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My Arts: John Hegley

The comic author, performer and radio presenter comes to Liverpool to share poetic observations on insects, people and other stuff

Published on February 13th 2008.

My Arts: John Hegley

What are your three best music albums of all time?
The Best of Charlie Parker, Bartok's String Quartet and Noah's Ark Trap by Nic Jones. Nic Jones turned me on to folk music.

What were the first and the last records that you bought?
Probably a Barclay James Harvest album was the first. I wonder what happened to them? Your readers can come along and tell me at the Everyman gig.
The last was Al Hibbler and Roland Kirk. I like the way they come from two different areas of jazz. Al Hibbler was a sort of mainstream crooner and Kirk a bit of a wacky blaster. A nice combination.

What was the first live gig that you went to?
A heavy metal band called Titus Groan at Bristol Colston Hall.

And the last?
Robin Hitchcock at the Royal Festival Hall two weeks ago.

Did you pay to get in?
Mel, my girlfriend, bought me the ticket for Christmas.

What tune is running around your head at the moment?
Almost Blue by Elvis Costello, definitely. I have just been discussing it on a programme on Radio 4 It's a beautiful song. He's from up your way, isn't he?

What newspapers/magazines do you read?
The Guardian every now and then. I sometimes get Poetry Review and a Scottish literary magazine called Chapman.

What word do you most like the sound of?

Which website do you visit most often?
Tragically, my own. Occasionally Luton Town FC but you can't get past the first page to find out when the games are on.

Who or what do you listen to on the radio?
Mark Riley's Brain Surgery on 6 Music, but I generally have Radio 3 on, and the 606 Phone In on Radio Five Live, especially when Luton have been on. Especially when Luton have been playing Liverpool, and losing five-nil! The presenter, at the time, said you'd have thought they'd won five-nil, not lost, and that was lovely.

What was the best television show ever made?
The Singing Detective. It was classy, it was art, but it was art that everyone got.

What is your best film?
Well, I did like Withnail and I. What I really loved about it was when they were sat in that pub in Camden Town. You really got the sense that adventure was ahead.

What book in childhood made the biggest impression on you?
Ian Serrallier's The Silver Sword. Again it is a journey. A story about travelling through wartime in the snow. And I remember really feeling the snow. It fired me up to read more novels.

What book are you currently reading at bedtime?
I am reading Queen of the Cotton Cities, by Adam O'Riordan and it's about The Other City. The Manchester One.

Who or what makes you laugh?
The cat makes me laugh, especially when she sees a bird. She sounds like Tommy Cooper.

Which single work of art do you find the most moving and why?
Bruchs Violin Concerto, and Cyrano De Bergerac: the film with Depardieu and also a stage version I went to in London in the early 1990s. I'd seen the film and knew the story, so when he came back onstage, after he had been ambushed, I thought: “I'm going to cry so loud here. I'd better leave because I can't cope with it.” It is such a terribly sad scene.

Which living artist do you most admire and why?
Elvis Costello. He tries new things all the time. He's always moving on as an artist. He's still up there isn't he? And the fans have a huge affection for him. The last time I saw him was my birthday. Sean Hughes took me to see him.

What are you promoting?
Nothing much. In my last book I did a poem about Liverpool, after working with a group of kids in Speke. But I got really really sick and I was really disappointed that I didn't do more with them and give them the attention they deserved. But I wrote a poem when I was up. I'll do it at the show. It was a bit of homage to Liverpool, to the spirit of the people. If anywhere would heel you, it would be here.

Know any jokes?
There's one that Sean says he really likes and he told me.
He said: “You know how some people have signs up saying 'You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps'. Well I went in an office the other day and it was written on the wall, in faeces."

*John Hegley in Letter to an Earwig, Everyman Theatre, Saturday 23 February at 19:45pm. Call 0151 709 4776 to book.

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