New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Culture
30 June 2021updated 31 Mar 2023 5:50pm

Adrian Edmondson’s sketches of his schooldays

In this instalment of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay, the comedian delivers a series of anecdotes of his childhood and young adulthood with characteristic charm. 

By Anna Leszkiewicz

“It’s the end of the Sixties, and while the rest of the world is flailing around in an orgy of free love, self-expression and hallucinogenic drugs, I’m trapped in a small prison, learning how to repress my emotions. Turns out: I’m bloody good at it!” In this instalment of BBC Radio 3’s The Essay (from Monday 5 July, 10.45pm), the comedian Adrian Edmondson delivers a series of short sketches of his childhood and young adulthood, written with all the self-deprecation and dramatic irony that 40-odd years of hindsight brings, and performed with characteristic charm. He opens by describing himself leaning back smugly in his chair having completed his 11-plus exam, watching his fellow pupils sweat, confident in his own critical faculties (which must surely be far greater than that of his “thicko” cousin Kevin), before he realises he’s missed two pages – a third of the exam – that were stuck together. He fails.

Throughout the week, Edmondson recounts his time at a boys’ boarding school in the early Seventies (where he was teased for having a “girl’s name” and experienced his first spluttering attempts at smoking) as well as the early days of his career, sweating through his shirts on stage with The Comic Strip in early-Eighties Soho, where he and Rik Mayall were lauded as being at the “cutting edge” of “alternative” comedy. (“We’re not sure how revolutionary we really are, but we’re very happy to go along with it.”)

[See also: Why the right loves ancient Rome]

In one funny yet oddly moving anecdote, Edmondson describes the “disco club” at school. At a time when “puberty is slowly wrapping around us like ivy colonising a tree”, Edmondson and his fellow male students spend their evenings gyrating at each other like Pan’s People on Top of the Pops. He vividly recalls that his first dance – to the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” – was with a boy named Martin.

“It’s as if we’re practising for some time in the future when we might do something similar to what’s written in that book in the library.” It wasn’t about sexual orientation, Edmondson adds, it was about “the whole idea of sex, of being with someone else… It was a moment of real change… and it marked the end of my childhood.” 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

The Essay: Adrian Edmondson – Signs of Life 
BBC Radio 3

Content from our partners
We need an urgent review of UK pensions
The future of private credit
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors