FEATURE STUART COSGROVE
'9 I. .1 I
n the beer cellar of Tommy Orr‘s pub the
old and the new and the connecting glue
of Scottish popular culture are chewing
the fat. Peter Morrison is the mellifluously
(bari)toned trouper of a thousand
Hogmanay shows, his actress daughter Jackie is up and coming and bubbly. a ginger nut in lTV‘s frothy 50$ comedy-drama Head Over Heels. Between them perches ‘Uncle‘ Stuart Cosgrove, cultural buff, soul freak and St Johnstone obsessive.
Talking Loud is no ordinary talking shop. For the ﬁrst three programmes of this new chat show, the action is centred on Strangeways, Perth‘s one cool bar and the one that Cosgrove‘s old mate Tommy happens to own. But don‘t expect a Word-style beerfest, where anarchy and, wow, wackiness, come clouded in a contrived alcoholic fug. Much of the action happens around the bar, but the concept that is Talking Loud transcends studio-based limitations and conventions. This talk show is also a walk show, ﬁlmed on the streets and in the shops and generally round and about.
‘It was a mixture of accident and design,‘ recalls Cosgrove of the genesis of the six-part show. Big Star In A Wee Picture, the Glasgow- based production company of which Cosgrove is co-director, had been involved in an unsuccessful bid for the Grampian Television franchise, up for grabs in the govemment- inspired deregulatory free-for-all. The head of programming at Grampian was naturally chuffed to be keeping his job, yet astute enough to spot the potential in one of Big Star‘s submitted programme ideas, namely the talk show ﬁlmed on location in Cosgrove‘s hometown. When Scottish Television added their dosh to the project, Lanark was added as a second location.
That was the accident part. ‘The design part of it was that Scotland‘s never had a late-night talk show in the way that most of the big
A ‘ And the bloat goes on in Talking loud.
But nothing happens in Perth surely . . .? A new late-night chat show with a difference aims to change all that. Craig McLean talks loud with creator, presenter and all-round media trouble-maker Stuart Cosgrove.
English regions liave,‘ says Cosgrove. namechecking offerings from Danny Baker (LWT). Tony Wilson (Granada) and James Whale (Yorkshire). ‘They‘re all late-night talk shows fronted by a male presenter who is someone who can draw in material from cinema. pop music, etc. And although it‘s aimed at a mainstream audience. there‘s a nod to a kind of hipness because they‘re aware of things that are going on. The design really is to deliver that kind of programme and add to it a sort ()f concept.‘ Aaaaand . . . cue the sheep. All Scottish folk not from Edinburgh or Glasgow are sheep-shaggers. This is incontrovertible sociological fact. I should know. I was that sheep.
This conceptual identity also confers cohesion on Talking Loud's pan-cultural jamboree-cum- fanzine-mentality. Without it. their wildly diverse mix of guests, the at-large, interactive.
, almost anti-talk show slant. could spread itself
too thin. Let‘s see: Omar, Hothouse Flowers, Ben Elton. Andy Cameron, Phil Kay, Jamiroquai, Eric Cullen, Stephen Hendry talking golf, Alec McLeish singing ‘Solsbury Hill‘, Justin Fashanu reviewing Malcolm X and busty blondes with brewery connections. Cosgrove: “We‘re gonna make them work a wee bit harder.‘)
“I think that‘s the big danger of the whole series,‘ admits Cosgrove. ‘People might end up saying, “Who is it aimed at if they‘ve got Andy Cameron and Phil Kay and Pearl Jam and Dougie McLean?“ And my feeling is that it‘s aimed more at a sensibility than an age-group. A range of people can feed in on it. Hopefully that will kinda work. But it‘s aimed fairly and squarely at the stay-in generation, the generation of people who have their ﬁrst kid. they‘ve got responsibilities, and they still hanker after the belief that they go out a lot but they actually don‘t any more . . .‘
Stuart Cosgrove shouldbe well-tuned with
this generational retreat into the domestic cocoon. Yet at 39 he‘s still ﬁrmly socially and culturally aware. tackling his media/music/Sainties obsessions with the enthusiasm of someone half his age and the experience of someone twice it.
Escaping ‘pure Perth mayhem’ (police, hooliganism. the usual) via a lifeline thrown by Perth Theatre. he enrolled at Hull University to study drama. When he stopped being a ned and started being a stude he discovered he was pretty smart. He won a scholarship to study in America, learning from the embryonic Wooster Group (Spalding Gray and Willem Dafoe) in New York and the then-burgeoning go-go scene in Washington. lndulging his passion for all forms of black music. he began freelancing for NME.
After completing his PhD — entitled The Living Theatre — Dr Cosgrove returned to Britain. He became Head of Drama at West London Institute when he was only 26. and around this time in l982-ish (‘l‘m hellish with dates!‘) the NME snatched him from academia to rock journalism.
Cosgrove became Media Editor and the Hip Hop Hitler. champion of the vibrant new musics —- rap and hip hop - flooding across the Atlantic. The dark days of the magazine‘s so- called ‘hip hop wars‘ coincided with battles with the publishers over the paper‘s political content. or lack thereof. Cosgrove. ever the loudmouth and agitator. may have vibed up the paper but he also wound up the management. lPC eventually engineered his dismissal. packing him off with an £8000 pay-off. At the leaving party he got totally planked and lost the cheque. He got another one.
And another job. A short stint at The Face was followed by Halfiray To Paradise. the debut Big Star production. Cosgrove and fellow Perth man Don Coutts had actually been formulating their company and the show for some time. having first met working on a BBC Arena documentary on the Washington go-go scene.
They‘ve never looked back. Since its inception in 1987 Big Star has done pop and politics. trainers and shoe—fetishists. and a
‘What intimidated me about The Late Show was that I couldn’t be flip, I couldn’t take the piss.’
series about dead people who weren‘t (The Obituary Show). Cosgrove. meanwhile, continues to write. publishing Hampden Babylon in 199] (a chronicle of Scottish football‘s seedier stories) and the occasional
' feature in the press. In the pipeline are
I between all this he found time to get married in ' Perth in May last year. Perth. Jamaica, that is.
Flogging A Dead Horse. a book about ‘the post-industrial heritage industry in Britain‘, and l a murder-thriller inspired by Bible John and the American style of serial killing. Somewhere in
Stuart Cosgrove, media pundit. is probably best appraised by his attitude to his stint fronting the rareﬁed atmosphere of the po-mo, po-faced Late Show. ‘lntellectually, I wasn‘t intimidated by The Late Show.‘ says this son of pure Perth mayhem. ‘What intimidated me about it was that I couldn‘t be flip, I couldn‘t take the piss.‘
Talking Loud begins on Scottish Television on Wednesday 3 March at 10.40pm.
10 The List 26 February—l 1 March 1993