Just a brief glance at the “bluffer’s guide” on Andy Kershaw’s website fair sends the mind boggling.
From running away from Leeds University on his first day there to go and see blues great BB King to revealing the fact that his record and CD collection weighs seven tons, and from being banned from Malawi under the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda to witnessing the distressing genocide in Rwanda and reporting on it for radio’s Today programme, it is working life packed with incident.
Others will recall Andy from his days presenting music show Whistle Test at the start of his broadcasting career, being one of the anchors at Live Aid and as a DJ on Radio One.
Many of them are crammed into Kershaw’s autobiography, No Off Switch, and Andy, now resident in Calderdale, will be telling and expanding on some of them at what is now a local date at Hebden Bridge Trades Club next Thursday, April 18. With musical content incidental, it’s something of a home show for the broadcaster, journalist and DJ, who is now resident in Todmorden, and it isn’t an understatement when the show refers to his adventures in broadcasting.
He says much of it has happened by chance, but it’s clear he works hard at it too. Organising extra publicity for some shows in Scotland off his own bat and the way he wrested back the rights to his autobiography after being singularly unimpressed by the publisher’s efforts to promote it demonstrate he is a “doer” as well as being a good talker.
Andy carries with him a fascination for life from childhood (he’s now in his early 50s) and a desire to see the world out there.
“I was lucky to grow up when it seemed every morning something really dramatic had happened. I was eight or nine and may not have understood the significance but it was very, very clear and exciting,” he said. “It climaxed in June 1969 with man leaving the planet and setting foot on the moon. How could you not get excited by that? It was incredible progress, the speed of it.”
It was the same in music, to the extent that when he went to Leeds to study he certainly had an eye on the social secretary’s post. “To be part of that at 19 or 20, booking bands, organising gigs and running the organisation with all the different responsibilities, as well as being exciting it taught me a lot about myself and I recognised a quality I didn’t know I had, leadership.”
There followed an unorthodox route into television and radio, beginning with Andy’s becoming Billy Bragg’s tour manager and an appearance by the Barking bard on Whistle Test had the programme’s office soon quizzing Kershaw about screen testing for a job as presenter. “People used to say I was a TV natural, which is nice, but doing TV or radio, I can only be myself. It’s not an act. They let me loose on the TV studios as me,” he said.
Whistle Test duties led to Live Aid and was soon followed by DJ work on Radio One. “Within a few weeks of being there I was working in a tiny chaotic office with John Peel, who I’d met a time or two when he was doing the utterly baffling John Peel Roadshow, my broadcasting hero, and the genius John Walters,” he says.
“The Radio One hierarchy regarded us as a necessary nuisance. We were like a radio station within a radio station. Walters used to say ‘we’re not here to give the public what they want, we’re here to give the public what they don’t know they want!”
Tickets for The Adventures Of Andy Kershaw at Hebden Bridge Trades Club on April 18 are now available and tickets are £15 (£12 for members) - see www. thetradesclub.com for more details.
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