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Kathy Burke on money, wealth and all of life’s fineries

As ‘Kathy Burke: Money Talks’ airs on Channel 4 and All 4 this week, Burke speaks to The Big Issue about wealth and wealth disparity, particularly in light of the pandemic.

Actor and director Kathy Burke grew up poor, became rich and famous, and has been in the public consciousness for more than 30 years. So she knows a thing or two about class, money and wealth. For a new Channel 4 documentary, the follow-up to 2019’s well-received two-parter Kathy Burke’s All Woman, she looks at money. Burke talks to the super-rich and those who have slipped through the increasingly holey welfare safety net, and are surviving thanks to foodbanks. She also reconnects with her great mates Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse to consider what their Loadsamoney character said about the late 1980s. The series sees Burke talking to Ruth Breen, the Wigan midwife who won the lottery, the TikTok superstars selling a lifestyle in The Wave House and The Big Issue’s own John Bird about his mission to smash poverty. Along the way, Burke pulls no punches as she dispenses her own philosophy of money.

The Big Issue: Why is money such a dirty word?

Kathy Burke: I think money is a dirty word as it seems to cause more misery than happiness. If we don’t interrogate issues around it how do we know what’s there to be shared?

How have you seen the idea that we should strive for more wealth change in your lifetime?

I think it’s drummed into us from the off that being wealthy is the best way. Look at the story of Cinderella. I’m sure she’d be happy marrying a local cobbler, but it has to be a prince because then she’d be rich.

What have you learned on your travels through wealth?

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When I was a kid I thought I’d want to have all of life’s fineries, but the luxuries I insist on as an adult are good-quality bedding and posh teabags.

Do you think this past year has impacted or highlighted the wealth disparity in this country?

I think this past year has certainly highlighted the naivety about what some considered to be a proper school meal for children due to Marcus Rashford’s brilliant insistence that it just wasn’t good enough.

You suddenly find yourself prime minister or chancellor – what are the first things you do on taking office?

Firstly I’d fumigate the smell of bullshit and then I’d make earners of £200k or more a year enter a 50 per cent tax bracket.

In your series, you mention that we are governed by people that don’t have a scooby about the real world. Are there politicians in this country who actually understand?

I think there are but they’re few and far between, and I don’t think there are any in our current government. I sort of feel you shouldn’t be allowed to be a politician unless you’ve done some other work, some other sort of real job – going from Eton to Oxford to journalism to Parliament, that’s not really the route of understanding and empathy.

Did making this programme change your thoughts on any proposed solutions?

There absolutely has to be more social housing. Most young people have no chance of getting on the property ladder because prices, particularly in the cities, where the work is, are astronomical.

Kathy Burke: Money Talks airs on Channel 4 and All 4 from July 5

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