The Guardian’s The Guide’s great, lost, back-page interview from 2009! This interview was dumped when the newspaper’s cultural diary was overhauled – but now, here it is!
It’s fantastic to see your character John Shuttleworth back on telly, the first time since Europigeon (1) in 1998.
I’ve just made some TV and radio ads for Yorkshire Tea with my old pal Willy Smax, who shot 500 Bus Stops (2). John might have preferred to promote a quality tile grout or travel mints, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect marriage of two trusted niche brands.
What are you working on at the moment?
The final edit of my new [John Shuttleworth] movie Southern Softies, set in the Channel Islands. It’s the follow-up to It’s Nice Up North, set in the Shetlands. Southern Softies nearly bit the dust when I inadvertently plugged the AC adaptor for my laptop into the hard drive, blowing it up and its contents. I’m a careless sod, but a persistent one, so it’s all back on course and I’m very excited about the world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 18th.
You’re from Sheffield, but before you were famous, did you have a Sheffield claim to fame?
My sister, Sally, claims she used to deliver Tony Christie’s mother’s newspaper in Sheffield in the early ’70s. I reminded Tony of this when I met him in Leeds a few years ago when we were guests on Richard Whiteley’s (3) short-lived TV series Friday Whiteley.
John likes a pair of fawn slacks, nothing wrong with that, but have you had any fashion disasters in the past?
My mother made me a pair of bell-bottom trousers for a Christmas party in [school class] J4. I thought they were cool until someone laughed and said they looked homemade. I said, ‘Well yes, they are,’ and this kid laughed even harder. So I kicked him and split my trousers.
John Shuttleworth is eco-minded – but are you?
Earlier this year I bought an electric G-Wiz (4) car in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint. Having now left London and moved back up north, the car is parked permanently in a West End car park. I make frequent trips down south to recharge it, trips which increase my carbon footprint. I realise this irony must not be left unchecked, so I plan an epic voyage in my G-Wiz from London to Orkney, where I have an old church (5) which I’m planning to restore and convert into an eco-friendly recording studio. The car will be there to ferry Bono and the Arctic Monkeys, etc, around the island. Anyway, it might take a while, this trip, as a single charge of the car’s battery will only take it 30 miles, so I’ll be looking for a few power sockets en route. Look out for me!
What issue outrages you?
Cruelty to farm animals. It amazes me how worked up we get because a whippet is malnourished, cruel as that is, but no-one cares that thousands of sheep, cows, pigs and chickens live miserable lives before suffering even more miserable deaths. Check out PETA [www.peta.org.uk] and you’ll learn all about how Australian sheep farmers still carry out ‘mulesing’ (6), a barbaric practice that is maiming thousands of defenceless lambs for no logical reason. Am I a vegetarian? Not quite, so yes, I’m a hypocrite. But I’m beginning to realise that vegetarianism is the way forward – not just for the sake of the animals, but the planet too.
None of us are getting any younger, are we?
I recently hit 50 and death is suddenly on the agenda. I’m noticing a lot more people around me are dying. My father, Derek, recently observed that he used to be invited to lots of funerals but gradually the invites are tailing off. I used to want to be cremated, but a good old-fashioned burial is more eco-friendly. I’d miss the ashes routine, so perhaps the compost that I eventually become could be sprinkled on my vegetable patch.
Where would you want to be buried?
Well, I wouldn’t want to be planted anywhere near noisy traffic, or where disaffected youths congregate, or next to one of those chavvy headstones with a drawing of a footballer doing a bodyswerve. That’d start me turning, that would.
1 Shuttleworth’s Eurovision push; 2 Trans-Peak District tour; 3 C, U, N, T came out on Countdown, but cut; 4 Made in India; 5 wwwthespaceorkney.com; 6 Removal of buttock skin.
Southern Softies is at Pleasance Above, Pleasance, Edinburgh, August 18, 9.15pm, www.pleasance.co.uk