A special gig from Sheffield’s versatile singer-songwriter
It is 3 o’clock on Friday and instead of contemplating a post-work beer in a Broomhill pub, I’ve taken the afternoon off and am settling down to tea and cake in a residential home round the corner.
I’ve got good reason to be here at Lifestyle house. As one of the many events at Broomhill festival, Sheffield’s very own John Shuttleworth is putting on a couple of low-key afternoon performances. The gigs are for the residents of the home but there are also a handful of free tickets available to the public.
John Shuttleworth is a likeable comedy character created by comedian Graham Fellows. He sings gentle observational songs about life, with accompaniment from his retro portable keyboard. You may have heard him on his own Radio 4 series, on TV and also in a couple of full-length feature films. If not, read his entry on Wikipedia and listen to some of his songs below, you’ll soon get the idea.
His lyrics have plenty of local references (“She lives in Hope, but she used to live in Barnsley”) which makes them even funnier if you’re from or know south Yorkshire.
The annual Broomhill festival is in its 37th year and is firmly established. As a result it manages to occasionally pull in high-profile acts like this which you might not expect to find at a normal community festival: at his last Sheffield show, John filled the city hall. In addition, Graham Fellows has links with Lifestyle House, as his parents are both residents here and he also went to King Edward VIII school, which is just next door.
The average age of the people in the room must be about 80, but he goes down well. Early on in the set we get to hear the Shuttleworth favourite Two margarines and it is soon clear that the songs and talk in between work brilliantly in this setting. You’re never quite sure whether the lovely old people understand that he is a comedy creation or instead just see him as another eccentric afternoon entertainer.
The residents provide plenty of good banter, although when one old lady says “I’m not going to answer any more of your questions”, you realise they don’t all suffer fools gladly.
Halfway through we break for tea and cakes, served to us using classic Beryl ware hospital/residential home crockery. After some mingling John then takes to his keyboard once again to play Shopkeepers in the north, near-Eurovision hit Pigeons in flight and a sherry-fuelled I can’t go back to savoury now. One old guy has nodded off but everyone else has been thoroughly entertained.
A small crew recorded the performance for another John Shuttleworth film, which will be worth looking out for. Some photos are below.