Review of ‘The Adventures of Andy Kershaw’, Matthew’s Yard, Thursday 17th July

By - Tuesday 22nd July, 2014

After interviewing the veteran broadcaster last month, Paul Dennis reports on Andy Kershaw’s adventures and anecdotes

Andy Kershaw.
Picture provided by Neil Woodcock and used with permission.

Big thanks are due to Neil Woodcock and the rest of “The ukelele and other machines” team for setting up ‘The Adventures of Andy Kershaw’ at Matthew’s Yard on Thursday 17th July. I hope it’s the start of many more such gigs, especially if they are of this quality.

Clearly they have a great eye for interesting turns and they were rewarded with a well-attended gig.

Andy Kershaw was entertaining and engaging, as was his best mate, Buster the dog, and as shows go I’d vote this as a hit.

As well as being a fine broadcaster and writer, Andy Kershaw is also a very gifted raconteur, but he wears this multi-talented mantle very lightly and, as many of the audience discovered, is an approachable sort of chap.

It was no surprise that the adventures drew heavily from his autobiography, No Off Switch. It’s a sizeable tome, even in paperback. But in the pre-amble to the real meat of the show we were given the reason why. Contracted many years before it was written, with Kershaw constantly fobbing off the evil day of getting down to work, the book then had to include these years of interesting stuff. So when he finally fired up his laptop, there was a major task in hand.

The evening of adventures was a skimming stone across the book, and it showed no signs of sinking.

Kershaw’s tenure as entertainments secretary at Leeds University formed a jumping-off point for a life involving music. As career moves go, getting that job at Leeds was huge. The venue consistently drew some of the biggest names in music, and even before his arrival, Leeds Uni had been the setting for major live albums by The Who and John Martyn.

We were also treated to insights on life at the BBC with sadly-missed duo John Peel and the great producer John Walters, and on the discovery of some of the music that stopped Andy Kershaw in his tracks – his ‘what the (expletive deleted) moments’, as he described them. It’s a sign of Kershaw’s unnerving ability to make you think as well as feel that my own first real ‘expletive deleted’ moment came back to me as I listened. It was when Jimi Hendrix appeared on Top of the Pops for the first time… sorry to digress, but it was that kind of evening.

There’s a bit of the Alan Bennett about Kershaw

As well as music, there were stories from his travels in Rwanda, delivered in a straight, factual reporting style when the temptation to preach must have been enormous. He’s a bit of a stealth bomber, is Kershaw, and although he’d probably hate me for saying it, there’s a bit of the Alan Bennett about him. He’s clearly witty and erudite, but his flat northern vowels provide excellent camouflage for the fact and invite engagement in a way I’ve never experienced around an Oxbridge-and-Footlights product like Stephen Fry, for example.

That’s no criticism of Stephen Fry by the way – it’s all about perception.

It was an entertaining and instructional evening, covering the harsh realities of life and death in what we contemptuously refer to as the Third World and seamlessly including the best place to purchase stuffed pheasants and blue washing up bowls (North Korea).

All that the evening needed was a suitably ‘big finish’, and having read through No Off Switch I’m a bit mystified, and more than a tad disappointed that we weren’t sent on our way home with the late, great, Warren Zevon’s ‘Lawyers, guns and money’ ringing in our ears.

Maybe next time.

Paul Dennis

Paul Dennis

An award-winning journalist, Paul has worked on angling titles for much of his career, including 16 years as deputy editor of Angler's Mail and 4 years as editor of Total Sea Fishing magazine. He is a regular freelance contributor for a wide array of non-angling-related titles, author of two books on angling and a widely-followed authority on the subject.

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  • Anne Giles

    We had planned to go, but changed our minds, as we were out at Matthews Yard the evening before, and two nights on the trot was too much.