Back on the airwaves - 'reborn' Kershaw returning to Radio 3

By Ian Burrell,Media Editor
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:54
Andy Kershaw is to present "Radio 3's most significant and ambitious world music project ever"
Andy Kershaw is to present "Radio 3's most significant and ambitious world music project ever"

After more than two years off the radio airwaves, following a nervous breakdown and family disintegration, the award-winning presenter Andy Kershaw has confirmed that he is to make a comeback to BBC Radio 3.

To the delight of fans of his distinctive style and insightful broadcasting, Kershaw has had a rapprochement with the BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright, over an Indian meal in London. The Rochdale-born presenter is planning to present a series of music documentaries for the network.

"It was great to have this huge declaration of faith," Kershaw said last night. "I am absolutely thrilled to be back. I feel reborn, firing on cylinders that I didn't know I had."

As a result of the talks, Kershaw, 49, who has won nine Sony awards for programmes that have introduced listeners to the popular sounds and culture of Mali, Haiti, Zimbabwe and North Korea, among many other places, is hoping to visit countries that he has not yet been to for the BBC. "I will be travelling to just about every continent on the planet – only the Americas will be untroubled by my attentions," he said. "I am going to some places that even I have not been to before."

A spokeswoman for BBC Radio 3 said Wright and Kershaw had held talks. "Roger has been in discussion with Andy Kershaw and his door has been open to him," she said. "But there is nothing to announce at the moment."

Kershaw has endured a miserable few years following his separation from his partner of 17 years, the restaurateur Juliette Banner, and their children. He was arrested and jailed for repeated breaches of a restraining order that prevented him from contacting his former partner. At one point last year, when he was the subject of an arrest warrant and living on the floors and sofas of friends, he gave an emotional interview to this newspaper describing his plight.

But speaking yesterday, Kershaw said he was delighted to be getting his life back on track. "I feel 20 years younger than I did a couple of years ago, mainly because of not drinking. The kids in the pub I go to for a coffee or ginger beer after being out on my boat call me Duracell Man because I have so much energy. It's down to not drinking."

Kershaw has returned to the Isle of Man, having at one point moved to the mainland to stay with his sister and fellow broadcaster, Liz. He is writing an autobiography, planning a tour of illustrated talks of his career and says he has not touched alcohol for almost a year.

Radio 3 listeners will hope that future Kershaw broadcasts will recapture the excitement of his 1988 journey up the River Niger to Niafunke in Mali, where he went in search of the blues guitarist Ali Farka Toure, then unknown in the West. He has travelled to 81 countries, also reporting from Rwanda during the genocide and Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

He moved with his family to the Isle of Man in 2006 – partly because of concerns over the quality of London schools – and for a while broadcast his BBC show from the island. He also organised a series of well-received concerts featuring such artists as Robert Plant, The Who, The Kinks, Billy Bragg and Lou Reed.

But after his separation he stopped broadcasting for the BBC in May 2007. He has always been forthright in his opinions and in 2000 was sacked by BBC Radio 1, where he had worked for 14 years. As radio critic for The Independent, he has criticised the station for being "condescending and insulting" to black Britons by broadcasting violent gun-related rap lyrics.

His show on BBC Radio 3 was replaced in January last year by a new programme World on 3, hosted by Charlie Gillett, Lopa Kothari and Mary Ann Kennedy. The network is enjoying a period of critical success and was named station of the year at the 2009 Sony awards.

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