Ade in Holt
PUBLISHED: 06:30 30 June 2014
For a certain generation, Ade Edmondson will always be known for his role in the groundbreaking alternative comedy scene of the 1980s. These days though, he is grabbing a whole new audience with his band, The Bad Shepherds - but he's still to relinquish those rebellious roots.
“When I left school in 1975 they urged me to go to university. I chose the dossers’ course - drama. Had there been one in rock music at the time I would have chosen that,” he laughs. “I’m the same age as all the main players in the punk era. We grew up together. In fact ‘alternative comedy’, as it was known, was just the comedy equivalent of punk. It was born very much of the same impulse. We didn’t like anything much that had gone before and we weren’t afraid to do it ourselves.”
In July, The Bad Shepherds will play at Holt Festival, bringing their intriguing mix of punk and new wave classics given their own unique folk twist.
“The two things, music and comedy, are part of a continuum to me. I’ve always been a musician, always had bands; the truth is that this one is just a lot better than the ones I’ve been involved in before. We’ve always got the right audience so far - people that are up for a good time, people that are generally surprised by how exciting folk music can be, and people that appreciate actually hearing the lyrics to songs they’ve never really heard the lyrics to before.”
The Bad Shepherds - Ade, Terl Bryant, Tim Harries and Troy Donockley - have released three albums and toured extensively with their lively, infectious stage show.
“We have even more fun than it sounds like we’re having. We absolutely love what we do. We feel very privileged, as so far this band has been like having a six year long party with your mates,” he says.
“The difference between comedy and music is that comedy is a kind of combat, whereas music is about engaging emotionally with an audience. So when the audience really gets on side the roof comes off. Sometimes we leave the stage in tears at just how splendid it all felt.”
He knows Norfolk well having visited on many occasions for both work and pleasure, and during a filming trip for his series Ade in Britain he immersed himself in local traditions with great gusto.
“I fished for crabs off Cromer, sung with shantymen in Sheringham, worked an old fashioned windmill and fired a punt gun from an eel fisherman’s punt,” he says. “The Bad Shepherds have also played the Waterfront in Norwich a couple of times to rather splendid audiences, I’ve done the Playhouse with the live show of Bottom and filmed a couple of episodes of The Comic Strip Presents there in the early 1980s. I have also been there on a cycling holiday, and had another holiday on the Broads, so in fact there’s not much I haven’t seen in Norfolk.”
Ade, who has been married to comedienne and writer Jennifer Saunders for almost 30 years, found fame in cult comedy series Comic Strip Presents, The Young Ones and Bottom.
He has also starred in a number of serious dramas – including a three-year stint in BBC1’s Holby City and just last month in acclaimed ITV series Prey alongside John Simm. He also presents his popular series Ade in Britain, of which he clearly loves every moment.
“The Ade In Britain series was kind of born of my experiences of touring with the band. As a band we often play far away from the big cities and I began to notice just how different a lot of Britain is. Most cities are becoming indistinguishable from each other, but off the beaten track everything gets a lot more idiosyncratic.
“I’m basically in love with Britain, and with the interesting people who live here - they can be hard to find sometimes, but they’re well worth seeking out.”
Last year Ade won Celebrity MasterChef, wowing the judges and viewers with his extraordinary culinary skills, but has he kept it up?
“I love cooking, and have done ever since I was a boarder at school and taught myself to cook because the food there was so bad. I do most of the cooking at home, but only because I really enjoy it. Jennifer is a very good cook when she cooks, but she prefers gardening.”