Circled in the Radio Times

This is my new show. It’s about watching TV and finding a collection of old copies of the Radio Times. ‘A new storytelling show from the creator of John Peel’s Shed about how finding a collection of old copies of the Radio Times leads to him piecing together the life of the previous owner, and looks at the changing nature of the way all of us watch television.’

Here’s some chances to see the show:

Sunday 30th April. Machynlleth Comedy Festival.

Friday 12th May. 7.30 pm. Clapham Omnibus. London.

26th – 29th May. 6 pm. Brighton fringe. The Warren.

Edinburgh festival. 5th – 27th August (not 16th). Voodoo Rooms. 1.30 pm.

Artwork, as ever, is by the supertalented Katie Pope.

John Peel’s Shed, Weds 22nd March 2017, Norwich Arts Centre

I’m doing a one-off version of John Peel’s Shed this month in aid of the British Red Cross. Last year I wrote an article for Mosaic, a science magazine run in association with The Wellcome Trust. I wrote about the effect technology has on homesickness. As part of the research I spent time with some people who worked for the British Red Cross. I wanted to know about the way homesickness affects a range of people in the twenty-first century. It was quite incredible to hear the amount people who work there do to help refugees settle into their new lives. You can read the article here.

John Peel’s Shed is a show I first performed at the Edinburgh festival in 2011 and went on tour the following year and was adapted for Radio 4. I still perform it occasionally because it’s a show I love so much, and Norwich Arts Centre have kindly let me do the show in aid of The British Red Cross. It’s on Weds 22nd March and it’s ‘pay what you like’. Book your tickets here.

2017 performances

Weds 22nd Feb. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at York Playhouse.

Thursday 23rd Feb. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at The New Wolsey, Ipswich.

Weds 22nd March. John Peel’s Shed at Norwich Arts Centre. A one-off event to raise money for The Red Cross.

Friday 7th April. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Oxford Playhouse.

Saturday 8th April. Fundraiser at Beccles Public Hall, with Yanny Mac and Patrick Lappin.

Tuesday 11th April. Louder than Words presents John Peel’s Shed. The Ship Inn. Sheffield.

Weds 12th April. Louder than Words presents John Peel’s Shed. Pontefract.

Weds 10th May. Poetry event in Bridgend with Rhian Edwards.

Friday 26th May. EDINBURGH PREVIEW. Circled in The Radio Times. Brighton fringe. The Warren. 6 pm.

Saturday 27th May. EDINBURGH PREVIEW. Circled in The Radio Times. Brighton fringe. The Warren. 6 pm.

Sunday 28th May. EDINBURGH PREVIEW. Circled in The Radio Times. Brighton fringe. The Warren. 6 pm.

Bank Holiday Monday 29th May. EDINBURGH PREVIEW. Circled in The Radio Times. Brighton fringe. The Warren. 6 pm.

Weds 14th June. Louder than Words presents John Peel’s Shed, The Woolpack Inn, York.

Thursday 15th June. Louder than Words presents John Peel’s Shed. Wakefield Beer Exchange.

Thursday 13th July. Circled in the Radio Times at Latitude Festival.

Friday 28th, Saturday 29th July. Poems at the poetry tent at Port Eliot festival, Cornwall, alongside Ross Sutherland, Luke Wright, Rosy Carrick, Hollie McNish and Caroline Bird.

Sunday 30th July. John Peel’s Shed at Womad festival.

Edinburgh 5th – 26th August. BRAND NEW SHOW. Circled in The Radio Times. Voodoo Rooms. 1.30 pm.

Monday 7th August. Voodoo Rooms poetry gig with Luke Wright, Jemima Foxtrot and Rob Auton.

Sunday 10th September. Circled in the Radio Times at Morecambe fringe.

Wednesday 11th October. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Pocklington Arts Centre.

Tuesday 24th October. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Stamford Arts Centre.

No-one cares about your new thing


The very nice people at Go Faster Stripe have published my new poetry book. It’s called No-one cares about your new thing. It’s been the most enjoyable little project to put together, the artwork is by Katie Pope who I’ve worked with a few times now and hopefully this will be the first of a billion books we can all do together. It’s a very nice looking book and it’s good to have something out that people can buy again.

You can take a look and buy for a fiver here.

