The globetrotter keeping world service alive - Andy Kershaw takes broadcasting back to his kitchen
Readers of a certain age will have gone through that rite of passage of late night radio listening under the bedclothes, but now, the distinctive tones of Andy Kershaw can now be heard via their phone or computer rather than FM radio.
Like so many podcasts, the seeds for his latest venture were sown during lockdown: “I lost all my work overnight with lockdown in 2020,” he reveals. That included festival DJ gigs as well as radio, and his popular one man shows, while his appearances on BBC’s One Show dried up owing to its new producer favouring celebrity presenters rather than actual news reporters.
So Kershaw decided to make use of this unexpected spare time. “People had been nagging me for years to do a podcast and it was always something I’d ‘get round to’,” he says, “so lockdown gave me the opportunity.
“Whenever I bumped into people, they’d always say what they missed more than anything was my old Radio 1 and 3 shows – ‘when you’d play two hours of bloody great records!’”
And he has thousands of records to choose from. “So, I can relax and not be obsessed with playing new stuff, instead I can just turn, look at the shelves and say, ‘we’ll have a little bit of that’.”
The podcasts themselves surface “every two or three weeks – I didn’t want to find myself on the treadmill I’d been on for 25 years on radio, having to come up with a programme every week – here there’s no pressure or deadlines.”
As well as tracks gathered from his trips around the world and a smattering of new music, most of the shows so far also feature a live session, recorded live in the Kershaw kitchen. Among the acts to have popped by for a cuppa and chat include Half Man Half Biscuit, (once described by Kershaw as “the most authentic British band since The Clash”), as well as comedy giant John Shuttleworth, and revered folk guitarist Martin Simpson.
This is a far cry from Kershaw’s radio days – although his BBC connection may not be over quite yet. He recently raided his archive for The Kershaw Tapes, a series broadcast just last year for Radio 3, and still available on BBC Sounds. “It was compiled from my own recordings from all over the world from the last 30 years,” he recounts, “from numerous countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Cajun in Louisiana, village musicians in Equatorial Guinea…”
All quite far removed from the current podcast series, self-contained in its own Lancashire bubble. “Geographically it’s been easy to pull in a few pals – Martin Simpson’s only in Sheffield, Steve Tilson’s three miles up the road in Hebden Bridge.”
But does he hark back to the world music of his past shows? “One of the problems living in the Pennines is there aren’t many groups of Congolese musicians moving through Todmorten on a regular basis!”
You can find ‘Bloody Great Records’ at www.andykershaw.co.uk.