On my radar: Adrian Edmondson’s cultural highlights

Show caption Adrian Edmondson: ‘My creativity deserted me at the beginning of the first lockdown.’ Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images On my radar On my radar: Adrian Edmondson’s cultural highlights The comedian on rediscovering Cat Stevens, an eye-opening podcast on Bangladesh and binge-watching Derry Girls Adrian Edmondson Sat 7 Aug 2021 15.00 BST Share on Facebook

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Born in Bradford in 1957, the actor and comedian Adrian Edmondson studied drama at the University of Manchester, where he met Rik Mayall. Together they became involved in the 80s alternative comedy scene and starred in sitcoms The Young Ones and Bottom, which they co-created. Edmondson has since appeared on TV shows such as Jonathan Creek, Holby City, Celebrity MasterChef and EastEnders. He is also a musician and has performed in folk punk band the Bad Shepherds and with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. He will be appearing in Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied Tunisia at the Almeida theatre, London, from 21 August to 18 September.

1. Album

Cat Stevens: ‘full of nervous energy and anxiety’. Photograph: ITV/REX/Shutterstock

At the beginning of the first lockdown my creativity completely deserted me and I found myself listening to this album on a loop. I liked it a lot as a teenager, but I love it even more now; it suddenly resonated again with the world I was living in, especially the track 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare). It’s full of nervous energy and an anxiety that can’t be satisfied, which is exactly how I felt as I sat in front of my computer looking at the blank, reproachful page, listening to him sing: “My hands were tied, as I struggled inside, the empty waste of another day.” It’s more comforting than it sounds, like singing the blues to get rid of the blues.

2. Podcast

A memorial for the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

My father taught history and geography, and this podcast (originally a radio programme) hosted by Misha Glenny satisfies both inherited itches. Being an island, our borders have been the same more or less since the Vikings left. Continental Europe has had a very different experience, with most countries seeing their territory and alliances ebb and flow: Italy didn’t emerge as a recognisable single state until 1861, Germany only in 1871. And the episode about Bangladesh, in which guest presenter Qasá Alom describes his community’s reluctance to remember the 1971 war and genocide, is a real eye-opener.

3. Instrument


Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. Photograph: Ian Dickson/Rex Features

My midlife crisis (long past) involved buying not one, but two drum kits. Not being able to get to the pub these past few months, I finally got the electric one out of the loft and started hitting it. I’ve become obsessed with the track Roadrunner by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, and a drum kit labelled Birch. It sounds exactly like the kit on the Jonathan Richman record and as I’m basically indulging in drum karaoke, the authenticity is an instant winner. To the untrained ear, it may sound like there is only a single continuous pattern, but in fact there are 26 and getting them all right feels like scoring a penalty at Wembley (probably!).

4. Audiobook

Jane Eyre read by Thandiwe Newton

‘Electric’: Thandiwe Newton reading Jane Eyre. Photograph: Audible

Another project during lockdown involved filling in some gaps in my reading while I tootled about in the garden trying to grow vegetables in the face of the looming apocalypse. I listened to Wilkie Collins, Thomas Hardy, Henry James and George Eliot, but this beat them all. Of course I thought I knew the story from the various screen adaptations I’d seen, and was prepared for a rather put-upon woman being cruelly treated by fate, but this reading blew that notion out of the water. It’s electric: Thandiwe Newton makes Jane so strong, independent and righteously angry. So modern! And when it was revealed that the Rivers were actually her cousins – I audibly gasped.

5. TV

Derry Girls: ‘all the performances are brilliant’. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy

Just the funniest show on television at the moment. A bunch of schoolgirls living with the stupid dreams and glum realities of schoolgirl lives, but set against the real world of sectarian Northern Ireland – there are moments that feel gloriously dangerous. All the performances are brilliant – the dopey girl, the naughty girl, the organised girl, the confused girl, the girl who’s actually an English boy, but a particular delight is Siobhán McSweeney playing the most hilarious, eye-rolling nun I’ve ever seen. It’s full of actual gags! Can’t wait for series three, which I believe is round the corner. I came to it late and binge-watched both series. I haven’t laughed as much in years. “Catch yourself on!”

6. Twitter

Evening: the Red Tree, 1908, by Piet Mondrian. Photograph: Peter Horree/Alamy

I follow several art feeds, but this is the one I find most rewarding. It opened my eyes to the period when Mondrian’s early figurative style became more and more abstract, before he produced the completely geometric pictures he’s best known for. This middle phase is full of wonder and should be celebrated more. It’s sort of half-impressionist, half-fauvist: brightly coloured representations of real things that lean towards the otherwordly. Two series in particular, one on a windmill, the other on a tree, fill me with joy. I can’t afford the original so I’ve bought a high-quality print of Evening: Red Tree.