, or am I wrong about that?
Nikki Fox 36:34
Yes, I do, actually. And I've noticed that a lot more, the longer I've been in the job. I think at first for the first couple of years, I was really finding my feet. I was supported very much by Ruth and Dave, who I work with because we work as a team, we're disability unit, didn't really know what I was doing. You know, I had a very good journalistic instinct, but I wasn't, you know, I hadn't written scripts for the six and 10 in two hours before, you know, so I relied heavily on them as I found my feet. So that was what sort of took up my spare time. Just be good, be good, be good at the job. Like, no, you know, you deserve this, you know, make sure you know, I didn't deserve this. What I was thinking at the time was to make sure people know why you're in this job. You've got to be good if that makes sense. And as I've got on I am, especially throughout Coronavirus, throughout the pandemic, it has weighed quite heavily on me and a lot of stories have kept me up at night. What I find frustrating is there is only one of us and there is so much to cover and you can't get through it all. And we do stories for the six and ten for the national news, and online and digital. So we can't do the smaller stories, which are just as important. It's just not possible. So I think I you know, I'm hopeful hopefully, we're gonna get to a point where it's not just going to be me, there's going to be a nice team of other journalists that can sort of cover other stories as well. And I know JH she's got some great plans and she's doing some great stuff. And you know, I think that's where we will get to eventually.
This is The Way We Roll hosted by Simon Minty and Phil Friend.
Simon Minty 38:16
But you do the good thing is you know that you speak to all 14 million disabled people, don't you before you do anything you check with all of them and get their opinion. So you know, you're complete? Because that's easy to do that isn't it?
Nikki Fox 38:27
Yeah. Honestly. I mean, when we finished this podcast, I rinse through a good couple of thousand. You are on the phone a lot. And I that I think it's Well, that was what was difficult was I was on the phone, throughout lockdown, you know, from March, I think from March 16 onwards, I didn't stop for one minute, and I'm not moaning about that. But I think that combined with the fact that I was on the phone, continuously to people in really terrible situations, and I am quite a sensitive, soul deep down. And I like to think I'm a little empathetic. And actually, it was sort of I was trying to sort people's situations out as well as report on the situation. You know, I found myself actually trying to sort really sort of situations out rather than report on it. And that worried me as well. So when it came to food shopping and all of that problem with the, with the priority list, I actually found myself trying to sort it with all the government departments rather than actually get it on the six and ten. But you know, same with certain family situation, situations, you know, so yeah, it did. It was hard. It has been hard, it still is quite hard at the moment. And I think I'll always feel like I'm not doing enough.
Simon Minty 39:37
That's really hard. And I think pandemic has meant some people have had less because of the nature of their work and there are others like you who are just triple what you did. And, you know, I know I can speak on behalf of me and Phil we think you do a brilliant job and love what you do, but it's impossible for you to be able to cover everything all the time, that way, I can see why you want it. But that's such a harsh or high bar, isn't it? It's impossible.
Nikki Fox 40:07
It's impossible. And I mean, you know, I've got you, brilliant guys, at Ouch as well who do phenomenal things. And I feel, you know, it isn't just me, we've got loads of people doing brilliant disability stuff across the BBC, it's just, I feel the responsibility because my marks on the six and ten I feel responsibility and there are so many things that I want to do. And I also very much want to do longer-form programmes and doing stuff in two, three minutes is really difficult, really frustrating, I'm sure, you know, Minty, it can be really hard. So I, you know, I want to do that I want to do more, I want to do stories that I know I can't do, I also want to get a balance and you know, do some uplifting stories as well, because I've always been very, very firm and adamant about that I want to get a good balance because we need some positivity as well. And I, you know, positive in disabilities is a big thing for me. And, you know, I want to show amazing, phenomenal, intense, you know, phenomenal people,
Phil Friend 41:01
Obviously, your primary role is news. And that's what you do. You're also seen on the Watchdog programme, which is a different thing. And you're seen there and that's you in a more in quotes, entertainment type environment. But you talked about increasing the numbers of people that you know, will be involved in covering disability stories. Do you think that there is a problem around broadcasting generally media generally about engaging and employing disabled people to bring their own angles to this?