The 1998 David Bowie fan club picnic

I’ve made a new story – The 1998 David Bowie fan club picnic. It’s about love and loss, booze and picnics, friendship and Bowie. It was recorded for Future Radio and was a really fun thing to put together. I made it with Laura Woodward, who I worked with on After Hours. She’s brilliant and I’ve wanted to work with her on something for ages so this was a very nice thing to create, especially scoring it with Bowie songs. Hopefully there’ll be a chance to do more shows with Future Radio and with Laura.

You can listen to it here.


The day Caroline Aherne was in my sitcom

This morning as the two people who sit opposite me at work took off their jackets and logged onto their computers they talked about the death of Caroline Aherne. They talked about Mrs Merton and ‘Scorchio’ and the episode of The Royle Family when Nana dies and how sad they were when they heard the news on Saturday evening. I don’t tell them that I was involved in the last show Caroline ever appeared in. They wouldn’t believe me. I’m a data entry guy. A minimum wage temp who doesn’t iron his shirt because what’s the point? So I’ve decided to write this instead. A happy memory from the summer of 2014 when I spent a day with Caroline Aherne.

It was a show called After Hours. My friend Molly and I went to a pub one night and after a few rums we decided to see what happened if we tried to write a sitcom. Both of us are writers, both of us like sitcoms, both of us were in the mood for a new project. We talked about what the sitcom might be like. We agreed it had to be warm and funny and it had to have a cool soundtrack. A sitcom for 6Music listeners, we decided. We didn’t talk about anything else for the next few weeks, which turned into a few years, and it ended up changing our lives. We wrote an episode and started to think about sending it to production companies. I knew from my friend the excellent radio presenter Geoff Lloyd that Craig Cash had his own production company, Jellylegs, and was on the lookout for scripts. I emailed our episode one to Geoff, who was happy to pass it on. Craig emailed us back two days later. ‘Geoff sent me your script. I love it. I promise you I won’t rest until it’s on TV.’ He invited us to meet him in London. We drank wine and talked about sitcoms, writing, life and music. Craig helped shape our script into something special and when Lucy at Sky 1 shared Craig’s enthusiasm it felt like things were happening. There was still a long way to go but it looked like the ideas we talked about that night drinking rum in the pub were going to become a reality.

One night we got an email from Craig. ‘I gave my friend Caroline your script today. I hope you don’t mind. I trust her opinion implicitly and she doesn’t pull any punches. She just phoned to say how much she loved it. We can’t both be wrong.’ He said it felt they’d just discovered a new band and they were the only people to know about them. Molly and I didn’t stop glowing for a year. After commissioning scripts for two more episodes, Sky liked them enough to commission three more, and if they liked those they said they’d greenlight a series. Knowing that Caroline would be reading these new scripts gave us such an extra buzz and incentive. It was the best feeling. When redrafting one episode Craig noticed we’d taken out a line he liked. He emailed us. ‘You need to put that back in. That’s Caroline’s favourite line.’ A script has never been re-edited so quickly.

I like to think Craig saw something of him and Caroline reflected in Molly and me. A boy and a girl who got on well, liked a drink and were determined to achieve things with our lives. I was always delighted to think that maybe I would be Craig to Molly’s Caroline Aherne. Or maybe he just saw us as Molly and John. Maybe that would be just as big a compliment. I don’t think our show would have been made if it wasn’t for Craig. I think he saw things in our writing that other people would have missed. We didn’t go for belly laughs or anything silly. We wanted characters with soul and sadness, with futures and histories. We wanted to make our audience smile and feel something inside. Whatever we had, Caroline saw it too. It probably helped that as soon as we knew Craig was involved we watched The Royle Family and Early Doors back to back. We were being given a masterclass in how to write a sitcom. The main piece of advice was to keep on doing what we were doing. So that’s what we did. Hours and hours of sitting at the kitchen table trying to pinpoint the funniest possible way of phrasing a sentence. All the megabytes of old messages in our Gmails accounts, emailing each other with possible storylines, ‘what about if …’ Soon we had six full episodes and after a lot of anxious waiting it was eventually decided that yeah, let ’em have a go. The series was going to be made.

