On my radar: Shaun Keaveny’s cultural highlights

The 6 Music presenter on Schitt’s Creek, Douglas Stuart’s extraordinary Shuggie Bain and the canal-side pub he longs to visit

Born in Leigh, Greater Manchester, in 1972, radio DJ and presenter Shaun Keaveny began his career at XFM and in 2007 joined 6 Music, where he hosted the breakfast show for more than a decade, before moving to afternoons in 2018. He has presented festival coverage from Latitude and the Isle of Wight for Sky Arts, appeared on BBC One’s Stand Up for Comic Relief and, in 2010, published his first book, R2D2 Lives in Preston. On 10 September he will be leaving 6 Music; until then, he is on each weekday from 1pm-4pm and will be on BBC Radio 2 on 28 August and 25 September, 6-8pm. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

1. Podcast

A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

Chuck Berry in concert, 1974.
Chuck Berry in concert, 1974. Photograph: ABC Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

I’ve never been a voracious consumer of podcasts – I’m a radio guy; I prefer a slightly more concise listen – but I’ve become absolutely obsessed with this podcast by a gentleman called Andrew Hickey. I started listening to it when I contracted Covid three days before Christmas, laid up in bed. It’s this full sweep from the late 1930s, starting with things like Louis Jordan, jazz and Chuck Berry. He takes one song per episode and digs down, explaining why that particular song or artist has been so influential on the music of today.

2. TV

Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)

Left to right: Annie Murphy, Daniel Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in Schitt’s Creek.
Left to right: Annie Murphy, Daniel Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in Schitt’s Creek. Photograph: Steve Wilkie/CBC/ITV/Kobal/Shutterstock

Because of the pandemic and trying to keep three children out of trouble, we’ve only just finished Schitt’s Creek – it’s just the ultimate salve and panacea for these extremely difficult times. Eugene and Dan Levy’s writing in it is just poetically gorgeous; it’s that exact thing where they manage to floor you with laughter but also give a little undertow of sentiment while not being saccharine. It’s basically a riches-to-rags story about a very wealthy family who lose everything, but what they lose financially they gain emotionally and spiritually. It sounds corny, but it’s fabulous.

3. Pub

Union Tavern, Westbourne Park, London W9

The canalside garden at the Union Tavern.
The canalside garden at the Union Tavern. Photograph: union-tavern.co.uk

I’ve recently been cycling to work along the Grand Union Canal – there’s something calming about that water. Every day, I ride past a pub on the other side of the canal and it’s become this mythical place for me. It’s like a mirage: it’s got a beautiful outdoor seating area, and I’ve looked at the menu, and I’ve seen the glistening bar through the door. So the dream is to book in a late-summer afternoon, perhaps myself and my wife, and have a meal and a drink by the canal. It’s not like climbing Machu Picchu on donkeys, but that is what I’m hoping to achieve.

4. Music

Bleach Lab

Bleach Lab.
Bleach Lab (left to right): Frank Wates (guitar), Kieran Weston (drums), Jenna Kyle (vocals & guitar), Josh Longman (bass). Photograph: Paddy@stayloose.co.uk/No credit

Musically, I’ve been bouncing around between really old stuff, such as Anita Baker and the Drifters, but my new obsession is female-fronted dream pop. I’m particularly enamoured of bands such as Penelope Isles and Bleach Lab: shimmering guitars, discombobulated vocals – perfect. I like the latter’s song Old Ways, which is reminiscent of mid-90s shoegaze, lots of chorus and delayed guitars. I haven’t seen them live – I’ve not been out the house, apart from the canal – but come September, I’m hoping to have time to go and visit some venues. I’ve not been to a little indie venue watching a band for a long time, so I can’t wait.

5. Film

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

I was perhaps drawn to this because I was listening to the Andrew Hickey podcast. Viola Davis is Ma Rainey, who was a very influential blues singer, and it portrays a recording session that happened in 1927. It’s such a powerful, beautiful film that documents racial struggle at the time and it contains Chadwick Boseman’s last screen role. There’s a performance towards the end that feels almost intrusive to watch: it’s as if he’s performing with every ounce of emotional power that he’s got left.

6. Book

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart.
Scottish author Douglas Stuart. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

When the pandemic broke last year we’d just had our third child and for some reason the combination of the two meant I couldn’t read fiction for quite some time. I needed a route back in, so I finally finished this. It’s a phenomenal and visceral portrayal of 80s Glaswegian struggle, alcoholism and despair, which probably says a lot about where I was in my head when I was reading it. The portrayal of broken family love has such power and beauty: it was harrowing but somehow emotionally nourishing as well. I don’t know quite how Douglas Stuart pulled that off, but he did.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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