FEATURE: Sad Endings and New Beginnings: The Finale of Shaun Keaveny’s Breakfast Show




Sad Endings and New Beginnings  

IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny (who delivered his final breakfast show (he moves to afternoons in January) for BBC Radio 6 Music from the ‘legendary’ Maida Vale Studios, London on 14th December, 2018 after eleven years in that slot)/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC 

The Finale of Shaun Keaveny’s Breakfast Show


YESTERDAY was a pretty memorable and special day...


 PHOTO CREDIT: @monaeendra/Unsplash

that will be etched into my mind for years to come! It did not start too well, mind. I only got three hours’ sleep the night before – the heating was a bit f*cked – and was determined not to sleep through my alarm! I eventually crawled out of bed at 05:30 and made my way to Wood Green station (all glamour and loveliness that time in the morning!). I took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus and then transferred to the Bakerloo Line where I connected to Warwick Avenue (singing Duffy all the way) – making that fateful and lovely stroll to Maida Vale Studios on Delaware Road. I has stressed myself into thinking the London Underground would grind to a halt on the day I went to see a radio hero of mine say goodbye to his breakfast show. I caught the Tube fine and everything was smooth. I got to Maida Vale in the freezing cold and was one of the first in line when I arrived at Maida Vale. There were a few other people there who were listening to the start of Shaun Keaveny’s last-ever breakfast show – it started at its usual time of 7 A.M. but we were let it from 8 – and it was a jovial mood. Some had come from as far afield as Scotland and I was chatting to a woman, whose name alludes me, who was the last-ever Small Claims Court guest. She did it live in the studio and was excited to be there…

 IN THIS PHOTO: The exterior of the ‘legendary’ Maida Vale Studios/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The people there ranged from the likes of me (who had followed the show for about four years) to the die-hard Keaveny fans. It was a mix of sadness and happiness as we stood outside awaiting the call. People started chattering and speculating as to what the show would entail and what the insides of Maida Vale would look like. I had only just written a piece about the legendary space; so it was strange to be there! It is sad it will close its doors and facilities will be moved to East London so it was extra-special to be one of the last members of the public to see the insides! I was overjoyed when I got the email to say I was among the select audience to see Keaveny’s last show and this piece might have helped clinch it. I brought along a musician who is also a big fan, Nick Byrne, and we both wandered in and were seated in the small studio. It was almost zoo-like filing in and seeing the ‘main attraction’ up-close and personal. That might sound strange but, for the most part, we see BBC 6 Music presenters like Shaun Keaveny as disembodied heads - and we rarely ever get to meet them!

I have met and chatted with Matt Everitt before – we had breakfast/brunch once; more on him later – and was aware of him as a person. Keaveny, on the other hand, was this hero on the airwaves who I have always been keen to meet. Being seated so close to him was a real buzz! I am not sure how many people were in the studio but there was a balcony above me and a few rows of seats on the floor. I was seated to the left of the desk – Keaveny was to the north-west of me – and I was a matter of feet away! Matt Everitt made his return to the show after spending a bit of time away (he had a daughter and she was ill for a little bit). Georgie Rogers, as Shaun Keaveny said earlier in his last show, did a brilliant job and carried the baton very well – with huge grace, professionalism and appeal. She was also sat in the audience and it was great to see Keaveny and Everitt rekindle their radio romance for the big occasion. There was no music news yesterday (as it was a special show…) and, instead, some lighthearted banter and lots of emotion too. It was good to see the two back together and they will resume their partnership (alongside Georgie Rogers) when Keaveny takes to the afternoons in a few weeks.

The last broadcast was fascinating to watch as it gave me a glimpse into what a ‘typical’ Shaun Keaveny broadcast contained. Off of the air – when music and news was played – he was chatting to the audience, swearing a ‘bit’ (telling us not to f*cking swear!) and some delicious brioche-type goods were handed/thrown out. There was a lot of laughter and it I got to see producer Phil Smith handing out paper/emails and calling the shots. Zahra – his assistant/co-producer – was there and the whole team were doing the usual show but a select few of us had the pleasure of seeing the cogs turn. When the music was playing, Keaveny was wandering a bit; going to the toilet and bantering. Matt Everitt was there with his new daughter (and girlfriend) and there were laptops out and it was all wonderful! The entire day was dedicated to celebration and cheer and a rare opportunity to see all the beloved BBC Radio 6 Music personalities united and under the same roof. Things, naturally, were focused on Shaun Keaveny and his very last show. It was both an honour and an emotional experience knowing I, and a select few, were watching some truly wonderful.

Songs were played and emails read out; there was that live Small Claims Court and there were lots of special appearances. I have only been in a radio studio once - for BBC Radio 5 in 2017 when taking part in a show dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band -, so was not overly-sure that the sensation was regarding the off-mic chats and how a show comes together. Seeing that transformation of the serious yet funny Keaveny on the air and speaking with the listeners to a looser and less censored off-air version was really fascinating! It was all part of a magical and eye-opening experience at Maida Vale Studios! Included in the final breakfast show was spoof psychic/futurologist Clinton Baptiste (Phoenix Nights). Hewas there to predict the future for Shaun Keaveny and his show – he got lots of laughs and love – and I enjoyed seeing the mullet-overloaded Baptiste in the studio. Mark King of Level 42 was there - and Ed Harcourt was the special music guest. Harcourt performed a cover of The Pretenders’ 2000 Miles (It Must Be Christmas Time) and there was a great story behind that choice…

 IN THIS PHOTO: Ed Harcourt was the special musical guest for Shaun Keaveny’s final breakfast show/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Harcourt was actually on the phone with Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders’ lead) and he mentioned he’d be going on the last-ever breakfast show. He asked if he could cover the song and she was cool with it. Harcourt performed a stunning version of the song and I was a mere few feet behind his piano. BBC Radio 6 Music D.J.s such as Chris Hawkins (hungover) and Mary Anne Hobbs were there and, throughout the all-day Christmas celebration at Maida Vale Studios; so many BBC Radio 6 Music presenters were there in a rare coming together. Whereas some of the shows were taking part in the Christmas festivities; Shaun Keaveny was ending his breakfast tenure after eleven years and eight months. Lauren Laverne, who takes over breakfast from January, was there (in a very sparkly and cool dress) and was interviewed by Keaveny – she suggested there might be a new feature, House Music, that matches the noise of household appliances with recognisable songs (could be cool!). It was a bit cryptic but she stated how excited she was and what an opportunity it was going to be. The fact it is the last time Keaveny and Laverne will ‘hand over’ to one another – Laverne follows Keaveny’s show and, as Mary Anne Hobbs is sandwiched between them, they will no longer follow one another – made it a bit sad! They had some very kind words to say about one another and Laverne was presenting her usual show from a different studio.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne moves from her mid-morning/early-afternoon slot and takes over from Shaun Keaveny from January/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The final minutes were emotional and, with a potent and touching last speech, Shaun Keaveny signed off. He did not put a foot wrong – there was a slight hiccup earlier – and his last show was very fun and incredibly affectionate. When the show was over and the applause rang out; everyone started to pile out and there were photos taken. A cake was brought in earlier and I was chomping on it as we all started to slowly move out. It was almost like meeting a Royal in the sense there was a neat line and each of us had our moment. I did not get to chat with Georgie Rogers or Matt Everitt – they were busy or with other people/Everitt’s baby – but I got to shake Shaun Keaveny’s hand and have a little chat. I asked whether his decision to move to afternoons was motivated by tiredness and a need to regain his human side – he said, after all these years, he was barely able to put a sentence together.

IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt and Shaun Keaveny live for the last show at Maida Vale Studios on 14th December, 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: @MissSamSingh

A lot of people I spoke with - Keaveny included - were excited to see this new afternoon show but nervous about the shift. It is odd we will not hear the morning show with the usual jingles and beds; the Small Claims Court segment and everything we have grown accustomed to. I know there will be lots of great things coming into Shaun Keaveny’s afternoon show and it was a great honour to see the man before he exited the building. I left Maida Vale Studios, with Nick, in a daze and stunned by everything that had gone down. A new line was outside waiting to see Stuart Maconie’s show there – Lauren Laverne’s crew were already seated and listening to her show – and it was strange to be in the outside world...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Georgie Rogers and Shaun Keaveny sharing a tender moment at Maida Value Studios on 14th December, 2018/PHOTO CREDIT: @GeorgieRogers 

