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Hazel Irvine: "Kate Bush is wonderful – a genius"

BBC sports presenter Hazel Irvine on why Kate Bush has meant so much to her over the years

Kate Bush onstage in London

My obsession with Kate Bush began at university. I was 17, I had just moved away from home and as you can imagine, it was rather noisy in halls of residence. I was at St Andrews University, and my neighbour in our little cell-like rooms had Kate Bush’s debut album ‘The Kick Inside’. I heard this wailing coming from this girl’s room night and day. I thought, what on earth is that? Then I heard more, and I thought: No, What. Is. That?!

It took me a while, but I realised she was just brilliant. I got the LP and then realised that this woman was a genius. She was very young, still in her teens when Wuthering Heights was released. Thereafter I started collecting everything. From Lionheart all the way through.

It was about as wonderful an experience as it is possible to have

And it culminated in my husband somehow managing to secure me a ticket for my birthday to see her in Hammersmith in 2014. It was about as wonderful an experience as it is possible to have. She hadn’t played live for such a long time, and I went in the middle of the run with three other devotees. She transformed the Hammersmith Apollo into this all-encompassing sensory experience. She appealed to everyone not to take videos or photos, and remarkably, everyone did – we soaked it up and remember it in our mind, not via footage on our phones.

By the time I graduated in 1985-86, the Hounds of Love album was out and the second side was a suite of songs called The Ninth Wave. It was tragic and beautiful and created the most incredible images in my mind, but she never explained what it was about. Then all these years later she started playing it in Hammersmith Apollo and she showed and told us, in theatrical terms, what she had seen in her mind. So much more of it made sense suddenly as I connected the dots between what she had been thinking and I had imagined. It was an amazing experience.

I was so moved by the evening that I went to a card shop the next morning, wrote her a message, and put it in at the stage door of the Hammersmith Apollo. I don’t know if she ever got it, but I wanted to thank her because it was so meaningful for me.

It all ties in to the Olympics, because when I was in the absolute height of my preparation for the opening ceremony in 2012, the only thing I could listen to was her album 50 Words For Snow. I listened over and over again before London. Before the Parade of Nations. I could immerse myself so well in my work because I knew the music so deeply. So Kate Bush has been part of the soundtrack to my life.

She describes it in such haunting detail and plays the piano so beautifully

There are so many I love. On the Red Shoes album, there is a seven-minute track called Moments of Pleasure in which she describes in the most haunting of terms exactly what she asked us to do in Hammersmith. Not to take pictures. She shows what plays in her own mind and through her own life, some brilliant, some sad, she describes it in such haunting detail and plays the piano so beautifully.

It is not a weakness, this peccadillo. It is a strength.

Kate Bush was very much an acquired taste at the time. You either got her brilliance or you just thought it was wailing. But when you dig down, she is just a genius. I love how she is very private individual and I respect and understand that. She didn’t share everything in interviews about what she meant – she left us to do some of the work, which is part of the genius, to allow you to create stories in your own head.

She went through a phase of suddenly being very unfashionable. But she came back, by not being afraid to follow her own path and go off the radar. It took a lot of courage, but she has quietly gone about her wonderful, creative work – and it is an instinct

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