Society Diary interviews... Kate Collins

26 Jan 2024 Interviews

The CEO of Teenage Cancer Trust tells Civil Society’s satirical columnist about the best advice she has ever been given and explains her love of pudding...

Kate Collins, CEO of Teenage Cancer Trust

Greetings, reader, and welcome to Diary’s latest interview. This week’s guest is the CEO of Teenage Cancer Trust, Kate Collins, who bravely agreed to answer the questions other interviewers dare not ask.  

During our chat, Collins explains why she was in dire need of some red Wellington boots as a child and laments at how her love of singing does not translate into a talent for it, much to the disappointment of her entire family. 

You can read our exchange below. 

How are you?

“Windswept, not sure how I am getting home and cautiously hopeful. Windswept because it’s the day after Storm Isha – which is also the reason for the uncertainty of how I get back to Staffordshire from London this evening as the trains seem a bit all over the place. 

“Cautiously hopeful is more important because I’ve had the opportunity today to be part of the Labour and Civil Society Summit. Hearing from Sir Keir Starmer and members of the shadow cabinet about their commitment to a proper partnership with civil society organisations if they form a government felt like a very different – and welcome – approach. We shall see. There’s a long way to go in 2024. 

“Most of all though I am hopeful – and not as cautiously – after spending the day with 150 other sector leaders. There are so many collaborative, enterprising and purpose-driven people in this sector – listening to them today made me reflect that I’ve not been as connected as I need to be in the last year or so.”

If you could be a superhero, who would you be?

“Anyone who knows me can answer this! It’s Wonder Woman. Always has been. Always will be.

“The pain I put my poor mum through trying to find red wellies for me as a small child so I could ‘be Wonder Woman’ is something she still mentions – so many trips to so many shops all to no avail… Definitely no access to colourful wellies or costumes from Amazon in Lancashire in the 1980s…And no, I never did get any.”

Who is the most famous person you have met?

“I’ve been lucky to meet some very high-profile people through my different jobs in the sector. The two who stand out are the first one I met and the one who I’ve known the longest…

“My first charity job was at BBC Children in Need in the late 90s/early 00s and meeting Sir Terry Wogan was an absolute moment of being star-struck. He was as kind, charitable and charming as I’d hoped he might be.  

“But there’s no way I can miss a chance to mention Roger Daltrey – as honorary patron of Teenage Cancer Trust and curator of our flagship fundraising week of concerts he is not only a rock legend he’s a total legend for his commitment to young people with cancer. Driving fundraising concerts for 24 years is utter commitment – he’s changed what the charity is able to deliver through everything he’s done. A remarkable legacy.”

Are you an early riser or night owl?

“Definitely an early riser. I’m now at the point where I get woken up to go to bed. It makes our upcoming week of fundraising gigs at the Royal Albert Hall a bit tricky. Seven nights back-to-back – it’s all my evening events for a year all at once! I have post-shows jet-lag for a week afterwards.”

What is the tastiest dessert you’ve ever eaten?

“Blimey, that’s a tough question. Pretty much all pudding is good. If I had to pick one I’d stick with good old bananas & custard or – if we’re pushing the boat out – lemon meringue pie.”

Is there anything you consider yourself to be very bad at?

“Singing! If only the ability to sing correlated to enthusiasm for it. I’d be amazing if that was the case. Unfortunately, there’s not a note in me – no matter how enthusiastically I sing along to the radio. A harsh reality for my family on car journeys.”

What is the best performance you have ever seen live?

“And I thought the tastiest dessert question was tough…

“I’m so lucky to have seen so many remarkable performances and moments at Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall – hearing Sir Paul McCartney perform Blackbird, my all-time favourite Beatles track is up there, as is Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn unite on stage as a surprise to perform Tender which – for a Britpop kid like me – was quite a moment.”

If you could introduce a new leap year tradition, what would it be?

“The only leap year tradition I know is that women are ‘allowed’ to propose on 29 February – more than a slight whiff of patriarchy in that one.

“So how about the tradition should be to overthrow traditions that embed inequality and injustice in a leap year and then keep making progress on that every year that follows.” 

Are you more of a bookworm or film buff?

“Total bookworm.” 

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

“This too, shall pass – it’s good for tough times and also reminds me to appreciate the good times too – that’s my go-to.”

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