EDitorial ± 15-Jan-2018

John Hegley, Bungay

"Is this a town or a village?" asks John Hegley to the packed audience in the venerable Fisher Theatre. "A town!" they shout back with some venom. Welcome to Bungay, everyone.

Used to be a regular gig for us -- eg Ely in 2010 -- but it's been flippin' years since we caught up with this national treasure. "Let's not forget that poetry can be fun," says John, and leaves a beat. "But not tonight."

Before we see "the John Betjeman of Newington Green" (thanks, Clive Anderson), there's the small matter of sitting through a performance by Shedlode, described as "a Bungay supergroup". Lordy. No idea what kind of sound will be coming out as more and more band members take the stage, then off we go on a honky-tonk hootenanny. They're top value and very much up for it and freely admit to usually playing the local pub scene, "so please ignore us and talk amongst yourselves if you like." When John appears, after half a dozen songs, he explains that he did a John Peel session way back in the early 1980s with his band The Popticians and became friends with The Farmer's Boys, two of whom are now in Shedlode.

Many many highlights including live audience French translation, a story about recreating one his dad's artworks including the impromptu use of a Strepsil, romantic advice from his Folies Bergere grandmother, and a couple of sprawling musical collaborations with Shedlode, under-rehearsed and all the better for it, finishing with a three part singalong to It All Went Pear Shaped.

Not forgetting the raffle for a one night stay in a local B&B in which John happened to be staying. "They've got one of those voice things in the room," he said, "with a girl's name. A-something?" "Alexa!" shouted one or two in the crowd. "Yeah," he said. "For the last hour and a half before the show, I've been listening to Charlie Parker. It was great!". That man's a legend.