XFM's John Kennedy keeps it local at new music night

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Earning his stripes:John Kennedy champions Merton music makers Earning his stripes:John Kennedy champions Merton music makers

Believe it or not but the first gig that XFM DJ John Kennedy ever saw was at Wimbledon Theatre.

The year was 1979, Thatcher has recently been elected to power and 13-year-old Kennedy was a scrawny first year at Wimbledon College.

Britain also happened to be in the midst of a Mod revival, so when Kennedy's sister got tickets to see the Merton Parkas - with a pre-Style Council Mick Talbot on keyboards - her little bro tagged along for the ride.

And what a ride! "The Parkas were the creme de la creme of the Mod revival crop," recalls Kennedy, "and their single was getting a lot of attention at the time from the likes of John Peel. But the gig made the front of the Wimbledon News for different reasons when some young mods smashed up the first twenty rows of seats! I have to say I don't really remember too much about it myself!"

However, the music made enough of an impact on him that three decades on, Kennedy, 42, is now XFM's resident champion of new music on his nightly show, Xposure.

This week, the Merton resident (yes, he still lives here!) will also be joining forces with locally based music rag, Up Magazine, to launch a major new night at Wimbledon's Watershed.

Up Editor Nav Balasingham has been building up the venue's reputation for live music for two years now, with weekly gigs and guest spots from the likes of The Maccabees and Dans Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip.

But with Kennedy's name behind it, not to mention his DJ and talent-scouting skills, this latest venture looks set for even greater success.

It was Kennedy, after all, who first broke local acts such as Jamie T and Good Shoes on his show.

"They sent me their demo," he says of Morden's finest, "and when they told me where they were from, I was blown away. It's really exciting hearing something unusal - unusually good, that is - from your hometown. And watching Good Shoes play around the country as I get to do now, it's amazing to hear people singing along to Morden, especially up North!"

It was Jamie T who warned Kennedy off The Watershed when he first investigated setting something up there. But now that the club has shaken off its chavvy image, the time seems ripe for a change of music policy, too.

Sunday's inaugural gig will feature the Snow Patrol-esque Six Nation State, Maximo Park support act Theoretical Girl & the Equations, and Parka (no relation to the originals), whose Disco Dancer single is getting bags of airplay at the moment, not least on Xposure.

Kennedy hopes for a reciprocal relationship whereby he gets to hear local talent at its earliest gestation and Merton gets the music night it has long deserved. The Beatles played in SW19 back in the day , he points out, and there is no reasion why that level of musical greatness cannot return to the borough.

"Going to see the Merton Parkas changed my life," he says, "and not because the gig was so amazing, but because it made me realise how exciting live music can be. Hopefully, these Watershed gigs can supply something similar to young people today."

Up Magazine present Six Nation State / Theoretical Girl & The Equations / Parka plus DJ set from John Kennedy, The Watershed, 267 The Broadway, Wimbledon, Sunday, January 20, 5.30-10pm, £7, 14+ (bar 18+).

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