By Sam Fraser

Surviving a Stereotype

Feminism | Humour
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Attend a half day, online masterclass on the art of writing narrative nonfiction and memoir, led by Sam Fraser. Plus everything at the Collectable level.
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The role of the weather presenter is an iconic one in the British cultural landscape. It is also one of the most fetishised, though Sam Fraser was largely unaware of that when she took a job as a regional forecaster at the BBC.

Scorchio! Surviving a Stereotype charts her journey, from teenage years confused by mixed messages around womanhood from the media, her mother and her convent school, via a stint at a community radio station, to arriving unexpectedly at the BBC. Here she learns that, thanks in part to Ulrika Jonsson, the world of weather presenting is open to non-meteorologists. But only if they’re in possession of a form fitting dress, a broad smile and a twinkle in their eye.

The chance to work as a BBC weather presenter is irresistible. Sam soon learns, however, that the role is undermined by long held perceptions about it. She discovers a fan base of men who find sexual gratification in watching women present the weather and in whose online forums she is discussed in graphic terms. And wonders, why is she still described as a ‘weather girl’?

Sam turns to stand-up comedy as a creative outlet for her observations and begins to compile the experiences of other women doing the same job. Scorchio! takes the premise of her show, ‘Stand Up, Weather Girl!’, and builds in interviews with many current and former weather presenters. A chat with ITV’s Laura Tobin sheds light on the sexist insults she received from an Australian MP. Former BBC South weather presenter Reham Khan describes the death threats made following her marriage to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan, the term ‘weather girl’ weaponised against her. Sarah-Leigh Barnett, winner of a BBC talent competition launched when Michael Fish retired, talks about being derided in a Times column by Boris Johnson. Keeley Donovan speaks of being misrepresented by the tabloids and Sian Lloyd speculates on her longevity in the role.

‘Stand Up, Weather Girl!’ ran at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018, sharing Sam’s memories, laughs and some great gags about the weather. But Scorchio! tells the whole story. This is a comic memoir about the conflict between an aspiration for equality and the realities of working in a sexualised role. The material left out of Sam’s stand-up show needs a different vehicle. This book is it.


  • With a foreword by comedian Hugh Dennis
  • A high-quality, demy hardback book
  • Approximately 288 pages and 70,000 words
  • The first book by BBC weather presenter Sam Fraser
  • Exclusive pledge levels available!

*Image credits: Design by Mecob. Images © Shutterstock. Book designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and may differ from final design.

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  • Sam Fraser avatar

    Sam Fraser

    Sam Fraser is a presenter for BBC local radio and TV in the south of England, a freelance writer and occasional stand-up comedian. She is a former English teacher, a former business owner and a former lecturer. ‘Former’ is a big thing for her.

    Having grown up in Essex she has since migrated to the south coast where she lives with her husband, two sons and dogs, Lettice and Ludo (also known as ‘the superfans’).

    When she is not working she can be found on the beach, contemplating the sea and dreaming of the career she could have had as a knife thrower’s assistant, if only she’d fit the leotard.

  • Fast forward to 2012. I’ve learnt my lesson. I understand the bosses are not looking for a stand up comedian. They are looking for someone who can assimilate information and repackage it for an audience in accessible language. They are looking for someone engaging and trustworthy.

    Meteorological qualifications are not strictly necessary, according to the initial advert. Which is great, because I have absolutely none (unless you count my stint as Weather Monitor). I can barely pronounce the word ‘meteorological.’ Though I can spell it confidently.
    I know there will be an expectation of at least a basic understanding of the weather and that I may even be required to deduce the forecast from some synoptic charts, so I practise deciphering the wiggly lines with triangles and semi circles attached to them which are sent down by the Met Office to all BBC regions daily, matching them to the weather scripts sent in to the station.
    In addition, I buy myself a copy of the Dorling Kindersley Pocket Guide to Weather and start the process of memorising it in its entirety.
    It is true to say that, even when all you’re doing is reading a weather bulletin at the end of the radio news, people assume you have a background in meteorology. I like to think the skills I developed on my MA in Theatre and Performance studies are what has convinced my colleagues that I am in fact a fully paid up member of the Royal Meteorological Society. I can bluff my way in most areas convincingly: “Occluded front? Think of that as a warm air mass sandwich. Anti cyclonic? Clockwise winds, naturellement!” I trill.
    But occasionally I come a cropper. From time to time I am asked questions I cannot answer. Once, following a period of high winds, a listener had sent in a picture of her mobile home. It was extensively damaged. The roof had caved in and there was debris all around.
    “Sam!” came a voice across the newsroom, “Woman’s sent in this photo. Wants to know if there’s been a tornado at the caravan park at Milford-on-Sea?” Hm. A tornado.
    My knowledge of tornadoes at this point is derived entirely from The Wizard of Oz.
    “Tell her to look out of the window,” I yell back. “If there’s a pair of sparkly, ruby slippers poking out from under the shed, then yes, there’s been a tornado!” A little mirth travels around the office.
    “No, but really? Has there been one?”
    In my spare time I browse the internet, boning up on why the south east of the UK is drier than the south west. I learn about the impact of seasonal variation in the water uptake patterns of vegetation. I force myself to read scholarly articles about the jet stream. I do not remember any weather presenters in my childhood ever referring to the jet stream. It’s quite possible, it seems to me, that we didn’t have one back then. That it is an invention of the new millennium, like iphones and gluten free brownies. There certainly was no magnetic jet stream icon to stick on the steel map of the British Isles. Or if there was, I never saw Bill Giles wrestle with it.
    I analyse the ways in which local topography influences temperatures and precip. I start using the term ‘precip’ instead of ‘precipitation’ to make myself sound more authentic.
    I only have to keep all this stuff in my head for the duration of the interview, I reason. Then it can all just drop out to be replaced with my preferred content, namely The Archers’ storyline, new West End musicals and what Saga Noren is wearing in the ‘The Bridge.’
    The day of the interview approaches. My brain is aching with detail. When I go to bed each night, I close my eyes and occluded fronts pass before them. I have a picture of Ian McCaskill on my bedside cabinet. I kiss it every night in the week leading up to the ordeal.
    I have bought myself a new outfit for the screen test. It is a purple, fitted dress with an asymmetric neckline.
    I do not know it yet, but, of all the preparations I have made, this is the most important.
    Because at the end of the interview in which I have managed to regurgitate huge tracts of weather related science (met, I might add, by a bewildered silence from the two - just two this time - men conducting the exercise) I receive feedback.
    The then TV Editor nods approvingly at me and tells me that, not only do I tell a good story - he’d never heard that stuff about spring vegetation before - but that I ‘look good in that dress.’
    It is my turn with the bewildered silence. I stare at him, speechless.
    I have been a feminist since 1986.
    Yes, I get this is telly and looks inevitably play a part in who makes it to screen, but I wasn’t expecting my appearance to be, you know, actually commented on. Openly. In the twenty-first century. Admittedly this is not yet the #MeToo #HarveyWeinstein twenty-first century - that will come in five years’ time - but it’s still, you know, THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.
    In the seconds during which I am fixed to the spot looking at my reflection in his glasses, the following thoughts fill my brain:
  • 4th March 2022 Scorchio! A Sizzling Hot Start!

    Hello lovely Scorchio Supporters!

    Just a note to say thank you all so very much for getting our campaign off to such a good start! 20% funded by Day 10 made my heart sing!

    Of course, there is a long way to go. I’m standing in the foothills staring at K2 and wondering if I look good in crampons. But it’s great to know that you are there behind me, offering me encouragement, with your shoulder…

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