On September 10th, Shaun Keaveny hosted his final show on BBC 6 Music after spending 14-years at the station. The last few months have been a strange adjustment for the revered broadcaster as he comes to terms with life as a freelancer.
His departure from the station was met by bemusement, not just by his listeners, but by Keaveny too. After joining the station in 2007, Keaveny initially hosted a late-night show before moving to the coveted breakfast slot, remaining there for 11 years before moving to the early afternoon position in 2018. It goes without saying that Keaveny played a vital role in what made 6 Music one of the nation’s biggest digital-only radio stations.
In truth, Keaveny is still struggling to comprehend the decision to remove himself from the weekday slot. Although he deliberated the lesser offers the BBC put forward to him, with his three children at the front of his mind, Keaveny arrived at the daunting conclusion that a fresh start was the only option he could realistically pursue.
Before joining 6 Music, Keaveny worked for XFM, and now for the first time in decades, he’s waking up without a strict routine, which has been a difficult transition to make for the host. “I was a company man for 24 years,” Keaveny reflects over Zoom from his kitchen. “It’s really odd, and I’ve got to be honest, I don’t like it. I much prefer punching in and out and somebody telling me what to do”.
“I think it’s just sinking in knowing how different life is,” he contemplates. “I’ve got three kids, so I’ve got pretty mad life, and even if I never worked again, I’d be too busy. I’ve also got a very simple ZX Spectrum mind, it doesn’t take much for me to feel overloaded, so it’s a bad, toxic combination. It will take a while to feel balanced, but we’re edging towards it”.
It’s not just the lack of routine that is causing Keaveny to miss the airwaves, but his listeners too. Unlike many radio presenters, the Leigh-born broadcaster always made his listeners an integral part of the show, which provided a sense of community – and one that he greatly misses. However, the reaction to his new podcast, The Line-Up, is helping to fill that void.
Ample time has passed since Keaveny was informed about his future earlier this year, yet, the terms of his departure are still raw. “It’s a confusing time for me,” he admits. “I try not to dwell on it because I try to move forward like a shark, but when I really sit and think about it, I’m still a little baffled as to what went on. It’s not for me to work out at the end of the day, and I’ve kind of got to let go of it”.
Now though, he’s entered the world of podcasting with The Line-Up. So far, Keaveny welcomed guests including Jodie Whittaker, Tim Burgess, and Declan McKenna, who, in turn, invited Keaveny into their imaginations to discuss what would be their dream festival lineups. The long-form interview format is a mighty contrast from the limitations of radio and one he is revelling in exploring.
“The freedom on something like The Line-Up is just brilliant,” Keaveny explains. “It’s so lovely. You can really dig a lot deeper and have some very emotional conversations that probably don’t feel so appropriate on radio, either, because people are just dipping in on the radio a lot of the time. It’s not an appointment to listen.
“What’s great about it The Line Up is its dead simple. Really, all we’re talking about is your favourite bands, your favourite festival experiences. We’re asking you to imagine what it would be like to have Paul McCartney and NWA next to each other on the bill. We’re talking about your favourite carbohydrates. Then we end up just talking about emotional experiences because music is emotional”.
In the New Year, he is beginning another new podcast too, Shaun Keaveny’s Creative Cul-De-Sac, which he describes as “me sitting in my top room going through all my stupid old ideas and talking bollocks, then I do that with a guest”.
Although he’s enjoying the foray into podcasting, radio will always be his first love, and Keaveny is already plotting to return in the not so distant future. “I’m keeping my hand in,” he tells Far Out. “I’ve not burned a bridge at the Beeb because I’m still doing bits and bobs here and their super-subbing, but I’ve got plans to come back somehow next year. But, it’s a hard landscape to get into. It’s like selling your house in London, moving back up north, and trying to get back into London”.
The BBC remains close to Keaveny’s heart, and he does worry that the institution is at risk of abandoning what makes it great in a bid to rival Spotify with BBC Sounds. “The BBC almost doesn’t understand what it’s got,” he says from a place of love rather than bitterness. “It doesn’t understand how unbelievably great it is, and it’s the world’s best radio provider. I think it’s so important that whatever happens next, they protect that, and they don’t just put everything on BBC Sounds and make everything about mixes. Other people do that, and arguably better than them,” he adds.
Despite Keaveny no longer being an employee of the BBC, it’s clear that he still has the best wishes for the corporation in his heart, and he doesn’t want them to be just another broadcaster, which they are potentially sleepwalking into becoming.
Whether Keaveny will make a permanent return to the airwaves in 2022 is unknown, but surely if there’s a commissioner with a grain of common sense, the wait won’t be too much longer. For now, the second series of his binge-able podcast, The Line-Up, is airing weekly until the end of the month before he invites us to his Creative Cul-De-Sac in the New Year.
The Line-Up is available weekly on Apple, Spotify, Acast and all podcast providers. Keep up to date with the latest news via the podcast’s Instagram here.