Author interview – John Osborne

Author and poet John Osborne is worthy of your attention if like me you love radio. He trawled the online and FM radio stations for the highly readable ‘Radio Head’. He is also a poet and has a new book out, ‘The Newsagent’s Window’. For more info pop over to his publisher’s page

1. What are you currently up to?

At the moment most of what I’m doing involved poetry. In the last couple of months I’ve performed at Glastonbury, Latitude, Port Eliot, I’m about to head up to the Edinburgh fringe. I’m also working on a new book of poems for Nasty Little Press, who I worked with earlier on this year to publish my first poetry pamphlet What if men burst in wearing balaclavas. Hopefully something will be out by next summer.

2. After writing ‘Radio Head’ were there any radio stations that you discovered that have now become firm favourites? Have you listened to the rebranded Virgin Radio now called Absolute?
Yes, Absolute is one of the stations I listen to most regularly now. Frank Skinner and Dave Gorman have brilliant shows,they’ve adapted really well to radio. Geoff Lloyd’s Hometime show is one I always try and listen to, as well as his Sunday evening show where he plays more alternative music. It’s great that Absolute seem to be embracing interesting and original music and shows – their playlist is really varied now.

I also listen to 6music a lot, it’s much better than it was when I wrote the chapter about it in Radio Head. Lauren Laverne’s show is one of my favourites, the range of music she plays is pretty incredible. I also love Tom Ravenscroft on Friday nights.

3. Who are your radio presenter/DJ heroes and why?

Well the big one was obviously John Peel, he changed everything, discovering his show when I was about 15 was one of the biggest things of my life. Apart from him I just love people who make entertaining radio. Geoff Lloyd, Danny Baker, I think Jonathan Ross will be missed. But Peel will always be special to so many.

4. How did the idea come about for your latest book on newsgents’ window ads?

I moved into a house that was completely unfurnished; it didn’t have beds, chairs, a toaster, kettle. And I saw an advert for a single bed, then an advert for a garage sakle and gradually I started to pick up bits and pieces. The people I met were fascinating, everything I bought had a story behind it and I started to use newsagents windows more and more.  My book is about the community of people who use these windows, a world without ebay and gumtree.

5. How did the ‘Homework’ events come about? What have been the highlights to date?
I’m part of a poetry collective called Aisle16. Homework is a monthly night at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club where we try out new material. It’s called Homework because it’s pieces we’ve written especially for the night, we theme the events so it’s just trying to stretch ourselves. One project we did was called Local Boys Done Good, where 5 members of Aisle16 all did gigs in the towns where we grew up in. The most recent night we had about 150 people in, so it’s getting pretty well known. We’ve also been able to invite a few special guests along, people whose work we all really love and wanted to be part of the night. My big highlight was definitely getting Jon Ronson along, the writer and filmmaker. We’re all big fans of his work. Also we had Tim Key who then went on to win the Edinburgh Comedy Award, Kate Nash, Kevin Eldon. They’re fun nights to do, we’re planning next year already.

6. Does the advent of readers like Kindle and I Pad now mean the days of the published book are numbered?
No, not at all. I think the kindle will be popular and people will use it. Clunky things like dictionaries and encyclopedieas will struggle, but people will always buy books. I hope so, anyway.


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