A Good Service On All Other Lines: The only way you CAN fall in love on a train right now

  • The List
  • 13 May 2020
A Good Service On All Other Lines: The only way you CAN fall in love on a train right now

Co-creator David Head writes about how turning the hit show into a podcast during a pandemic wasn't exactly part of the plan

In 2018, writer/comedian David Head and singer-songwriter Matt Glover of Sincere Deceivers presented a performance of silly love stories and melancholy folk pop at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Their show, A Good Service On All Other Lines, featured 'intertwining tales of lovers, losers and locomotives', and was met with positive reviews from audiences and critics alike. When the pair announced that their show would be turned into a five-part podcast, no one could have predicted that its release would coincide with our current state of lockdown. With things not going exactly to plan, David Head writes about the podcast, how it came to fruition and why people seem to be responding to it despite everything going on.

Amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, rumours of a pending lockdown and uncertainty facing the jobs of nearly everyone involved in the creation and promotion of it – I think it would be safe to say the release of our podcast in March 2020 didn't go to plan.

Although maybe I'm being a bit generous with the use of the word 'plan' there. Our modus operandi for the entire process has relied a touch too heavily on luck.

This all began in 2017 when Matt and I sat down with some pizza and Eurovision on in the background to kick around ideas for doing a show together. Something that could combine Matt's contemporary folk songs with my storytelling, and emulate the kind of narrative shows we both enjoyed and also just be fun to do. We didn't have grand ambitions. This was really just for our own enjoyment, and the hope it might resonate with other people.

So A Good Service on All Other Lines was born – a show about trains (as well as life, love and loss).

We got such a strong and positive response after performing a preview that we talked about taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe the following year. Then we got a venue offer while Matt was on a two-week-long cross-country walk with little to no phone signal, so a small leap of faith was required. I was pretty sure he'd said 'yes' before the line cut out.

With our trademark lack of planning, we ended up with an opening night consisting of precisely 0 people, and began to worry we'd made a dreadful error. But people came the next day, and the one after that. And slowly word spread. We got reviewers in, and we were fortunate to get good write-ups. Suddenly we had lots of people coming, and sold out our final performance.

Returning home, we were faced with the question of what to do with the show now if we wanted to continue sharing it. A few people had told us they thought it might make a good podcast. Personally, I thought the implication of 'a podcast' was gently – but literally – pointing out how looking at us was superfluous to requirement. Maybe even detrimental. 'Faces for radio'. However, there was something to the idea.

Podcasts are potentially a great format for small narrative shows like ours to reach bigger audiences, and also preserve the work. So with a little more of a plan this time, we managed to secure funds from Arts Council England, some help from a lovely PR company and the services of Carlos Bricio – a sound engineering wizard.

We began recording late in 2019, with the idea being to release it in early 2020. Of course these things always take longer than you'd intended, so the date got pushed back a little … and a little bit more. How about mid to late March?

Perfect, I thought. There's no real rush. What will be different in March?

Well. I think we all know the answer to that now.

But slowly people seem to be listening, despite the multitude of other things going on. And actually the feedback we're getting suggests that having something to distract from the bad news and the anxieties of our new normal has been very welcome. Which, really, is all we can truly ask for and exactly what we'd want. We hope this continues to be the case as more people discover it, and share. So while maybe it's not the launch we had 'planned', it hasn't been the disaster you might expect.

Besides. It's still a show about trains. A delayed start is probably appropriate.

A Good Service on All Other Lines is available on Acast, Apple, Spotify and all podcast providers. David and Matt hope to be at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2021 with their new show Unwanted Objects.