In-between the series being commissioned and the first day of filming both my mum and Caroline Aherne were diagnosed with cancer. My mum didn’t make it. When he heard the news Craig sent roses to our house. My mum knew I was in safe hands though. I had Molly and Craig and Caroline looking out for me. Good things were going to happen. Caroline had a longer battle. When she spoke publicly about how valuable her McMillan nurse had been every relative of someone who has suffered with the illness nodded along in agreement, with no idea how they would have coped if it wasn’t for these special, robust guardian angels giving advice and somehow turning such a bleak experience into a positive one. We were about to start auditioning for the sitcom we had written. The worst thing that had ever happened to me was happening at the same time as the best. One of the things my mum’s nurse said to me was how important it was to write things down rather than bottle them up. It feels good sometimes. Words appear on your piece of paper and you think thank God they’re not inside me anymore.

Caroline asked to appear on our show. She had been very ill but was on the mend. In a very odd twist of fate, possibly arranged by a McMillan nurse, there was one role we hadn’t cast yet. Sheila. It was a very unrewarding role for an actor – there were no lines, she just had to look proudly at her husband Geoff, played by John Thomson. (I promise the other female roles are much more fully formed than this). The day before filming those scenes Molly and I were sitting with Craig when John Thomson came over.
‘Any idea who will be playing my wife?’ he asked. Craig nodded.
‘It’s Caroline.’

John Thomson is one of the funniest people I have ever met. A relentless storyteller who treated everyone on set like his best friend whether he’d known them for twenty years or they were the work experience catering assistant. I loved being in his company but this is the one time I ever saw him unable to say anything.
Craig nodded.
John’s stunned expression turned into a beautiful smile. He was going to be able to be with his old friend again. Word got around set quickly. Lynne, the costume designer came over to me and Molly. ‘Is it true about Caroline?’ She told us about working with those guys on The Royle Family. She had worked with Craig ever since. So many people on our set were part of the Craig and Caroline family. Practically every crew member was a funny, self-deprecating, talented, adorable human being, cherry-picked for this project. Dickheads didn’t stand a chance. For a lot of people like me and Molly, as well as the cast of young actors – James, Laura, Georgina and Fergus – this world was very new to us but because of the culture Craig had nurtured over the past 25 years we felt as comfortable as people who had been there since the ‘oh Anthony’ days. The next morning things were different as Molly and I drove onto set. We were slightly more nervous than usual. And then we saw her. Caroline, sitting in a community centre in Marple where we were filming that day’s scenes. Craig waved us over. ‘Come and meet Caroline.’ Those words were as overpowering as the day he phoned Molly and me to say ‘Sky have commissioned a series. After Hours is going to be on TV. It’s happening.’

The final scene of the day was an ensemble piece. At the end of episode six there’s a gig in the community centre and afterwards the characters have to clean the place up. In the script it says something like ‘Geoff and Sheila walk around with bin bags.’ When we wrote that scene we can’t have expected its significance. As far as I know it was the last scene Caroline filmed for television. Her and John Thomson, who had been good friends since the nineties, long before fame and success had appeared, side by side once again. John said to her ‘So this is where our careers have ended up’ and Caroline laughed and gave him a cuddle and they walked around arm in arm with bin bags as the scene unfolded around them.

It ended up being a deleted scene. Maybe that’s appropriate. The episode was too long and like many scenes we loved and had poured our hearts into, in the end there just wasn’t enough time and now they only exist on the hard drives of our laptops. I hope one day I’ll be able to make more things for TV but even if I am lucky enough for one of my ideas to be taken further, After Hours will be a hard thing to live up to. Not because it’s been particularly successful, our mantelpieces are untroubled by awards, we have not had to get a special scrap book to keep all the clippings. But those who have seen it really like it. It was special and I have to keep trying to produce something else just as good again because that’s what my mum and Caroline would be telling me to do, and I don’t know what else I’d do with my evenings if I wasn’t writing stories and scribbling things in notebooks. But it’s hard. TV is a hard world and it’s hard to get people to read the things you write. But maybe one day I’ll overhear two people talking about Caroline Aherne and I’ll be able to say I met her once. I worked with her for a day. She was sensitive and kind and her smile made everyone’s cheeks glow.

Life is short and opportunities are rare. Make the most of them and look after the people around you. That’s a horrible cliched way to end an article but sometimes that’s okay. I used up all my good writing. I poured it all into After Hours. Too often it feels like we don’t really have anything left.

After Hours was written and created by Molly Naylor and John Osborne. It was on Sky One in November 2015 and directed by Craig Cash.

Caroline’s final scene: (clip courtesy of Sky 1 / Jellylegs)

day 1


More After Hours photos can be found here.

2016 performances.

Here are details of some live work I’m doing this year…

For more information (or to book me) my email is

Thursday January 21st. Forked Bar, Plymouth, with Molly Naylor. 8 pm.

