It has been a bit of John Peel fortnight. Firstly, I got a call from a Shelia Ravenscroft regarding some tickets I had inquired about weeks ago. As the gig I wanted to go to had sold out in a matter of days, I had forgotten that I had left my number with the box office. On snapping up the tickets that had suddenly been found, and putting the phone down, Claire informed me that Shelia was in fact The Pig, as John Peel affectionately referred to his wife when broadcasting.

The tickets were to see Billy Bragg play Woody Guthrie songs at the newly formed John Peel Centre for Creative Arts in Stowmarket. It was a great evening, and as much a lecture about the life and times of Woody Guthrie as it was a concert. Bragg was in fine voice, and having seen him perform three time in the last 3 years, twice within a year, I can definitely state he is a better performer under a Tory government than he was under Gordon Brown’s administration. John Peel would have loved it.

The Centre itself holds a lot of promise. Still in development, the old Corn Exchange has only recently had accessible toilets plumbed in. As the Centre’s committee raise more money, they plan to put in a mezzanine floor for a cafe and rehearsal space for local bands, which will also help to improve the acoustics, as the roof is somewhat cavernous, albeit beautifully so.

My second brush with the man came when the archiving of John Peel’s record collection was announced. Initially focussing on vinyl LPs, this excited me no end, (despite meaning that the 7″ single I feature on that he played on his evening show in 1992 won’t be included). The mammoth task of alphabetically uploading 100 albums a week is a daunting one and I’m amazed they did all the ‘A’s in one go, expecting there to be more in his collection. However, it looks like the ‘B’s may take a little longer.

Disappointingly, the only tracks you can listen to are linked to Spotify, meaning that if you were hoping to hear again some obscure German techno artist you first heard on a Tuesday evening in 2001, you will probably be sorely disappointed. More exciting though, from the perspective of graphic design, is that all album artwork has been scanned, including inner sleeves. Unfortunately there isn’t a zoom function, which is frustrating, and the site works better on a desktop computer than on an iPad, but I feel churlish to complain too much considering that this historic document wouldn’t otherwise be accessible in any format.

My one big grumble though, is that the release dates of each disc aren’t featured.

For anyone who listened to John Peel’s late night shows, (or for a period in the 90s, his Saturday afternoon show), this will prove to be an enticing trip down memory lane. And as if to prove the point, David Stubbs’ trawl through the first 100 records in the collection, along with YouTube clips, is well worth a read over on Quietus.

And lastly, my final brush with Peel this week was on visiting some friends last night who were listening to Tom Ravencroft’s 6music show, on iPlayer, meaning it was one week old. It is kind of odd hearing old news repeated as if it were just breaking, especially the announcement of Adam Yauch’s death at regular intervals. I didn’t find out about Yauch’s death when it was announced last Friday evening, because that was when I was at the John Peel Centre listening to Billy Bragg. So last night I witnessed John Peel’s son, who’s voice and intonation spookily sound like that of his father’s, announcing the death of someone from a week ago, when I had actually been at his Dad’s legacy with his mother in the audience!

Strange, talk about augmented reality.

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