Linda Herrick

Linda Herrick is the Arts and Books Editor at the NZ Herald.

Writers Festival: Broadcaster boxing well above her weight

Writer says that full-body exercise has helped to turn her life around

Toksvig says renewing her vows with her partner in front of 2,000 people was 'amazing'. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Toksvig says renewing her vows with her partner in front of 2,000 people was 'amazing'. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Last year, Sandi Toksvig was feeling extremely unwell. She had plantar fasciitis in both feet, a severe inflammation of the muscle which holds the foot together, and she could barely walk.

"I was walking with a stick," says the 56-year-old, in Auckland for the Writers Festival.

"I put on weight, I felt terrible. But then I met two wonderful women. One was a physiotherapist and she said something to me no one has ever said, which was the truth. 'Sandi, you have plantar fasciitis because you are fat. If you are not fat any more, you won't have plantar fasciitis.'

"I have never heard a medical person speak so directly. So I met another woman who is a fitness expert and so far I have lost 2 stone (16kg) and I am going to lose another two stone. She has got me on a diet that is cutting out sugar and I took up boxing. It is a full-body workout and I am slightly obsessed with it now ... I find it incredibly empowering. I'm a pacifist, I wouldn't want to hurt anybody but, boy, you feel different.

I don't know what my neighbours think," she laughs.

"My boxing coach has been coming to the house and all you can hear is, 'Harder, Sandi! Harder, Sandi!"'

Toksvig filmed two episodes of the panel show QI, hosted by her old friend Stephen Fry, the night before she flew out to New Zealand.

"We record a lot more than we show and the boys can't help but be rude. We were talking about some frog so the boys were talking about their genitals. I asked, 'How did we get from frogs to genitals so quickly? What is wrong with you boys?' They are all the same. Stephen Fry is as bad as all of them."

There is some moving footage online of Toksvig and her civil union partner Debbie renewing their vows on March 29, the day same-sex marriage became legal in Britain. The ceremony took place in the Royal Festival Hall, with Rick Wakeman playing the organ and actor Sheila Hancock doing the reading in front of 2,000 people. They both look radiantly happy.

"It was a really amazing occasion that you can have something that was so public be so intimate," she recalls. "As we walked into the hall, the entire audience stood up and cheered. It was really something. I asked Debbie: 'What do you want to wear?' She wanted to wear Vivienne Westwood and Vivienne dressed Debbie. So many people were onside, it was very heartening ... It was a very important occasion because when I came out in 1994 ... I was told my career was over and I had death threats. So it was an incredible journey, to go from that to 2,000 people cheering us."


Sandi Toksvig

British broadcaster, writer and comedian, born in Denmark in 1958. She took a first-class honours degree in archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University, where she was a writer, director and performer in the first all-female Cambridge Revue.

She has appeared in TV panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and QI. She was awarded the OBE last month and appointed Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth in 2012. After being threatened with being outed by a British newspaper, Toksvig came out as a gay woman in 1994.

She will appear at the Auckland Writers Festival at the ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, on Saturday at 7pm, chaired by Sean Plunket, and in a Gender Divides panel hosted by Dr Judy McGregor at the same venue on Sunday at 1pm.

- NZ Herald

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