The exclusive story behind Northamptonshire Telegraph's Sky Max TV Hold the Front Page show with Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar

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Sky Max filmed the Northamptonshire episode of Hold the Front Page TV show in Kettering

When my editor told me we were going to have two extra pairs of hands in the office to help out for a week I must admit I was relieved – it was the summer holidays and colleagues were off.

But there was one catch – more accurately two – they were trainees and not just any cub reporters, they were two of the UK’s top comedians, Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar.

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Their new two-hander comedy series Hold the Front Page would see Josh and Nish dipping into life in National World newsrooms up and down the UK and they wanted to come to the NT.

Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar filming in NorthamptonshireJosh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar filming in Northamptonshire
Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar filming in Northamptonshire

We’ve had some superb work experience candidates in the past, so what if they were bringing a film crew? It was a small price to pay for fingers on keyboards and keeping up the story count.

Rashly I agreed to host the duo at our Kettering office. It would be great to highlight North Northants and shine the spotlight on the communities we represent.

I was aware of both of the comedians’ outputs – seemingly ever-present on radio and TV – Josh Widdicombe famous for being distantly related to Henry VIII, and Nish Kumar infamous for being the target of an angry bread roll-chucking charity dinner guest.

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Bee rescue in Northamptonshire village as 40,000 bees set up home in chimney
Josh Widdicombe tackles a chimney full of bees in MawsleyJosh Widdicombe tackles a chimney full of bees in Mawsley
Josh Widdicombe tackles a chimney full of bees in Mawsley

But why choose Kettering? Well that’s easy. And this is my theory, Kettering is a comedy word. It starts with a comedy letter, that all important hard ‘K’ consonant. Taboo words have hard Ks.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy writer Douglas Adams, in his spoof dictionary The Meaning of Liff, defined Kettering as a noun – “the marks left on your bottom or thighs after sunbathing on a wickerwork chair”. Peep Show’s Mark and Jeremy end up in Lap Land, Kettering, celebrating after attending a tedious Kettering conference.

Even Hollywood royalty Lindsay Lohan guaranteed her place in Kettering history with her ‘comedy’ tweet on Brexit night – “Sorry, but Kettering where are you?”

The answer, Linz, is ‘up north’ to anyone from the capital. Kettering is a place seen by bright young talents speeding up the country from St Pancras by rail. From the comfort of their seats they glance up to see Kettering and are filled with wonder. Luton, Bedford and Wellingborough just aren’t as funny.

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Josh Widdicombe in his beekeeper outfit, in MawsleyJosh Widdicombe in his beekeeper outfit, in Mawsley
Josh Widdicombe in his beekeeper outfit, in Mawsley

And there’s the comedy elephant in the comedy room – the pull of Kettering’s king of comedy, the gagmeister of Geddington – one James Acaster. He is mates with both Nish and Josh.

Fast forward to one very hot day in July, my ‘trainees’ knocked on my door, a Sky Max documentary crew in tow. They caused quite a commotion in the quiet neighbourhood with Facebook pinging into action almost as soon as they arrived.

I hadn’t been left all alone by management. Gary Shipton, deputy editor in chief of National World, my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss and star of a previous show, had been brought in to explain the importance of our digital content. Nish and Josh ( is that ‘Nosh’ or ‘Jish’?) were there not to get a front page story, but to compete to get maximum online engagement.

And they genuinely covered stories. It was quite odd to have their bylines appear on our website without any explanation for readers. Readers didn’t seem to bat an eyelid over why two stand-ups were filing stories about magnet fishing or buzzing about a Mawsley bee rescue or why they had ferreted out a story about an animal rescue.

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L-r Alison Bagley, Josh Widdicombe and Nish KumarL-r Alison Bagley, Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar
L-r Alison Bagley, Josh Widdicombe and Nish Kumar

To see how the double act fared on their assignments, please watch their efforts on the telly, but my personal highlight was seeing Nish interviewing Wicky Bear, who could only answer questions through hand gestures and body language. Seeing Wicky and James Acaster goofing around is on a par with one of the most ever Kettering moments I’ve seen – like seeing Ricky Evans on the steps of the Argyll Club or Malcolm the Fish Man in The Three Cocks.

Our beautiful Northamptonshire looks glorious and do not fear, it’s not the locals who are the butt of jokes. The comedians gently rib each other about their own shortcomings and incompetence –dropping phones down chimneys into honey, or nearly braining themselves with powerful magnets (both Josh by the way).

For me the real stars of the show are us, the people who live here, our community. Putting the spotlight on the county has been a real opportunity for the Northamptonshire Telegraph to give the whole world an insight into the world of local journalism – use us or lose us folks – and the wonderfully weird and wacky country in which we live.

Obviously it’s been made for laughs but they admit themselves they didn’t realise how tricky they would find the job.

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Sometimes it seems like a cheese dream that two comedians were my colleagues but it really happened with the proof at Wicksteed Park – there’s a goat called James Acaster and I’ve got the photos to prove it!

Kettering, Nish Kumar and James Acaster filming at Wicksteed Park with Wicky BearKettering, Nish Kumar and James Acaster filming at Wicksteed Park with Wicky Bear
Kettering, Nish Kumar and James Acaster filming at Wicksteed Park with Wicky Bear

– Hold the Front Page, a six-part series, follows the comical duo's journey into the heart of grass roots Britain. Sky Max follow the highs and lows of Nish and Josh as they travel across the UK working for a different local newspaper and its website each week including National World's The Scotsman, Yorkshire Post, West Sussex Gazette, Blackpool Gazette, Northamptonshire Telegraph, and Farming Life, on a mission to find real local stories strong enough to make the front page.

Watch Nish Kumar and Josh Widdicombe talk to Gary Shipton about their experiences here

The Northamptonshire Telegraph features in episode 5 of Hold the Front Page and will air on Wednesday, February,1, at 9pm on Sky Max or all episodes are available now on Sky Max and NOW.

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