Nikki Fox 41:40
Yeah. And I think actually, to be fair, that's harder to get that sort of stuff on. I think, the one thing about me is I've got this role. So I know, I'm here. I know what I need to do. And I know what we'll get on. I think that there are also like you said, People with all kinds of impairments working at the BBC, they've got loads of different types of stories to tell the incredibly interesting and actually is a lot harder for them to actually get those either on digital or on to six and ten or whatever. But there are people doing that. I mean, you know, the extent trainees I mean, Lucy Webster often does stuff she's done stuff, for Newsnight she's done stuff for BBC Breakfast it is difficult. I mean, because I, I do remember when I first started out, I think what got me to where I needed to be was the fact I used to carry a massive folder. A big old nerdy folder full of ideas, about stories, different people's stories, different topics different. Yeah, it was all just really related, related, I wanted to do disability, you know, for me, I feel privileged to be able to do disability, and I wouldn't change that. And it's good to get a balance with being a Watchdog as well, just because it's good for representation. But I love disability. And, but that I had these ideas, ideas are great, but actually getting them to the point where people get to see them or hear them is difficult. It is hard. There is no doubt about it. But what I do know, because I'm getting to be part of these conversations now as the BBC are trying to make that a heck of a lot easier. And again, my advice would probably be to anybody that wants to be a journalist in whatever topic it would be if they have a disability, would be to look out for these brilliant schemes like extend because they are a good way in
Simon Minty 43:16
We had another number one PowerList most person in the world Alex Brooker not long ago, and he jumped from regional news to the Channel Four scheme and off you go. And that is definitely evident not everyone's going to, but there are people who will, will come through, normally Phil does this, I'm gonna do it this time. I'm scared. We're gonna run out of time you've alluded to your folder of ideas. you've alluded to wanting to do more, we talked about music. Is there anything you can tell us that you're planning to do in the future things on the horizon? Or you'd like to do?
Nikki Fox 43:55
What I would love to do and this is no secret amongst my colleagues. I would love to make a documentary. I wouldn't mind looking into the area of diagnosis, because I do know I have muscular dystrophy, but I don't know. And I'm saying this I'm such a presenter. But the reason I'm saying that is because it's good to have a little personal take to do a documentary to then really, it's not about you. It's just a reason to go and meet other people in the same position as we all know what TV is like, but because I don't have a specific, you know, diagnosis, it'd be nice because I know and have met so many families who do not have a diagnosis for their loved one for their child and life is just so difficult when you do not have that label for so many reasons for managing your condition for accessing the help that you might need. It's just it's difficult. So there you go there's my pitch
Simon Minty 44:49
I've got a title because you got "Who do you think you are?" But you could be "Who the hell am I" Nikki Fox, who the hell am I
Nikki Fox 45:00
That is brilliant!
Phil Friend 45:01
And What have I got? Who the hell am I and what the hell have I got?
Nikki Fox 45:06
Oh my goodness. You guys that is I'm gonna have to that. I'll tell you.
Simon Minty 45:11
It's been a joy to have you on. We wanted to speak to you forever. Thank you so much for your time. And more importantly, thank you. It's your job. It's what you do, and you're good at it, but thank you for doing it for us, you know, doing you doing all the things you have to do. It's an immensely difficult job. So thank you.
Phil Friend 45:30
Thank you, Nikki. It's been a joy. So nice to talk to you. Thank you very much for your time. Brilliant.
Simon Minty 45:37
Well, thank you, guys. I've loved it thank you lots of big kisses for you both!
This is The Way We Roll presented by Simon Minty and Phil Friend. You can email us at [email protected] or just search for Minty and Friend on social media. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.