Bedfringe 2021 Interview: The First Broadcast: The Battle for the Beeb in 1922

“My first time at Bedfringe was in 1985/1955/2015/1885. My second time at Bedfringe will be 1922.”

WHO: Paul Kerensa: Writer/Performer/Creator/Dogsbody

WHAT: “It’s the centenary year of the BBC! By Christmas 1922, the British Broadcasting Company had 30,000 listeners but only four employees. Who were they?

In ‘The First Broadcast’, a new comic historical one-man ‘stand-up history’  show, comedian, writer and broadcaster Paul Kerensa brings to life two of the BBC’s forgotten pioneers – Arthur Burrows and Peter Eckersley.

Both worked for The Marconi Company, where they squabbled, mocked and generally disagreed about what this new radio thing should be. One has grand ideas of bringing opera to people’s homes via a small box in the corner. The other is the pre-Goon Goon, covering records in jam, creating the first radio quiz, and impersonating opera singers.

In this live one-man show, based on The British Broadcasting Century Podcast, Paul plays both men, bringing to life those early broadcasts and the rivalry that spawned an industry. Expect to be informed, educated, but above all entertained.”

WHERE: Quarry Theatre

WHEN: 31 July 2022 @ 16:00 (60mins)

MORE: Click Here!

Is this your first time to Bedfringe?

I’ve been to Bedfringe once before, with Back to the Futon: a tribute show to Back to the Future. Why just do jokes when you can cling to cultural history, and spend far too much researching and re-enacting something incredibly difficult to bring to life? That’s what I did then with Back to the Future – that’s what I’m doing this time with the first BBC broadcasts. So my first time at Bedfringe was in 1985/1955/2015/1885. My second time at Bedfringe will be 1922. It’s a cracking festival full of lovely people. Honestly it’s the people that make the festival. The venues, the organisation, the shows themselves… all great, but it all flows from good old-fashioned decent people putting on something they believe in. (Alright, pipe down the strings, I’m going to start welling up. Clearly it’s been too long without festivals – I’m starting to get emotional.)

What are the big things you’ve learned since 2021 and have you absorbed any of the lessons yet?

I’m always learning, with each performance. Part of the joy/curse of being a stand-up, is that everything is work-in-progress. This new show I’m doing is in theory a one-man play, but I found when writing it and previewing it, that I can’t finish it. If I were an actor (but then again, no…), I’d write, rehearse and finish a thing. But the stand-up in me says no! Far more fun to have some fun with it, learn the script, forget it again, play with it, try new things, change it a little each time. Festivals are a joy to have the chance to do this – don’t tell Leicester, but their festival is first in the calendar, in February, so every year, performers turn up there with half an idea on the back of a coaster. By Bedfringe though, we have a finished show. Well, unfinished. See above. I never finish anything. Not even a sentenc

Tell us about your show.

100 years ago, the BBC began. But not only that, 100 years ago, pre-BBC radio began too. Britain’s first regular broadcasting station had a wild Kenny Everett-style presenter who’d cover records in jam, impersonate opera singers, overrun the time allowed in the government licence… and he’d go on to become the BBC’s first Chief Engineer. So I’m recreating his broadcasts, and the first BBC broadcasts, and telling the tale of how it all came together. It’s a true tale I’ve been researching for years. I run a podcast on it (The British Broadcasting Century podcast) and I’m writing a novel about it (Auntie and Uncles, due out this autumn). But the live tour has been great to bring these forgotten voices to life.

What should your audience see at Bedfringe after they’ve seen your show?

23 July at the Quarry is packed with great performers I just love – Alfie Moore’s cop show, Kev Sutherland’s Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Co (he’s been doing it for years – his arms must be knackered), and Simon Munnery is just a marvel whose comedy deserves to be wrapped in cotton wool and stored in a museum. Head there exactly a week later and you get Max Fulham, a cracking ventriloquist who’s absolutely going places. Mitch Benn’s musical comedy is there that day too, as is the fab Juliette Burton, who’s always got something to say and a great attitude to say it. I’ve missed out a couple of dozen other great acts. Just go to all of it. You’re in for a treat.