I’ve just received word that my friend Jane Kitson has died. At the moment I don’t know how or when, but obviously I’m in a state of bewilderment.
I met Jane quite by accident. A mutual friend and told me that she was putting together a fanzine and was taking submissions. I thought I’d try my luck, having written for various ‘zines and the odd newspaper before. I was told to take my finished piece to the old Radio Sheffield Studio on Norfolk Street where she’d be preparing for “ROTT”, a groundbreaking community access programme. Once I got past the formidable receptionist, I made my way to the studio and found Jane trying to interview a stoney faced musician… she was the only person that had arrived and operating the studio required two people.
When I made myself known, she glared at me and said “Right, when I sit on that chair, push that button and keep quiet”. She ran off, sat down next to the grumpy musician, I pushed the button and an interview was secured. I popped in for five minutes and stayed for nearly 10 years.
Jane did that and I have to thank her for make my life so much more interesting, fun and so much more worth living.
At some point, we had a bit of a falling out, I’d been ill and in my delirium had said some pretty unpalatable things. Although, the illness was blamed, and we forgave each other for everything, I don’t think we ever truly recovered. We were still good friends, still did the same stuff, still had a laugh but something indefinable had changed. We talked about it a lot and neither of us could really figure out what it was that was causing the problem. Things had just changed. My suspicion, though, is that she didn’t suffer fools gladly, and I had become something of a fool. By this, I mean that I think she became frustrated in watching me squander my “considerable talent” in favour of the trivial. With the benefit of hindsight, she was right. That’s exactly what I was doing.
Anyway, Jane went to University, I carried on with the radio stuff and time passed.
When she came back to Sheffield, she slotted back into the replacement show for ROTT, called Listen Up, very well and it was like old times. Jane’s passion and zeal for Sheffield to the fore as always.
I always admired her passion for Sheffield. Whatever happened to Sheffield, she was there. Anything that brought kudos to the City, she was there, flying the flag. She worked at the Student Olympics as an ambassador, she can be seen on film riding on the first ever Supertram journey, she was one of the first people through the doors of Meadowhall and she tirelessly supported and aided the creative talents of Sheffield.
Our zeal for the promotion of bands is what kept us together as friends and when Listen Up was eventually axed, the two of us fought tooth and nail to keep the local music aspect of the programme alive. We were given a 30 min slot on Sunday evening to do that.
For 18 months, we had a compete blast putting that show together, playing some fantastic music by amazing local bands as well as interviewing bigger bands. Much the same remit as Listen Up and ROTT really, but just the two of us, instead of the 30 strong team that the previous two shows had.
While doing “Prick Up Your Ears”, Jane had been making in roads in to ‘legitimate’ radio and found work with the station; I was busy managing and touring bands. When the programme was finally brought to close, we were obviously both saddened, but our paths were pointing in very different directions.
I barely saw her after that.
Some years after moving to Southampton, I got in touch with her, having learned she was still working with Radio Sheffield. We started communicating regularly through this new-fangled internet thing, getting on better than we had in a long time. Then she went quiet. I heard nothing.
To my horror, I learned she had had a life changing accident but despite trying to contact her many times, I never found her again. I sent stuff to her via Radio Sheffield, but I’ve no idea whether she got it.
But I guess that doesn’t matter.
What matters, quite apart from the loss of a dear friend, is that Sheffield is now a poorer place without her; a poorer place for not having such a passionate supporter and a poorer place for the loss of her outright enthusiasm and promotion of its creative talent. There will be be so very many musicians raising a glass and saying thank you to Jane in the coming weeks.
It may sound like the hyperbole associated with loss, but I genuinely believe that nothing embodied the spirit of Sheffield like Jane Kitson.
She was Sheffield. She is irreplaceable.
And, my God, she will be missed.
The Dozy Cow.