Tony Glynn spoke to John Hegley ahead of his gig at The Plough, Torrington
O why exactly is John Hegley's latest tour and book called Peace, Love And Potatoes? What is this maverick musician, poet, artist, comedian and philosopher up to now?
"These three things remind me of childhood, the family and togetherness," says John. "Although I like my own company, it's important to not get tied up in your own world."
Throughout his 30 plus year career, Hegley has entertained his public with a massive output of poetry (including several bestsellers), songs (dating from his days with John Peel darlings The Popticians), and stage tours (he's an Edinburgh Fest regular). He's so prolific that he denies us any attempt at labelling him as just one thing. Yet, for someone who has been so restless, he retains a clear and humble view on what he wants out of life. Or at least his warm, laid-back and accommodating manner would suggest so.
"When I was a kid, glasses were a sign of disadvantage. Not only did they mean I had a visual impairment but they made me look different too so, in a way, I had both a physical and social disability.
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"Once I fell in a race at school, but my dad told me not to be upset because in years to come I – and not the winner – would be remembered because I fell in a funny way. Since then, I have loved the idea of turning disadvantages into advantages. It's what comedy's all about."
Of course, wearing glasses has been just as cool as not doing so for a good while now (note Elvis Costello, who John has been compared to), but the idea extends to any sort of impediment, large or small. Comedy is tragedy speeded up, as the adage goes, and freedom comes from laughing at ourselves.
Hegley sees comedy not only as a tonic for life's pains but as a glue to keep humans together.
So what can the crowd expect at The Plough on Friday?
"This time it's aimed at adults, but it will still be relevant for older kids. I love audience involvement, so there'll be interaction, music and perhaps even dancing. But don't worry if you're shy: you can make up the numbers rather than shake up the rhumbas."
To bid me adieu, John gave me a snippet of his fine wordplay to add to his answer:
"Given appropriate grace
I'll be up in The Plough –
That's the place:
Not the one in the heavens
No, the one which is Devon's
It's the greatest Great Torrington space."
John Hegley brings Peace, Love And Potatoes to the Plough Arts Centre, Torrington on Friday, January 25, 8pm. Tickets: £12 (full), £10 (Plough supporter), £9 (concession). Box office: 01805 624624.