What a fitting goodbye to Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show but, as he says, it is more like a Cabinet reshuffle. He is only moving to a new slot and nobody is losing their jobs. It will be a hard transition but things will be great and everything we know and love about him, I am sure, will remain unblemished. I will end by talking about the reason I started listening to his show but Shaun Keaveny himself has written a piece and reflected on his eleven-plus years at the BBC Radio 6 Music breakfast helm. In his blog post; Keaveny talked about the start and what the reality was like:

I will certainly never forget how lonely it was to begin with. Before they are won, the audience is a wary animal, a bit like a deserted pet…where has my owner gone? (Phill) and who the fuck is this Herbert? He knows nothing of Laurie Anderson or deep cuts reggae, he seems to be a Dire Straits fan…(lest we forget what a cabal of true purists 6 Music listeners were in the early days). In those first days weeks and months, the first 18 months in fact, the hell ride was intense. 

But, there is something a bit different about doing an early morning show for a long time. There is something vulnerable about us at that first point of the day. Its “before we have our armour on” as someone clever once said to me. We’re like crabs without a shell. Totally sensitive and as-yet-unprepared for what the day will bring. We’ve often been spat into consciousness by a violent alarm from a deep sleep, we’re full of weird subconscious fears that were percolating in dreams or sleeping thoughts. AND NOW WE HAVE TO PRESENT OUR SELVES TO THE WORLD. It’s hard being a human, and the darkest hour can be before the dawn”.

There was a particular ‘hairy’ case of ‘over-efficient producing’ that caught everyone by surprise: 

HILARIOUS DOUBLE-BOOKING MOMENTS- REMEMBER THE MORNING when our wonderful now-passed (he’s not dead, just living in Hong Kong) producer Nic Philps booked an absolute shitstorm of talent by accident all on the same day? I tell you what, you’ve not experienced true adrenaline til you realise that you’re interviewing Stephen Fry live, Bret Easton-Ellis is sitting in the ante-room through the glass reading the New York Times waiting patiently to be grilled, and then you notice in your peripheral vision that maverick and occasion loose-cannon comic Sean Hughes has also arrived for a chat!!”

Some of the kindest and most affectionate words were reserved for his long-suffering radio husband, Matt Everitt:

“…I love him. He makes me absolutely piss with LOLS every day. He thinks he understands binary. He basically hates all taxi drivers. He thinks Hendrix is over-rated a bit. His face is only marginally longer than a normal one yet I have made it a “thing”. He is very patient with me. He has been my sunshine when skies were grey, and administered lager when stuff was great. He has a ridiculous car that costs as much as a Spitfire to run but he’s so daft he won’t sell it. He is by some distance the most respected broadcast music journo I know. He knows every one, and they all love him, because he is totally professional yet a darling to chat to. He’s brought us so many great exclusives I can’t count them, and I would say about 3 massive laughs a show. He is my wind. Beneath my wings”.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Georgie Rogers (who stood in brilliantly for Matt Everitt whilst he was away from music news duties on BBC Radio 6 Music)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There was kudos put to Zara and Phil; a great tribute to his radio hero, Sir Terry Wogan, and selected highs and lows. I urge you all the read the article and get a real insight into how the long-running breakfast show started its life; producers coming and going and why it was time to move on. There will be years and years of Shaun Keaveny magic to come on BBC Radio 6 Music but there are reasons why I love his show. I sort of half-joked, in a tweet to the show, how the first show must have been a bit like Dr. Frasier Crane starting his first show on the air (on the U.S. sitcom, Frasier). That show saw Crane trying out ‘voices’ for radio and dispensing advice and goodwill to his troubled listeners as best as possible.

The finished and final-show Frasier Crane was dignified and was seen delivering his goodbye speech by family, friends and his radio family. Not that Shaun Keaveny’s start was as troubled and conspicuous - but could he have imagined he would end the show with such applause and fanbase?! (His and Frasier Crane’s radio tenure is almost the same length!). I am a relatively late convert but first noticed the humour and voice. Before then, I listened to Absolute Radio (shite, repeated music and presenters who grate...no idea why I listened!) and Keaveny was an introduction to this new way of listening!


