Anna Foster - BBC Radio 5 Live presenter on living in Halifax
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 July 2019
Copyright Kevin Gibson Photography Ltd
Broadcaster Anna Foster is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 5 Live's Drive show but her own drivetime means heading back to Halifax and the area her young family has made its home.
Anna and John Foster chose to adopt Yorkshire as their home five years ago and now they couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
Anna is a presenter of BBC Radio 5 Live's Drive programme and John is a freelance presenter on commercial and BBC local radio stations, as well as running a voiceover business. Oh, and he's a house husband and dad's taxi too.
They moved to West Yorkshire when Anna was offered her dream job, just a couple of weeks after giving birth to their first child, Ben.
The couple had been living in Ingleby Barwick, just outside Middlesbrough. John was working at nearby BBC Tees and Anna was presenting Weekend Breakfast in London.
She got a call from her boss who told her that one of the drive presenters was leaving and they'd like her to take it on. 'This changed everything', recalls Anna, 'because realistically I couldn't commute five days a week to Salford, so John and I decided that we would have to move.'
'We only ever looked at properties in West Yorkshire. We didn't even consider living near Manchester. Partly because Yorkshire would mean we were slightly closer to Teesside for John's work but also because houses in Manchester were so expensive.'
John and Anna chose their 'forever home' in a village just outside Halifax. 'Part of our discussions about moving were that if we were going to make a big upheaval like moving to another part of the country, it had to feel worth it for the family.'
John continues: "When people move to London, for example, after living pretty much anywhere else, their money buys them considerably less. We deliberately bought something lovely to make us feel positive about the move. When we first saw the house we knew it was the one. It's only three miles from the town centre and every way you look out of our windows, it's just rolling hills.
'There were three of us then, and when we went to pick up the keys, we'd become four.' Their daughter, Jess, was just two days old.
'It's definitely our forever home,' adds Anna, 'because we're just about to buy a new kitchen!'
When John and Anna moved to Halifax in 2014 the town wasn't like it is now. 'It's only undergone a renaissance in the last couple of years', says Anna.
'My favourite place in Halifax is The Piece Hall. When we moved here it was still being renovated and now it's a fabulous place to be.'
The Grade I listed Piece Hall is a rare, architectural and cultural phenomenon. It is the sole survivor of the great 18th century northern cloth halls, a class of buildings which embodied the dominant importance of the trade in hand-woven textiles to the pre-industrial economy of the West Riding of Yorkshire, from the Middle Ages through to the early 19th century. Today it is a cool, cultural go-to boasting restaurants, bars, cafes and shops, alongside a heritage visitor centre and plenty of events and exhibitions.
The couple love taking the children there to soak up the atmosphere. 'We adore this part of the country', continues John. 'Halifax has so much to offer and has enjoyed some fabulous PR in recent years too. Last Tango In Halifax, was of course filmed here, as well as Happy Valley and Gentleman Jack.'
Both the children go to school in a nearby village. Anna doesn't leave for work until about 1pm and John works from home most days, so once the school run is done, as a family, the couple enjoy a morning to themselves. Anna watches the news channel (we had to pause our interview so she could watch Teresa May announcing she was resigning) while John does housework, voiceover work or preps for his freelance radio shows, some of which he broadcasts from their home studio. Sometimes he still travels to Nottingham, Leeds, Merseyside or Sheffield for radio broadcasts.
The nature of Anna's job has to mean some last minute jetting off to cover a big story. Most notably in recent years, Brussels, a lot, to cover Brexit and the US in the run up to the election.
'Because John is mostly home-based, this set up works really well for the family, whereas in the earlier years when the children were tiny and John was still working up on Teesside, it was a military operation every time I went away. Drafting in grandparents, John even taking the children into work on the odd occasion!'
What do the children think about mum and dad being on the radio? 'They're fairly nonplussed', concedes Anna.
'There was one time when Ben was in reception and I had gone to America to cover Trump's inauguration. Ben told his teachers I'd gone to see the President. I'm not sure their teachers really know what I do for a living, so consequently, they were rather surprised by Ben's story. The children just think it's normal.'
Most days, Anna gets home just before 8pm so now the children are a little older, they're still awake. 'I'm reading The Worst Witch to Jess, at the moment. It's lovely being able to get home and tuck them in. When they were smaller I didn't see them as they were already in bed.' Before bedtime, John has generally played taxi, escorting the children to dancing, swimming, football…
Anna says the work life balance can be difficult for her. 'I want the children to grow up knowing that mum can do interesting things with work, but it does also mean I miss things. I'm always there for nativity plays, the children's birthdays, Christmas etc. But there are times when events take place at short notice, such as Jess's recent Little Red Hen performance at school, and I just can't make it.'
There have been occasions when Anna has been away for up to ten days, when covering the US election or for a project in South Korea or the Central African Republic for the BBC World Service.
'It's a long time to be away from the family, but they've totally got the routine nailed now, they're pros! It's our tenth wedding anniversary in October, and my 40th in November, so we I will absolutely make sure I'm not away then and we will definitely plan something lovely for that. Something grown up that won't involve the children!'