A few words about Wittertainment, smellypantswee, and a remarkable human being who’s been taken from us far too soon.

I’ve long been a few of the Kermode & Mayo Film Review programme (Wittertainment to its chums) on BBC Radio Five Live. Particularly over the last 18 months, to see how it’s adapted and continued to thrive has been a joy to see. I and many others are thankful it’s continued to find a place on the schedules.

For myself and many others, one of the absolute highlights over this period has been what regular listeners to the show will know as the ‘smellypantswee’ moment. A clip of unexpected radio gold, that’s taken on an extra poignancy over the last week or two.

It all started with a reader email, send in by Ed Freshwater. He told the story of his then four-year old son Kip, having to endure treatment for leukaemia, and the gruelling treatment involved. Kip took enormous delight in shouting in one of the underpasses of Birmingham the phrase ‘smelly pants wee’ on his way to the hospital, and, well, listening to Simon Mayo reading the letter. It’s quite something.

Over the following weeks, ‘smellypantswee’ really caught on. By much demand it was repeated. Here we were in the midst of a global pandemic, and a four year old with a brain and a half was making strangers around the world grin, guffaw, and do their own impressions. I for one grinned like a loon everytime the clip was played, and thankfully it was played a lot.

I’m a week behind on my Wittertainment listening, and so over the weekend had to stop in the car when a further letter from Ed Freshwater was read out. How he had the courage to compose such an incredible piece of writing in the most awful of circumstances I have no idea at all. But he did, and he shared the heartbreaking news with listeners that Kip had been taken from the world, aged just five years old.

Everything isn’t alright so it can’t be the end, he argued. Where do you even start?

The unfairness of it stings like hell, and all I knew of Kip was what was read out on the radio, and his gleeful profanity. But what a cauldron of life he appeared to be. I love that now-famous ‘smellypantswee’ clip. Hearing it the week before last in such awful circumstances? Well, there aren’t the words.

I never knew Kip. I never met him. I don’t know his family. But heck, he made me smile, and he touched my heart as he did many others.

His family are now continuing to tell Kip’s story, and share memories, over at their website. They’re also fundraising in memory of this remarkable human, who made a lot of people laugh and grin and in these awful circumstances continues to do so. That’s some gift. And whilst I don’t imagine it covers a fraction of the pain the Featherstone family are going through, I suspect that Kip’s joyous refrain will linger around the internet for a very, very long time to come.

To the Freshwater family: our heart goes out to you. Sending you the very biggest hug we can via the internet.

To Kip: thank you.

Smellypantswee, everybody. Stay safe x


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PS Peter Rabbit 2 is good.

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