Saturday January 23rd. The Lowry. Salford, with Molly Naylor. 8 pm.

Wednesday March 16th. Upstairs at The Western, with Jess Green. 8 pm.

Friday May 6th. The Osborne and After festival in Shropshire celebrating the work of the playwright John Osborne.

Saturday May 28th. PULSE festival. The Fidelity Wars – preview of a new show about osbcure indie band Hefner.

Tuesday May 31st. Poetry at the How the light gets in festival, Hay-on-Wye.

Friday 3rd June. Three Shows from Radio 4 at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

Saturday 4th June. Literary Death Match with Will Smith, Salena Godden and Andy Riley at Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

Thursday 16th June. New poems Altered Feast at the Birdcage, Norwich – with Byron Vincent.

15-17th July. Latitude festival. Poems and stories.

Saturday 10th August. Spoken word at Bestival with Scroobius Pip.

Thursday 15th September. Hauser and Wirth, Bruton, supporting Michael Horowitz.

25th September. Poetry with Molly Naylor and James Grady in Rugby.

Wednesday 28th Septebmer. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at The West End Centre, Aldershot.

Tuesday 18th October. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Sheffield Crucible.

Friday 21st October
. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Wymondham Words Festival.

Thursday 27th October. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Clapham Omnibus.

Friday 28th October. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate.

Wednesday 23rd November
. 3 Stories from Radio 4 at Norwich Arts Centre.

Bob Mills talks about football

I love Bob Mills. He was on talkSPORT the other day with Paul Hawksbee. They were talking about supporting lower league and non league teams. Bob Mills said something that really struck me, so I thought I’d post it up here.

‘Me and my son have been going to the football since he was little. We’ve got a bunch of mates. There’s probably about eight of them. They’ve known my son since he was nine. He’s just finished university – he’s in his twenties now. Apart from their names, we know nothing about each other. We don’t know what any of them do for a living some of them I don’t even know their full names, they’re just called something like Silent Peter. It’s a wonderful thing. Sometimes on the forums they’ll say so and so’s passed away. I’ve been to two funerals where I walk in and I don’t know anyone. None of the friends or family, but I knew the geezer because he was the old boy who would stand in the corner. It’s a wonderful fraternity. There is a freemasonry of football that other people don’t get. They don’t understand. My wife will say who are these blokes you talk about? What happens when you go to the football? I say well I go and stand at the back of the wooden stand and he doesn’t stand with me, he stands with the younger kids cos that’s where he likes watching from. It’s this whole life. At one of the funerals I heard a wonderful eulogy – someone from the supporters club got up. He said I’ve never met any of his family. all I know is the last time I saw him was at the football six weeks ago. He was with his son and his grandson and if that’s my last memory, I’ll be more than happy. It’s a wonderful thing that exists. Friends you know nothing about but a shared love of football.’

6 Music and David Bowie

As soon as I hear David Bowie has died I put on Shaun Keaveny’s BBC 6 Music show. He reads out tributes with tears in his throat. He plays Bowie’s Where are we now and when he fades up his mic there’s a pause as he realises he is in air broadcasting the death of David Bowie. Him and the station’s music reporter Matt Everitt are like any two work colleagues on a Monday morning. ‘I can’t believe it.’ Sad shake of head.

Two hours later the news has still not sunk in. It’s not turned out to be a hoax or misinformation. From the studio we hear sniffs and intakes of breath and bewilderment. We take these people for granted. Bowie. Health. The BBC. Luckily right now we have 6 Music. People who had Ziggy Stardust posters on the walls of their student bedrooms are 6 Music listeners now. Shaun admits the normal show he had planned for the morning seems ‘tawdry nonsense … the usual rubbish’. Keaveny, as ever is self effacing and the whole morning he conveys listeners’ feelings undercutting the gravitas with a dry sense of humour, of which Bowie of course had plenty. They play a clip from his appearance on Extras and Twitter is full of links to a photo of him reading Viz and his appearance on TFI Friday in the nineties. We can only deal with things Bowie-related this morning. Even the weather report seems inappropriate, although fittingly there is a cold front coming in. It’s a cold Monday morning. There are roadworks on the M4 southbound, each car no doubt blaring out a Best of Bowie CD rummaged for in the glove compartment.

