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Kevin Whately set to take part in the Free Thinking Festival

It will truly be a family affair for Kevin Whately when he takes part in the Free Thinking Festival at the weekend. Sam Wonfor talks to the actor before he takes to the stage with his nearest and dearest

Kevin Whately with wife Madelaine Newton and daughter Kitty
Kevin Whately with wife Madelaine Newton and daughter Kitty

Kevin Whately has just received the email confirming the details of his appearance at BBC Radio Three’s Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead. The performance will offer a first for the seasoned actor. He’ll be taking to the stage with both his wife, actress Madelaine Newton and their daughter, buzz-creating mezzo soprano, Kitty Whately.

The family have agreed to take care of a special edition of the station’s award-winning programme, Words and Music, which makes up part of the busy schedule for 2013’s three-day event.

Now in its eighth year, the festival kicks off tomorrow and runs through until Sunday.

It will once again bring together high-profile figures from the worlds of arts, science, politics and literature under the curved roof of Sage Gateshead to discuss and challenge current thinking on a range of topics.

The theme this year is Who’s In Control?, with lecture and discussion topics ranging from self-control and surveillance, risk taking and revolution, power and powerlessness.

Kevin says they were all more than happy to be involved.

“Kitty and Madelaine have done things together before, but I’ve never been involved. Kitty has just started as a BBC New Generation Artist... she’s the only British musician on it I think,” he adds like any proud dad should.

“Anyway, when she was first being interviewed for it, she mentioned that she and Madeleine had done some shows together with music and reading. They did one at the Oxford festival earlier this year. At some point I must have been mentioned or something and they asked if we would all do one for the Festival up on Tyneside.”

Although unable to confirm the exact programme due to technological difficulties on the family computer, Kevin did say there would be some Shakespeare and Dickens involved.

Kitty Whately
Kitty Whately

Whatever is on the menu though, it was enough to tempt Kevin out of a self-imposed year off.

“I’ve been doing absolutely nothing,” he laughs. “I haven’t had this kind of holiday for 31 years. I fancied doing nowt for a bit, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. I’m not doing any filming until next March, although I’ll of course be coming up for Sunday For Sammy,” he adds, speaking of the biennial feelgood fundraiser at Newcastle City Hall.

Not that any loving grandparent is ever really without something to do, and Kevin and Madelaine, who is best known for her role as Dolly in When The Boat Comes In, certainly fall into that category. They help look after Kitty’s six-year-old daughter, Ivy whenever they can.

“That’s not work though... she’s great. No bother at all,” says Kevin. “Kit has been all over Europe this summer. She was down in Aix-en-Provence for six weeks in the summer, and we went down for a couple of weeks. It’s lovely to see her doing so well.

“She deserves it. She’s a real grafter... like an athlete. She works twice as hard as us.” As Saturday’s audience at the Sage will be able to see for themselves.

* Words and Music, featuring Kevin Whately, Madelaine Newton and Kitty Whately will be performed at Sage Gateshead on Saturday at 5.30pm. Tickets are free, but must be pre-booked. Call 0191 443 4661.

The Free Thinking Festival runs from tomorrow until Sunday. All events are free to the public and the festival will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 over the weekend and in the three weeks following.

Highlights from the line up include Lionel Shriver, Patrick Ness, Dame Sally Davies, Professor Sugata Mitra, Sir Michael Marmot, Simon Thurley, Professor Barbara Sahakian, Amit Chaudhuri, Kathryn Tickell and Chris Mullin. For a full programme, visit


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