Jane Kitson – ‘one of a kind, and unforgettable’

Jane Kitson in all her glory

Jane Kitson in all her glory

Jane Kitson, ‘Champion of Local Music’, a Sheffield woman with ‘Big heart, big mouth, and big smile’.

“Tributes have been paid to BBC Radio Sheffield presenter and champion of the city’s music scene Jane Kitson who has died aged 46 from a suspected heart attack.”

Sheffield Telegraph, 25 January 2014 

I’m so glad I didn’t hear about Jane’s death through that piece in the Sheffield Telegraph. Her education, her career, her health – all true and yet all so dry and clinical.

On 13 January a mutual friend had posted on facebook:

“… Yesterday a dear loyal friend and one-time work colleague, Jane Kitson, died. She was a vital person to Sheffield’s music scene … apologies if this posting on FB or twitter was how you heard. It is the modern way, I guess.”

 Within  a couple of days, a FB page had been created, ‘We Love You Jane Kitson’

As one member commented, “Awesome idea … though I’m sure Jane would call us all daft chuffs!”

I joined the group, liked the page but didn’t post a comment. The idea of tribute by social media is an uncomfortable one for me, and I suppose quite a few people.

As ever Kitson gets that last challenge in and prompts me to reconsider something, on this occasion my attitude to social media. Because of her I’ve realised that online tributes don’t have to be about mawkishness or people appropriating someone else’s death to make a point about themselves. The stories flowed and memories were triggered, all touching and resonant, and capturing the essence of the opinionated, cheeky, grinning, passionate and generous Jane we all knew.

“She had a particular cadence when she said ‘…the fucking wankers.’ One of a kind, and unforgettable.”

“You always knew where you stood with her (polite parlance for “she had a big gob on her!”), but she also had a heart of gold and a soft side that was so endearing.”

“She knew so much about radio and loved passing on her knowledge, skills and enormous, irreverent enthusiasm. Thank you, Jane.”

“First time I met her it took less than a minute before the belly laughs began. Brilliant woman, glad I got to spend time with her.”

I am one of many people who first met Jane in the 1980s through BBC Radio Sheffield’s ROTT – a Sunday evening broadcast of barely controlled chaos. Which was what made it great fun to be part of.  Jane was the kid sister we all looked out for even though she was probably more sorted in her approach to life than the rest of us put together. And “she always had the best coloured hair.”

In the years since ROTT we would meet at gigs or out and about, where we’d talk about life and Sheffield Wednesday over lunch or in the street. Jane was one of those people you wouldn’t see for months or even years but could pick up the conversation, the friendship and warmth exactly where it had been left off – as witnessed by all the FB shared love and memories of lives, careers and funny bones touched by this wonderful woman.

So here’s another contribution to preserving the memory of Jane Kitson, “Indie music lover. Sheffield through-and-through. Cool cool woman.”

A day out with Jane:

On August Bank Holiday 1984 Jane asked me to drive her to a music festival. I’d just taken my driving test, didn’t have a car but she wanted to interview an indie band who were performing there, so…

We arrived at Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire and, it being a music festival drove straight into a quagmire. Deciding that tent-pitching was beyond us, we reclined the seats and slept in the car. Of course we didn’t sleep. We listened to the radio, put the world to rights and laughed all night about the fact we were at Greenbelt – the Christian music festival. Jane had left that bit out when she asked for the lift.

The next morning, off she went with her BBC issue Uher reel-to-reel in its scuffed black leather case slung over her shoulder. I know it’s unlikely but I’m sure she was interviewing the Jesus & Mary Chain. At Greenbelt? The name fits, but the material…  Yet if anyone had inside knowledge about an indie band and an impromptu appearance it would be Jane.

Every now and then her crazy coloured head would bob up as she stood on tiptoe to navigate her way through the thronging Christians to interview the band who may or may not have been the Jesus & Mary Chain…

Afterwards, having agreed that Gospel singing disproves the old saying that the devil has the best music we decided to visit the Gospel tent before heading back to Sheffield.

Well. This is where the memory of Jane that will always stay with me kicks in. She is leaning forward, looking up at me with an expression combining horror with a grin, mouthing “NO!”

YES. We had voluntarily walked in to a meeting to give witness. No music. Just a never-ending loop of sins confessed and redemption given – white, black, old, young, men, women. Jesus, as they say. Terrified to get up and leave in case we were ushered on stage, we stayed. Jane was a giggler. So am I. We were contorted with bottled-in laughter. As we said on the journey home, ‘the two possessed women at the front.’

It’s ironic that Jane’s funeral is held the same week this piece by Sean O’Hagan appeared in The Observer:

British culture was once open to ‘messy kids’ from secondary moderns. But if you want to make it in 21st century Britain, you’d best have a cut-glass accent and public school pedigree

Perhaps the best way to preserve her memory is for us to make sure  the route taken by Jane Kitson in the 1980s is forced to stay open 30 years on.


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