When Channel 4 Four producers approached the Reverend Kate Bottley and asked her to star in TV’s latest buzz show, she admits she had some doubts.
“I marry people and conduct funerals for a living,” says the 39-year-old. “My main worry was: ‘do people really want their gran buried by the vicar from Gogglebox?”
She decided, in the end, perhaps they did.
Thus, for the next three months this Walkley born-and-bred church woman – vicar of the churches of Blyth, Scrooby and Ranskill in North Nottinghamshire – will be among the stars of one of TV’s most unusual hits.
Gogglebox, for the uninitiated, captures the reactions of ordinary people watching ordinary TV shows. And that’s pretty much it. Viewers watch people watching TV. Some 3.4 million people tune in every Friday.
“Why do it?” ponders Kate at her vicarage home in Blyth. “I discussed it with the diocese and we felt this was an opportunity to show Christians as normal people. I like a dance. I like a drink. I like,” going into whisper, “sex. I think doing this show shows vicars are just like anyone else. And it appeals to a demographic – 16- to 34-year-olds – which the church really needs to go out and communicate with.”
She thinks a moment.
“It’s also a great excuse for me and husband Graham to put the kids to bed and just have a night in front of the telly. The only difference being there’s six people in our kitchen editing the footage.”
There’s another slight difference, as it goes. Producers insist Kate wears her dog collar so viewers know she’s a vicar. “Normally,” says the mother-of-two, “I’d be in a onesie. The dog collar is the first thing to come off when I get home in an evening.”
Producers approached her after deciding a devout Christian would be good on the show. They stumbled on Kate – who was an RE teacher at Ecclesfield School and Yewlands Technology College before joining the church – because of a previous 15 minutes of fame.
Last summer she conducted a wedding in which she and the couple started a flash mob dance during the ceremony. The video went viral and Kate appeared everywhere from national newspapers to BBC Breakfast. She was nicknamed The Dancing Vicar for the shapes she threw.
“I never thought that would get so much attention,” she admits. “The couple wanted to do something a bit different and I just suggested doing a disco dance.”
Now, she’s starting to get used to her new fame after the first episode of the new Gogglebox series aired last week. She just hopes people see her for what she is: entirely normal.