New radio series Nani Hacks offers advice and shared experiences about growing up and growing old. John Evans speaks to the four funny and lovable Nanis about generational divides and celebrating older women.
A lot of creative ideas of late were, naturally, formed during lockdown (remember those days?) and Nani Hacks is no exception. Producer Ali Kedge came up with the idea with longtime friends – Kemi Nevins, a former nurse and teacher who now runs Cardiff cafe Kemi’s, and former Chapter employee turned retiree Nicky Keeping.
More recently they were joined by the oldest Nani, former charity founder Di Parsons; between all four of them, they have nine children and 12 grandchildren. The radio programme aims to offer advice – the ‘hacks’ of the title – to help fellow parents and grandparents by discussing their own personal experiences throughout the years.
“Through thick and thin we’ve supported each other,” says Ali, “and hopefully that comes out in the programme. You really need good friends and you need support. And now as grandmas, it’s still the same.”
After pitching the idea to BBC Radio Wales, it was commissioned for Thursday nights at 6:30 pm, starting on Thurs 30 June. The discussion-filled half-hour episodes will cover issues as diverse as climate change and waste, childhood summers, menopause and kids leaving home.
“I think listeners will hear a lot of raucous laughter!” smiles Di. “We’ve had such fun doing it. But it’s also been very serious because there are lots of nans and grandads who really need the help.”
The first episode, Nanis Save The Planet will introduce the Nanis and their experiences having their kids, as well as recycling hacks on climate change. Episode two, Endless Summers, will delve into what the Nanis’ summers were like growing up compared to how they are now with their children and grandchildren today. Rounding off the series will be a heartfelt episode titled Empty Nest, centred on when kids leave home and how to cope with life afterwards.
“What’s nice about it is that it’s very informal, we’re not setting ourselves up to be world experts, climate scientists or psychologists,” Kemi says. “It’s purely our own experiences and ideas. It’s easy listening: people might pick things up that they find useful and want to try and that’s fantastic. It’s more about being able to share the stories and the fun.”
While discussing shared experiences with their kids and grandkids, the Nanis found that there were many similarities between the past and present, as Di explains. “It’s been interesting to hear how we spent our years as children growing up and now our children are spending their years with their children – often doing the same things we were.”
Of course, people of the same generation share similar values and attitudes based on their shared experiences during their formative years; these connections between grandkids and grandparents become vital. “After COVID we really need to appreciate [the younger] generations because grandchildren couldn’t see nanny or grandad, so they’ve become even more important. I think COVID has improved that generational divide. In a way, older people are sort of back in fashion now!” Kemi says.
“Having had lots of kids and grandkids and seeing the generations, when you spend time and talk with them you can see that there isn’t too much of a divide,” adds Nicky.
“There are lots of young people who are helping older people more these days. I see and I read about it, and it warms the cockles of my heart,” Di concludes.
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It was also important to the Nanis to offer help and guidance from a real perspective, as Ali makes clear. “Sometimes, you listen to or see things on the television and just think, ‘woah, that’s so far removed from my life’ – this is not that.”
“I really do hope that it helps a lot of people because I think we feel we are out there floating on our own but there are many people going through the exact same things that we go through as parents and as grandparents,” Kemi says. “It’s been cool. I do feel like we are very cool!”
“Yeah I think we’re very cool,” Di chimes in.“I’m feeling so cool I just might go and get a tattoo!”
Each of the Nanis have different upbringings and stories to tell, and along with self-help, endless cups of coffee and a whole lot of laughter, they’re ready to let loose on the airwaves. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I didn’t know I knew so much and had so much to say! So that was interesting,” Nicky says. “It’s really nice to just meet up and shoot the breeze. It’s exciting to have other people listening to it.”
Ali is similarly enthusiastic. “For me, particularly, I loved doing the Empty Nest episode. We know just how many people, women particularly, suffer when their children go; it’s a really difficult time. For us to actually talk about it on the radio and each of us to say we did struggle and we’ve come out of the other side. I think it was very tender and moving.”
Though the target audience is parents and grandparents, the show’s insightful hacks and heartwarming stories are intended for anyone to enjoy. “I think it’s for everyone who is in different stages of their lives,” Kemi affirms. “I’ve had gay and heterosexual friends and all ranges of people say they could just enjoy it for what it was. It felt inclusive.”
“And the music as well,” adds Ali. “It makes it more accessible. I mean, when you’ve got Katrina And The Waves what more do you want?” Di has an answer to that, though: “I’m more [of a] Cliff Richard [fan]!”
As for the future of the Nanis, they will be airing a special Christmas episode of Nani Hacks this December, but they hope they’ll return for more evocative stories and helpful advice beyond that. Perhaps on the telly? “Forget Loose Women, we’re the Loose Grannies!” says Di.
“We’d love to do another series. We’re celebrating older women for goodness sake. We’ve lived a life, we are this age and we’re blimmin’ proud of it!” finishes Ali.
Nani Hacks is on BBC Radio Wales at 6.30 pm on Thurs 30 June, Thurs 7 July and Thurs 14 July. Info: here
words JOHN EVANS