My Mentor: Ben Raworth on Danny kelly

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I came into the magazine industry very late, after a somewhat chequered youth – I had spent time in prison and been a manual labourer. When I went to meet Danny Kelly in 1994 – he was launching Total Sport – I was 29 and had never worked in an office before. I had written some features for FHM, but I had no idea how a magazine worked.

If I'm honest, for the first month I was probably there because Danny liked having me around. I was feeling my way and hadn't realised that I had to take ownership of my ideas and push things, but Danny was helpful with everything. He surrounded himself with characters, and I still think that the personality of the team goes into what you produce.

I was surprised that Danny was so involved with his team. He had an office that he almost never used, and a big part of his management style was making the entire team feel part of this friendly gang. There didn't seem to be any of the backstabbing ambition you hear about in other places: people were generous with their time, contacts and experience.

My idea of an editorial office had been lots of people with typewriters, but instead I found something I could do with my life at quite a mature age.

The more I got to know Danny, the more impressed I was. He has a voracious appetite for new and interesting things; he's a great talker; and is very funny. He edited the NME and launched Q – not bad for a self-taught working-class boy. He led by example and I learnt by watching him work.

I look back at Total Sport and still think it was a great magazine, and that was down to the editor. I left to work on FHM, and Danny handled my leaving very graciously. I haven't seen him for a few years, but back in the heady days of Cool Britannia, the whole team socialised together all the time.

Ben Raworth is the editor of digital magazine Monkey,

Danny Kelly presents a radio show on BBC London, and writes for The Times and the Radio Times