John Hegley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Hegley
Hegley in 2009
Born (1953-10-01) 1 October 1953 (age 69)
London, England
MediumPerformance poetry, Stand up comedy
Alma materUniversity of Bradford

John Richard Hegley[1] (born 1 October 1953) is an English performance poet, comedian, musician and songwriter.

Early life[edit]

He was born in the Newington Green area of Islington, London, England, into a Roman Catholic household.[2] He was brought up in Luton and later Bristol, where he attended Rodway School. After school he worked as a bus conductor and civil servant before attending the University of Bradford, where he gained a BSc in European Literature and the History of Ideas and Sociology. Hegley has French ancestry (his father's name was René) and claims he is descended from the composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.[3] His paternal grandmother was a dancer with the Folies Bergère.[4]


Hegley began his performing career at London's Comedy Store in 1980, and toured as one half of The Brown Paper Bag Brothers with Otiz Cannelloni.[5] He received national exposure when he appeared with his backing band the Popticians on Carrott's Lib in 1983, and recorded two sessions for John Peel in 1983 and 1984.[6] Hegley published his first poetry collection, Visions of the Bone Idol (Poems about Dogs and Glasses), pieces from which were later incorporated into Glad to Wear Glasses, in 1984. Hegley has written a number of collections of poetry, ranging from the surreal through the humorous to the personal and emotional. There are a number of recurring themes in his poems, notably glasses, dogs and reminiscences of his childhood in Luton.[7]

He was presenter of the Border Television series Word of Mouth – in which numerous contemporary poets performed their work – in 1990, and the BBC radio series Hearing with Hegley from 1996 to 1999. His other television appearances include Wogan and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. In 1998, Hegley's poem "Malcolm" came second in a BBC survey to find Britain's most popular comic poem.[8] In 1999 he starred in a Simon Callow-directed revival of the musical The Pajama Game in London's West End.[9]

In September 1999 together with Simon Munnery he wrote and performed in a comedy series for BBC Radio 4 called The Adventures of John and Tony.[10]

Hegley in a Luton Town FC supporter's cap

Hegley frequently performs live and is a regular at the Edinburgh Festival. His stage act includes elements of poetry, music (he plays the mandolin and is often accompanied by a double bassist), comedy and references to Luton Town Football Club. He also likes to utilise audience participation in his shows, for example by having a dog drawing competition during the interval, or by asking his audience to try writing poetry themselves.

The University of Luton awarded him an honorary LL.D. in 2000, and he has also led creative writing courses at the university.[11]

Hegley launched "Warning: May Contain Nuts", a project using comedy to increase awareness of mental illness.[12] He performed these shows in 2010 with other performers, including comic Mackenzie Taylor, talking about mental illness.[13]


  • Visions of the Bone Idol (Poems about Dogs and Glasses) illustrated by Linda Leatherbarrow (Little Bird Press 1984) ASIN: B0016ZKLU2
  • The Brother-in-Law and Other Animals (Down the Publishing Company 1986)
  • Poems for Pleasure (Hamlyn 1989)
  • Glad to Wear Glasses (glad to have ears) illustrated by Linda Leatherbarrow (Andre Deutsch 1990) ISBN 978-0-233-05035-5
  • Can I Come Down Now, Dad? (Methuen 1991)
  • Five Sugars, Please (Methuen 1993)
  • These Were Your Father's (Methuen 1994)
  • Love Cuts (Methuen 1995)
  • The Family Pack (Methuen 1997: incorporating The Brother-in-Law and Other Animals, Can I Come Down Now, Dad? and These Were Your Father's)
  • Beyond our Kennel (Methuen 1998)
  • Dog (Methuen 2000)
  • My Dog is a Carrot (Walker Books 2002)
  • The Sound of Paint Drying (Methuen 2003)
  • Sit-Down Comedy (contributor to anthology, ed Malcolm Hardee & John Fleming) Ebury Press/Random House, 2003. ISBN 0-09-188924-3; ISBN 978-0-09-188924-1
  • Uncut Confetti (Methuen 2006)
  • The Ropes: Poems To Hold On To (editor with Sophie Hannah) (Diamond Twig 2008)
  • The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet (Donut Press 2009)
  • Stanley's Stick (Hodder's Children's Books 2012)
  • Peace, Love & Potatoes (Serpent's Tail 2012)
  • New & Selected Potatoes (Bloodaxe Books Ltd 2013)
  • I am a Poetato: An A-Z of poems about people, pets and other creatures (Frances Lincoln Children's Books 2013)
  • A Scarcity of Biscuit: Pieces drawn largely from the letters, life and laughter of John Keats (Caldew Press, 2021)


  • Spare Pear/Mobile Home (1984) Double A-sided single of Peel session recordings, with the Popticians
  • "I Saw My Dinner On TV" (1988) Single with the Popticians
  • Saint and Blurry (1993) Poems and music
  • Hearing with Hegley (1996) BBC audio-cassette taken from the radio series of the same name
  • Family Favourites (2006) Poems and music


  1. ^ "University of Bradford: John Hegley". 12 February 2001. Archived from the original on 12 February 2001.
  2. ^ "Stanza and deliver", The Observer, 27 April 2003
  3. ^ "People's Poet Laureate Plays Adam Smith Theatre" Archived 8 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine,, 29 May 2008
  4. ^ "My family values: John Hegley, poet", The Guardian, 20 June 2009
  5. ^ Davies, Alan. My Favourite People & Me: 1978-1988, Michael Joseph Ltd (2009).
  6. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - The Popticians". Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  7. ^ "Grammar, Style, and Usage". Archived from the original on 10 April 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  8. ^ BBC News (10 October 1998). "Top poetry is complete nonsense". BBC. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Pajama Game pillowtalk", BBC News, 4 October 1999
  10. ^ "The Adventures of John and Tony (a Titles and Air Dates Guide)". Retrieved 17 July 2020.
  11. ^ Rampton, J. Review: There once was a fellow named John..., The Independent, 20 January 1998
  12. ^ Jenny Minard (25 May 2010). "Mackenzie Taylor talks about mental health problems". BBC. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
  13. ^ Toby Green (20 May 2010). "Warning: May Contain Nuts, South Street Arts Centre, Reading". The Independent. Retrieved 20 November 2010.

External links[edit]