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Colin and Fergus

Colin and Fergus's Digi Radio

So, what's it like when you find yourself making your very first radio series?

Colin Hoult and Fergus Craig are the proud writer-performers behind Colin and Fergus's Digi-Radio which was BBC 7's very first new comedy commission.

Here they chat about that all important breakthrough.

How did you become Colin and Fergus?

We trained together as actors at Manchester Metropolitan and started creating weird little mime shows which we performed at arty venues like 'The Green Room' and thought were hilarious.
We came up with 'Bill and Ken' when we were in Tanzania during our final year at uni. We were there doing a project with local schools, musicians and dancers for this huge theatre festival and came up with these weird twisted northern men who were basically quite a traditional double act. The language barrier meant that they became very big and pantomimic which was really fun. So when we got back we just decided to carry it on.
We started performing Bill and Ken at open mike nights and gradually developed new characters until we had enough to do a show at the Edinburgh Festival. Because the new stuff surpassed Bill and Ken in terms of quality we just called ourselves Colin and Fergus and used a kind of exaggerated version of ourselves to link all the sketches and characters together.

How did the radio series come about?

A producer called Colin Anderson came to see us at our first Edinburgh show. He suggested we put in a pitch for a BBC 7 show.
We were developing various ideas at the time and were keen to work up an idea based on a Victorian detective story. There's a station master on the London Underground called Rutherford Lodge and we loved the name so much that that became the hero's name. We wrote a whole first episode and when the series came along we decided to use Lodge for the main part of the show.

What was the process of developing the show like?

We spent a lot of time writing in an editing room at the end of the corridor where all the producers sit. It was a bit like a cupboard but at least it gave us good thinking time and it was a lot of fun developing the show.
We came up with the idea of Digi-radio as a theme to hold it all together quite early on. We wanted to use a lot of sound effects throughout and create the sense of a really busy, chaotic world. A lot of time was spent in hysterics as we tried to work out how a homicidal Peter Gabriel would sound attacking people with his sledgehammer.
Colin Anderson quickly got our sense of humour and became a valued member of the team. He helped a lot with the structure of the show, in particular the idea of using a story every week.

How long did you have to wait between your first script and the series being broadcast?

About three months. As we had so many little touches we wanted to get in we were writing up to the last minute. We recorded a mixture of stuff early on: the biggest task was working out what sketches to include in which episode.

What's it like to record a radio show?

We recorded things in different chunks. We recorded most things like you would a play all around one mike. We then used separate mikes for the weird little inserts like 'Manfish'.
The stories were the hardest to record as they needed a bit more stamina and a Jacknanory style quality. Which Bernard Cribbens will tell you is not as easy as it sounds. We always kept places in the recording for improvisation which made everything a lot more fun.

Were you pleased with the series?

Very pleased. Obviously it was pretty nerve wracking, it being our first series. I think BBC 7 were a little nervous too as it was one of their first original shows.
We were learning a lot as we went along but stuck to the principle that if it made us laugh then it had some kind of merit. In the end we got a great response to the show.

Will there be big changes for series 2?

Series two will have the same basic format but we plan to cut the intros a bit and try to get in a few more sketches per episode.
We're currently devising all-new daft villains for Rutherford Lodge to thwart. Nothing's concrete yet expect the return of the 'Three Men in a Tub' and the introduction of the terrifying 'Shed that gives Head'. We'll also be bringing back a lot of the old 'Colin and Fergus' creations like Theatre Group and Get Real.

What else are you doing?

We're doing an Edinburgh show which is based around Rutherford Lodge and features our writing collaborator from Digi Radio, Dave McNeill. We're also working on a concept album with Peter Gabriel using only the sound of cows mating.


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