Interview: John Osborne, ‘A festival is a good place to set a story’

Storyteller, poet and Radio 4 regular John Osborne is no stranger to Glastonbury. The writer, whose first theatre show was the Edinburgh sell-out cult hit John Peel’s Shed and who co-created Sky’s sitcom After Hours, first attended the festival in 2004 – and he’s back this year for two performances on the Poetry&Words stage.

His latest collection is A Supermarket Love Story a poignant, enchanting and heart-warming poetic tale about supermarkets and the people who use them. He’s also set to perform John Peel’s Shed at Greenwich Theatre this weekend. The acclaimed production has previously enjoyed a 60-date UK tour, including Soho Theatre and a previous run at Glastonbury.

Q&A with John Osborne

How does it feel to be performing at this year’s Glastonbury Festival?

I’m really excited. I was beyond delighted to see my name on the poster. I’ve been going to Glastonbury since 2004 and to still be able to spend a weekend in a tent in Somerset is something I’m really proud and happy about.

Music has played a big part in your work – for example, John Peel’s Shed and The New Blur Album. Does that make performing at the festival even more meaningful?

It definitely does. One of the highlights of my performing career was doing John Peel’s Shed at Glastonbury in 2013. I’ve still got all my old wristbands from the Glastonburys I have been to and I’m looking forward to having another one to add to my collection. I wrote a show called You’re in a Bad Way, which starts and ends at Glastonbury, with a group of friends who go there every year. A festival is a good place to set a story. It takes on a magical quality.

Are there any acts you’re looking forward to seeing across the weekend?

Sparks! I’m listening to their new album right now and I love it. I’d love to see Kelis, and it’s always a treat to see John Hegley in the Poetry and Words tent. As someone touring a show called The New Blur Album I’m hoping there is going to be a sighting of Damon in some capacity … but I’m not sure that it will happen.

What can you tell us about John Peel’s Shed?

It was the first theatre show I made. It started off as a radio show on Future Radio – a community station in Norwich after I’d won a box of records in a competition on John Peel’s Radio One show in 2002. It always felt like I should do something special with the records, so I made some radio shows where I played the best tracks from the collection. That evolved to making a stage show that I took to the Edinburgh Festival in 2011 and I’ve now performed it maybe 200 times. It’s a show about records and radio and the importance of taking some time out of the day to listen to music. I owe a lot to that box of records.

John Osborne is performing the Poetry&Words stage at Glastonbury Festival on Friday 23 and Sunday 25 June. Other upcoming shows include John Peel’s Tent at Greenwich Theatre on Saturday 17 June and a performance of poems from A Supermarket Love Story at First Light Festival on Sunday 18 June.