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Go Well! Cricket fan-favourite Tailenders podcast all set for Hackney Empire shows

PUBLISHED: 12:12 08 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:43 09 October 2019

Felix White, shown here at the Cricket World Cup Final earlier this summer, presents Tailenders with Greg James and Jimmy Anderson. Picture: Robbie Stephenson/JMP.

Felix White, shown here at the Cricket World Cup Final earlier this summer, presents Tailenders with Greg James and Jimmy Anderson. Picture: Robbie Stephenson/JMP.

Robbie Stephenson/JMP

Radio 1 DJ Greg James, English cricket icon Jimmy Anderson and ex-Maccabees guitarist Felix White bring their Tailenders podcast to Hackney Empire this Sunday (Oct 13) for a rare live outing.

Radio 1 DJ Greg James initially launched the Tailenders podcast in November 2017. Picture: BBC.Radio 1 DJ Greg James initially launched the Tailenders podcast in November 2017. Picture: BBC.

Firstly, a comparison. The scramble for Glastonbury tickets was back at the weekend, with the full allocation snapped up in 34 minutes and hundreds of thousands of music-lovers left to sulk for the rest of the day - weekend ruined.

Tickets for Tailenders: Live at Hackney Empire, meanwhile, sold out within half-an-hour of going on sale in August, crashing the Mare Street venue's website as organisers hastily arranged a matinee performance to meet the demand.

Are we saying that Tailenders is as popular as Glastonbury? No. Of course not. But clearly, the podcast 'loosely based around cricket' presented by Radio 1's Greg James, legendary fast-bowler Jimmy Anderson and the former Maccabees star Felix White has struck a chord with lovers of this country's summer sport - and indeed, plenty of people who used to actively avoid it.

"It was very cool for a number of reasons," says White, reflecting on the fierce demand for tickets to their shows this Sunday. "When you do a radio show, there aren't many ways of gauging the response. Nobody really knew what the popularity was going to be at all, it was a huge surprise for everyone [to sell-out so quickly]. Tailenders from the start has all happened so naturally, it was a total mad surprise."

White, Anderson and James bring their podcast to Hackney Empire this weekend. Picture: BBC.White, Anderson and James bring their podcast to Hackney Empire this weekend. Picture: BBC.

Tailenders - a BBC 5 Live podcast for BBC Sounds - made its debut in November 2017. Initially thought-up by James, who knew White from his time with indie group The Maccabees, who were in-turn a band admired by Anderson, Tailenders was meant to be a short-term podcast coinciding with The Ashes series of that winter - that's Australia versus England.

"The idea was to have six episodes, loosely talking about cricket," adds White. "But then a guy phoned up who claimed to be related to [legendary Indian batsman] Sachin Tendulkar - Mattchin - he's a comic genius. He phones up every week with a new gameshow, it's all about how we might make cricket more appealing.

"The four of us have managed to cultivate this really left-field, cricket-related podcast. Cricket is a game of failure; Jimmy will read out [listeners'] stories, we'll play some sad music, and have loads of total nonsense like that. People seem to have really taken to it."

Each of the shows on Sunday will last two hours - complete with a tea break, of course - and guests are to expect the usual "cricket twaddle, nonsense, music and fun." It's only the second time that James, Anderson, White and Mattchin have brought their creation in front of a live audience, and it's on a much larger scale than the first time, which was an intimate recording of the podcast at the BBC Radio Theatre last year.

White's adoration for his role in Tailenders is plain to see. "Having spent 15 years in a band - watching or listening to cricket, and everyone else telling me to turn it off - to have this space to ask Jimmy Anderson anything that pops in to my head, I'm totally blessed.

"In contrast to a lot of other aspects of our lives, we genuinely turn up and do this for fun. There's very little weighted pressure on it, there's a freedom that comes about from it. Personally, I look forward to Tailenders every week because I know that I'm gonna laugh. It's almost like meditative for me; I leave feeling better about life."

The podcast - coupled with the high drama of England's World Cup Win and a thrilling Ashes series earlier this summer - has brought a new wave of people in to the sport.

"We have noticed that inadvertently, people had got in to cricket through Tailenders," adds White. "One of the issues with cricket [as a sport] is that it speaks to itself regularly. It's nice to bring people from the outside in to it. [On some episodes] we don't even mention cricket any more, it's so loose."

With regards to Sunday's shows, White recalls living "literally two minutes around the corner. I remember thinking it would be cool to play there one day, Hackney Empire is so beautiful.

"People are asking - with the matinee and the evening - whether they're going to be the same show twice. We're not even gonna be doing the same show once!"

With some of the regular features that have built such a loyal Tailenders community, special guests (including England bowler and Tailenders icon Jack Leach) and no lack of audience interaction, those who missed out on tickets will be able to listen to the live podcast shortly after Sunday's shows.

White says it's "hard to reflect on" the epic summer of cricket that we've just witnessed.

"We were all nervous half-way through the World Cup, [because] this was cricket's big opportunity with there not being any major football tournaments, and it might be slightly missing it.

"But as the game always does, by its sheer force and romantic nature, it produced. Some of the drama [from this summer] people haven't ever seen before - we're all sort of still processing it, actually. I know Tailenders has benefitted from it. The challenge now for the game is not to squander [this popularity] like we did after the Ashes in 2005.

Tailenders is a BBC 5 Live podcast for BBC Sounds. For a full list of previous episodes, click here.

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