Credit to: Woman's Hour, BBC Radio 4
Content from: BBC Radio 4 - Woman's hour archives

Alice Martineau, Interviewed on Woman's Hour
Saturday 16 November 2002

( author's note: at the time of the interview airing, Alice Martineau was 30)

Italics in transcript denotes where Alice and the presenter are talking at the same time.

Presenter: Alice Martineau has always wanted to make a career in music. on that she's no different to thousands of other young hopefuls, who dream of success. For Alice, the dream is now a reality though, after signing a record deal with music giant Sony, and releasing her first single and album. Not only that, Robbie Williams has said he's a fan. It's all happened incredibly quickly, and against considerable odds, because when Alice was born with cystic fibrosis, she wasn't expected to live beyond the age of ten. The illness is progressive and now, aged twenty eight, she needs an organ transplant. Alice told me about how its affected her career.

Alice: its a very difficult question to answer, I think, in some ways it has, and in some ways it's helped. Up until, relatively recently about six months ago really, I hid it, but I'm now on oxygen pretty much full time, and a year ago I wasn't, and up until about a year ago, every record company I went into, I didn't tell them that I was ill.

Presenter: were you kind of, hiding it? how were you doing it?

Alice: through my life at various stages I've managed to hide certain things, umm, for example I have a disabled sticker on my car, and I wouldn't ever let anyone see that. So people didn't really see me in a compromised situation at all.

Presenter: was that because you've, you didnt want them to see you like that? or you felt.. (Alice: partly..) that they'd judge you basically?

Alice: I think it was partly pride, and also I thought it would, would prevent me from being taken seriously, as an artist, and I think it did because obviously I, I was actually offered umm, a deal at one time, by a record company and then my managers had to tell them that I was ill and the offer disappeared...

Presenter: and you think it was because of that. (Alice: and I'm sure.) Did you challenge them on that?

Alice: no.

Presenter: you can't, as you said, you can't hide it now can you Alice, because (Alice: no.) umm, you're sitting here op..opposite me (Alice: mmhmm.) and you've got the oxygen breathing equipment. (Alice: yeah.) Is that, part of your life now all the time?

Alice: It is pretty much, yeah.

Presenter: how does that affect then, singing, because if you think of cystic fibrosis as, as attacking the lungs. (Alice: mmhmm.) umm, Lungs being so important (Alice: mmm!) for a singer, how has it affected your voice?

Alice: In some ways, it's strengthened my voice, because I spend a lot of my time coughing, my diaphragm muscles are particularly well developed, so it allows me to belt out a note really quite hard and, but obviously I, I can't sustain a note for a long time.

Presenter: you're now waiting for an organ transplant, are you literally sitting there, every minute of the day now..

Alice: I have a pager on me whenever I go out, I mean I don't.. I don't think about it, all the time.

Presenter: because you you've had this now is it what eighteen months is it? (Alice: I've had, I've been on the list, about, almost coming up for two years now. ummm..) Presenter: mmhmm.

Presenter: This is for a heart and lungs transplant.

Alice: heart.. heart, lung and liver, and, you put it to the back of your mind, because there's no point in thinking about it all the time. The likelyhood that my pager is gonna go off is very small, realistically, and six thousand people waiting for a transplant, in britain, and only two thousand, will get an opportunity to have one. it's, it's a lottery, it could easily go off tonight, it could not go off, ever, or it could go off in, two years time.

Presenter: despite, the fact that your health has deteriorated your, your very adamant that you don't want to be seen as a victim.

Alice: no.

Presenter: so I'm wondering, how, how does that work then, because obviously, lets look, its a good story isn't it that you know, a beautiful girl, singer coping with this disease (Alice: mmhmm.) how much control can you have about how your illness is used, whether it is, used to benefit you, your career, other people or when does it become exploitation.

Alice: It is, it is difficult because obviously once its in the public domain, the public take what they want from it, and inevitably, people are gonna, you know, feel sorry for you or, which is, something I really really don't want at all because you know ok, my my situation is, isn't great, but, a lot of people's situations aren't great, and I always turn things round into a positive way and I think well, ok I've got cystic fibrosis, and I'm, I am now very ill, but I'm living my dream, I'm, I've got an album out there and I'm very lucky in many ways, I've got an amazing support network round me, amazing family and friends.

Presenter: and does the fact that, that time is, is precious, (Alice: mmm!) and you live for every day, does that come out into your songs?

Alice: it does! The transience of life is, is definitely a theme that, that runs through my album actually, you know, you've got to live in the moment, and take the most from, every moment you're given really.

presenter: well, we're gonna hear the, the single now, alice, which is called if I fall (Alice: mmhmm.) tell me a little bit about this, because this kind of looks back, doesn't it, to the childhood..

Alice: yea, it, it looks back to my childhood when, obviously I wasn't, so ill and everything just seems carefree and perfect then and, when you're young you don't have any worries about the future and its really a sort of tribute to that.

Presenter: lets here it..

<breaks into "if I cry, if I fall into your arms tonight.." in If I fall>

<fades out in the chorus>

Presenter: if I fall, by Alice Martineau, which is out now. And that's it from weekend woman's hour for this week, enjoy the rest of your weekend, but from me, for today, bye bye.

voiceover: the program was presented by sheila mclennan, and the producer was ann peacock.