 IN THIS PHOTO: Matt Everitt and Shaun Keaveny finding the funny side of things at Wogan House/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

I had not heard too many northern accents on radio (he is from Leigh, Lancashire) and would soon discover Lauren Laverne (from Sunderland). The wit and self-deprecation charmed me and I soon fell in love with this very real and accessible personality. I followed him until his last breath on the morning slot and I cannot believe he managed to keep such a high standard through the years! He would refute that and be his usual self-flagellating self but one cannot deny his admiring fanbase and reputation is no fluke! The fact he managed to stay awake all those years and deliver any sort of show is amazing: the fact his breakfast show was constantly amazing, funny and addictive shows how perfect a match Keaveny and BBC Radio 6 Music. I also follow him because is that comfort and ambition. One of my dreams is to appear on BBC Radio 6 Music and am envious of the guests that come on and get one of the epic and kind introductions. Maybe I have to get my skates on if I want to be worthy enough to appear om his show but his voice, great delivery and incredible sense of allure makes everyone in the music industry up their game and aim high – so we might appear alongside him one day. In fact, my dream is to be a music presenter on the station so it might be a very long time until that happens!

 IN THIS PHOTO: Shaun Keaveny and Matt Everitt in cake cutting action/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

I also love the fact Shaun Keaveny seems to be like his listeners. I have had a difficult year in 2018 as I have adapted to living in London and working here (still looking); a new way of life and navigating a very busy and unforgiving city! It is a challenge and pretty hard going but I listen to Shaun Keaveny and hear someone I can relate to. His life is more successful – he has two sons, a girlfriend and a great career – but he makes you feel like he is the same; like he gets it and someone you could easily lift a beer with. So many D.J.s seem distant and not like us at all; too rich or uncaring to some extent. Part of Keaveny’s magic is being able to connect with every listener without ever meeting them. That is not something that can be necessarily taught or picked up: it is a natural part of his aura and personality. The other reason I love him is because he seems to channel his radio hero, Sir Terry Wogan. Sir Terry would be proud of Keaveny and his show. He would be proud how he composed himself at Maida Vale and what a great (adopts Sir Paul McCartney voice here) final show he delivered – we are all very proud of him.! Wogan, naturally, is someone we cannot replace and is a unique comet in the radio galaxy. The fact I am reminded of Sir Terry Wogan when listening to Shaun Keaveny is no light praise – I would not be surprised to see Keaveny enjoy the same career and, maybe, move to BBC Radio 2 in years to come.

 IN THIS PHOTO: The late, great Sir Terry Wogan (a hero of Shaun Keaveny)/PHOTO CREDIT: BBC

Keaveny’s natural respect and love of his listeners means reciprocation is easy and warranted. Here is someone who has opened his heart and mind to his loyal following over eleven years and it is great he is still with the station. I am not sure whether his cartwall of sound effects will follow him to afternoons and whether we will get the same features and dynamic as mornings. Some things have to change and there will be a different feel; many things will remain and, lucky as we are, we have a refreshed and excited D.J. we know can deliver the goods time and time again. I imagine there is chance for live sessions and, alongside Everitt on the music news; it will be a chance to venture into new ground. The upset and strangeness of a new breakfast presenter – Lauren Laverne will be amazing – will take a while to get over and waking up to someone new and non-Keaveny is a rather strange realisation. Like everyone who was fortunate enough to be in attendance yesterday at Maida Vale Studios; we witnessed something very special in a once-in-a-lifetime-thrill. It was a sobering, amazingly vivid and uplifting experience that was bittersweet: the mutual love and joy that engulfed the room coupled with the understandably sad goodbyes and tears. I hope, in some capacity, I get to talk with Keaveny (and Matt Everitt and Georgie Rogers) next year. The man loves Madonna (an artists who can cause two straight men to drool and worship her like a goddess) and he is a big Beatles fan; he seems like someone you can bond with for hours and, through his long career, he has achieved so much and continues to grow. It has been a wonderfully strange, beautiful and unexpected last couple of days with a mix of emotions. Shaun Keaveny and his team move as part of the line-up shift and January will see a different show from the man we all know and love. Best of luck to him and his loyal team! As we reflect on eleven years of brilliance and predict what will come next; it is probably best I end with a Christmas song...

FROM the great man himself.