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Interview with Annabel Port

I was genuinely delighted when I read that Annabel Port’s book, Annabel vs the Internet, was being released after successfully being funded on Unbound. I stumbled across Adrift, a podcast she co-hosts with Geoff Lloyd, about 6 months ago. Adrift is basically a podcast for people who occasionally need advice with social situations, and who quite often accidentally blurt out the wrong things at the wrong time. It makes for superb listening and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

My favourite sections of Adrift are when Geoff challenges Annabel to do something that pushes her out of her comfort zone, and the awkwardness that often follows.

Annabel vs The Internet tells the real life stories of a few of the challenges she was set, from the time she infiltrated Google HQ, unofficially displaying her own conceptual art at the Tate Modern, to becoming immortal.

Having listed to Adrift for around 6 months, I had a hunch Annabel was quite an 80s fan. I was right – She is!


How much of the 80s do you remember? (I suppose this is a discrete way of asking if you were born in the 70s!)

I was aged 5 to 15 in the 80s so was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood and early teens in this decade. Although it did also mean that I grew up with a rotary phone in the house, that my dad put a lock on to stop me and my sister making endless phone calls. What he didn’t know was that it was easy to take off with a pair of tweezers. So we could still call up chat lines, which I suppose were an early version of chat rooms on the internet.

What toy was top of your Christmas list in the 80s? Were you a Girls World, Care Bears and Barbie type girl, or were you more of an Action Man and Boglins girl?

I was very girlie. I had a Sindy and a ‘Twirly Curls’ Barbie, which came with a contraption that could twirl two bits of hair together, meaning it was a less elaborate plait. I also loved My Little Pony. My least girlie toy was ‘Muscle Men’, those little pale pink warrior men figurines.

What was your first experience of computers when you were growing up? Did you have one at home, or did your school let pupils use one?

My dad’s friend had a computer and we used to go round to spend hours listening to that unique noise of a game loading. My school had a computer room but the only thing we ever did on them was play ‘PC Paintbrush’. It’s no wonder that I never became a dot.com millionaire.

Were you lucky enough to go to the cinema in the 80s? What was the best film you saw?

I know it’s a 70s film but I was obsessed by the film Grease and all I wanted to be was like Sandy at the end where she takes up smoking and wears sexy clothes to get her man back. Maybe not the best lesson for a young girl to learn. My favourite 80s films were Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and Breakdance. I saw Girls Just Wanna Have Fun at a Saturday morning cinema showing and I still think it was a career high for both Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt. It has an amazing soundtrack that I’ve spent the last 20 years trying and failing to buy. I’ve just realised that I basically love a film with a big song and dance routine.

Who was in your music collection when you were young? And do you still listen to any 80s music?

When I was 11 I had my pen pal request published in Smash Hits magazine, where I declared myself to be a massive fan of Aha, Falco and Five Star. Falco had only had one hit at this stage. I think he only ever had two! In truth I was only ever really interested in Wham! And I still love all Wham! songs

Have you done anything as an adult that your 80s self would have a hard time believing would ever happen? (Are you now friends with anyone who was famous in the 80s, or do you own anything your 80s self really wanted, for example?)

I recently spoke to Gripper from Grange Hill on the phone for the podcast Adrift that I do with Geoff Lloyd. That was incredibly exciting and he was incredibly nice. Which actually was a bit disappointing as I was hoping he’d threaten to flush my head down the toilet. Also, when I worked at Absolute Radio we had a work weekend away and fellow DJs Tony Hadley and Carol Decker came along. It was 80s themed so we were all dressed as Madonna, Boy George, He-Man etc. They just went as themselves.

Were there any Tv series in the 80s that you watched religiously?

I loved Grange Hill, Fame, Top of the Pops and TJ Hooker. I was never into the big 80s hits of Dallas and Dynasty even though everyone talked about them. I wanted to like them, I just didn’t, which in retrospect is hardly surprising. I’m not sure that a seven year old these days would enjoy a soap set in the oil industry.

When did you get your first pet, and what was it?

My first pet was a goldfish called Fanny. She once tried to commit suicide by jumping out of the bowl, but like the angel in It’s a Wonderful Life, I rescued her.

Spangles, Toffos and Wham bars were what I spent all my pocket money on. What treats would you have bought from the sweet shop?

I loved Pacers, cough candy and all penny sweets, especially the white mice.

I used to bike everywhere on my Raleigh Striker. I could ride it for hours and travel huge distances. I tried to ride a bike again a couple of years ago and although balance was ok, other essential things like posture and comfort made it impossible. Is there anything you used to do when you were a child that you wish you were still able to do nowadays?

I could write for more than 8 seconds without my hand aching. Computers have killed that ability. I also used to know all my friends’ phone numbers off by heart and now I have no idea. Nothing more physical though as I’ve always been bad in that area. I did try to master both the skateboard, hula hoop and Lolo ball in the 80s and failed at all three.

How well do you remember 80s adverts? Are there any jingles you remember from adverts?

“Will it be mushrooms, fried onion rings? We’ll have to wait and see.” Great song.

Your book Annabel vs The Internet is out on 19th April. How would you describe it in 30 seconds?

It is a collection of the best challenges that my friend and co-presenter Geoff used to set me on our old radio show. He’d ask me on the Monday to do things like solve the problems of the world economy or become a top model and I’d report back over the next few days on how I did. I found myself in some very unexpected situations like sneaking around Google HQ in search of the ball pools, exhibiting my conceptual art at the Tate and being a real life shop mannequin at Mulberry. I had to develop a rhino hide.

Is it all based on real life events? You actually did all the things in the book?

Yes everything. I found it easier to do them and see what happened rather than go to the brain taxing effort of making it all up. And when you make it up you’re restricted to what you think people will believe. Whereas I definitely found that it’s true that the truth is stranger than fiction.

The blurb says you attempted to become “a self-help guru and immortal.” Did either of those work out ok? It’s the immortal one I’m asking about mostly…

Haha! It’s too early to say on that one. There were varying levels of success in all the challenges.

Over how long were the challenges and did it take a long time to write?

I did them over 5 years as there were around 180 challenges in total. Only the 32 best made it into the book though. It took about a year to take my radio notes and turn them into something readable..

Do you have another book planned?

I’d love to do another book. But ask me again in six years!

To buy Annabel vs The Internet, or to read a free sample, click the link below.

Click to see Annabel vs the internet on amazon.>


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