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Kenney Jones on his rock and roll life and a Surrey cause close to his heart

PUBLISHED: 11:57 13 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:13 13 June 2018

Kenny Jones (Photo by Mike Lawn)

Kenny Jones (Photo by Mike Lawn)

Copyright Mike Lawn

With a new book out about his rock and roll life, Kenny Jones has just been announced as part of the line up for this year's Guildford Book Festival. Claire Saul met the legendary drummer of Small Faces and The Who at Surrey's Hurtwood Park Polo Club.

Interview first published in Surrey Life June 2017


Kenney Jones drives carefully around the Hurtwood estate, pausing frequently to admire the stunning view of the Surrey Hills. He also notes a buzzard overhead, ancient woodland that will soon be ablaze with bluebells, the tree which reminds him of his late father and much more. This spontaneous tour we have taken to demonstrate the perfection of this location illustrates, in equal measure, his personal passion for it.

Stepney-born Kenney was one of many rock and entertainment greats who relocated to Surrey during the 60s and 70s, the same years that also saw him realise chart success and fame with Small Faces and then the Faces before joining The Who. “I used to go hop picking in Kent as a kid every year. That’s when I fell in love with the countryside,” explains Kenney. “I have lived in Surrey most of my life. It is an amazing place.” Having acquired 180 acres of land at Ewhurst in the late 80s, Kenney eventually established Hurtwood Park Polo Club, a venue which has since hosted the finest names from the sports world and beyond and is now also a popular venue for private, public and corporate events.

“It was inevitable that I would end up finding polo or, rather, that polo would find me,” says Kenney, an accomplished horseman and polo player. “It is a wonderful sport but frustratingly, I’m not really playing anymore. Drumming is what I do and because of that I can’t risk falling off and breaking my arm or hurting my back or bass drum foot.”

Some of the events which have taken place at the Hurtwood have been in support of the Prostate Project, which aims to establish a world-class urology centre at the Royal Surrey Hospital. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK and, unfortunately, a subject which Kenney knows about all too well.

“I had been having routine blood tests since having a tumour on my thyroid removed in the early 80s. When I went for my blood test at a new GP surgery in 2013 the nurse said, “Why don’t we also do a PSA blood test while we are at it?” When she explained that it was a prostate cancer test I thought (typical man), ‘nah. Say no. Say no.’ But she kept talking and eventually “yes” came out. That nurse saved my life, basically.”

The test measures the level prostate-specific antigen protein in the blood – high levels can be a symptom of prostate cancer. Further tests and a biopsy at the Royal Surrey Hospital confirmed Kenney’s diagnosis and he carefully discussed his options with his wife Jayne and his family before deciding on a relatively new treatment called brachytherapy under the supervision of Professor Stephen Langley, one of the Prostate Project consultant team.

“I’d been ignoring the symptoms for years; getting up two to three times each night to use the loo. I enjoy a drink in the evening and I put it down to that, but I should have acted on those symptoms straightaway, regardless of whether I was drinking alcohol, water or anything else. But I can’t allow anybody else to ignore this problem. no man likes to talk about their private parts but I need to get through to them and break the stigma of prostate cancer. I do interviews, talks and all sorts to talk about my experience of it and to help create awareness and now I often get letters now saying things like, ‘I listened to you on the radio and you saved my life.’

“I had incredible treatment at the Royal Surrey and I have nothing but respect for the staff there. The Prostate Project seems to be the nerve centre of prostate cancer right now and I have been happy to support them as much as I can.

“This experience has changed me. I probably care a little bit more about my fellow man and I feel alive. Because I’ve been given another opportunity to stay alive.”

For more on the Prostate Project visit prostate-project.org.uk

Hurtwood Park Polo Club is in Ewhurst Green, GU6 7SW; hurtwoodparkpolo.co.uk

Check back for more news on the personalities taking part in this year’s Guildford Book Festival and don’t forget to enter our readers’ short story competition (the winner of which will be announced at the festival in October) before the July 31. More details here.

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