Feminist writing, celebrity mags and ultramarathons – meet our new account manager, Jane

When we advertised for a new account manager, we didn’t expect that we would find not one but two incredibly talented and experienced women to join the RH&Co. Today, we’re meeting Jane Duffus – a journalist and author with a passion for telling the untold stories of the women who built Bristol.

Where are you from and how did you end up in Bristol?

I’m originally from Somerset so, as a teenager, Bristol was always the nearest big city if we wanted to go and see bands or go shopping. Then, via university in Nottingham and a decade in London, I ended up relocating to Bristol for ‘a quiet life’ (ho ho). I’m not quite sure how well the ‘quiet’ bit of that turned out but it’s definitely a good life here.

What have you done in your career up until now?

The first decade of my career was spent as a freelance journalist and editor on national consumer magazines, usually with a leaning towards celebrities and lifestyle, which was a fun time. 

Since moving to Bristol, my writing has developed into books and I’m currently halfway through writing my sixth non-fiction book. I tend to write about forgotten areas of history and have written several books about hundreds of women who have been unfairly left out of previous tellings of Bristol’s past. Although currently I’m researching the history of a particular record label. I also give lots of talks about my various research projects. 

Oh, and for six years I ran an all-female comedy club. It was meant to be a one-off, point-proving exercise (proving that, despite what I was told, there were plenty of funny women out there and that people would want to come to see them). It ended up spreading to almost 70 events in seven UK cities, brought around 150 brilliant women to the stage, generated national mainstream media coverage – and a book, of course!

What’s your proudest achievement?

To date, I’ve run 21 marathons and ultramarathons. As someone who used to hide in the school toilets with a book to avoid PE lessons, it’s been a massive confidence boost to run longer and longer distances. Completing my first ultra, which was a lap of the island of Guernsey in 2017, is definitely one of the things of which I am most proud.

What did you dream of being when you were a kid?

A witch. The sort who has a pointy black hat and a broomstick. I loved stories like ’The Worst Witch’ and ‘Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat’ when I was little and always dreamt of casting spells and flying about on a stick. It still sounds pretty appealing.

What are you reading at the moment?

Novels by mid-war women writers float my book. I’m a big fan of the specialist women’s publisher Persephone so, in that vein, I’m currently working my way through the back catalogue of Barbara Pym’s novels, which are an absolute delight. They’re real hot water bottle books but they definitely also have bite. By the by, Barbara lived and worked in Bristol during the war and she’s in one of my own books.

What’s your favourite thing about Bristol?

The Northern Slopes in Bedminster. Hardly anyone knows they’re there, which is extraordinary. They are three large patches of mostly wild land in the middle of the Knowle West estate and you can spend hours exploring them and often see hardly anyone else. There are woodlands, streams, lots of wildlife and, when you climb to the top, astounding views all the way across to the Suspension Bridge and beyond. They’re definitely Bristol’s best kept secret. You can easily walk past the entrance and not notice them if you don’t know they’re there.

If you could choose a Little Miss character to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

Probably Little Miss Whoops because I am accident prone and clumsy. If there are stairs to be fallen down – or up – I will do so. If there is a doorway to walk through, I will more than likely bump into the frame. And never ask me to hold a tray because I will drop it.

What do people always find surprising about you?

During lockdown, I got addicted to a computer game called ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’, having not played any video game since I was at university. I sank more than 1,000 hours into that game and, to be honest, they were brilliant hours. 

Some people seem surprised that as a 40-something woman I got so hooked on a video game about anthropomorphic animals. But those people would be wise to remember that it is also a game set on a paradise island that you design however you like, you are in sole control of, and which you are the absolute boss of. Nothing happens without my say so. Which is brilliant.

What’s your personal motto for life?

‘Votes for Women’. Some people try to cleverly tell me that women now have the vote in the UK so I can stand down. But they are rather missing the point that ‘Votes for Women’ as a motto encompasses the whole women’s struggle for full emancipation – whether that’s for equal pay, equal employment, equal political representation or much more. There’s still a long way to go. Oh, and I have a rather splendid ‘Votes for Women’ necklace which is a good conversation starter.

Back to Feed