Luckily Bowie’s back catalogue is a fitting soundtrack to a grim occasion. Oh You Pretty Things seems particularly poignant, as does Lou Reed’s Bowie produced Satellite of Love. If Bowie touched it or influenced it, 6 Music is playing it, although that is their general output anyway. It’s a sad, sad morning and we are all sharing this news together. Shaun Keaveny is being forced to process it all, allowing it to sink in at the same time as the rest of us, waiting for our toast to pop and for the bathroom to be free, clicking on YouTube links to people’s favourite Bowie songs.

The breaking news is no easier for those working on other BBC stations. Nicky Campbell announces it on BBC Five Live. There is a few seconds of dead air, shuffling papers while thoughts are articulated to make sure every word that comes out is in no way ambiguous or misconstrued. He takes time for his voice to be that of a professional broadcaster rather than a music fan but it is clear he is both. It is rare you hear a radio presenter’s voice shake with emotion. It’s like seeing a police officer running; you know this is serious. The BBC Five Live jingle is far too cheerful. The reports of FA Cup shocks and Golden Globe winners seem almost insultingly bland. It’s not. It’s not important whether Kolo Toure is going to be fit for Liverpool’s game against Arsenal on Wednesday. Right now there is only one piece of news people can focus on (although it is looking hopeful he will play).

Unlike the breakfast show presenters whose task it was to break the news live to their listeners, Lauren Laverne has had a couple of hours to digest the news and get some fresh air. She is in the unique position of being the person to be communicating with a nation of heartbroken souls. There will be private tears at the desks of open plan offices and on train station platforms and on the motorways and A-roads as people digest the loss.

I look at my to-do list for today but accept that none of it will get done, but that doesn’t matter. Laverne reads out stories listeners send in. One is from a listener who has always had a rocky relationship with her dad but the one thing they always shared was David Bowie. She’s excited about introducing her daughter to Bowie for the first time. There’s the story of Bowie’s first ever drummer who quit the band because it clashed with when he played football. Bowie and Tony Visconti tried to persuade him he was making the wrong decision but he was determined. Bowie stayed in touch with him for the rest of his life. Sent him a christmas card every year. Invited him to stay with him whenever he was in New York. Among the over-arty sentiment starting to appear online I’m pleased that one listener tweets in to declare Bowie ‘The best ever David’.

People email in about being an outsider. They had battled with being gay but the fact that Bowie existed made their life so much more bearable. People who suffered with depression and in dark times hadn’t known how they were going to cope said they were still around because his albums were there for them. There is such resonance to the opening bars of Bowie songs.

‘If you want to speak to us, we’re here,’ Lauren says and plays Life on Mars. It’s a life’s work – choosing your favourite Bowie song. I realise at some stage Lauren Laverne’s accent has changed. Only slightly and only for a few minutes but it’s when she’s talking about her love of McCartney and Bowie. It reminds me of my mum. She was from the north east too. When we were little we’d occasionally hear her on the phone to my grandma. We knew something big was going on when she had ‘gone all Geordie.’ For a brief moment Laverne is Kenickie-Lauren. Teenager-in-Sunderland-music-obsessed-punka-Lauren. It never leaves you. Our accents and attitudes and tastes in music change but it does not take much for us to be a child again. For Keaveny and Laverne and Nicky Campbell and presenters of local stations and community stations throughout the UK and across the world sitting in front of microphones, scrolling their smartphones, headphones (cans) round their neck, all of them reacting to this news, deep breaths and glasses of water while the songs are on.

Lauren, her accent gulped down with a couple of mouthfuls of Evian tells us coming up at 1 pm is a special show Mark Radcliffe is putting together. There is no-one more suited to talking about Bowie, not just as the country’s most accomplished and articulate music broadcaster but as someone with a wealth of Bowie anecdotes from numerous encounters. I’m going to stop writing this now so I can listen to it. It’s the only thing on my newly revised to-do list.

John Osborne is the author of Radio Head, up and down the dial of British radio as well as shows about radio including John Peel’s Shed and Sky 1 sitcom After Hours (written with Molly Naylor and directed by Craig Cash). @johnosradiohead

Scroobius Pip’s podcast

I was lucky enough to be a guest on Scroobius Pip’s excellent Distraction Pieces podcast. I’ve known ‘Pip’ (as he likes to be called) for a few years and it was good to hang out and talk about festivals, writing, music and I tell him about After Hours, the sitcom me and my friend Molly wrote. You can download it on itunes here or for non itunes here. Hope you like it!







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