Dave Spikey - my childhood memories of Bolton
PUBLISHED: 10:45 07 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:55 07 March 2016
The Lancashire comedian takes writer David Ridings on a tour of a showbiz career forged in the back streets of Bolton
Years of hard work on the comedy circuit paid off for Bolton’s Dave Spikey, currently on tour with his Punchlines show. Quitting his full-time job after a long career in the NHS, he struck comedy gold with Peter Kay in Phoenix Nights. A string of top awards and a Royal Variety Show appearance cemented his place among the stars. He spoke to David Ridings about his life and times.
What have been the highlights of your showbiz career so far?
Writing and co-starring in ‘That Peter Kay Thing’ and ‘Phoenix Nights’, winning The Best Show in Town award for my first ever tour show after ten years plugging away on the circuit, receiving a gold disc for DVD sales of that same tour, appearing on The Royal Variety Show in front of the Queen and later in the same week guesting on ‘Parkinson’ with one of my absolute greatest heroes Paul McCartney. Then writing and co-starring in my own sit-com ‘Dead Man Weds’ for ITV. I’ve been so lucky - 32 years working in the NHS then this amazing second career.
On stage, do you change your routine for North and South audiences?
No not really. I’m in a very fortunate in that I attract the same type of audience no matter where I perform. That is to say a very warm, welcoming and enthusiastic crowd who have come out just to see me and have a laugh. My comedy is largely observational - comedy of the everyday which by definition applies to all areas of the country. Having said that, I used to include a routine about Wigan which could have alienated some folk from the south coast who were unaware of the pie culture!
Is finding new material an everyday habit now?
I think that it is a major part of the psyche of comedians to continually observe and absorb events that surround them. Observational comedians often come under criticism from the self-appointed ‘Comedy Elite’ and certain critics because the subjects they cover are so accessible and thus by their definition unchallenging. In my opinion, those people do us a great disservice by not recognising the considerable skill and craft involved in converting something so seemingly mundane and everyday into laugh out loud funny.
For a great day what 5 things need to happen?
1. Go to the gym. I hate it but it makes me feel good.
2. Veggie breakfast with Quorn ‘Chef’s Selection’ sausages which are amazing. I’ve been vegetarian for over 20 years . I’m certain that is a major factor in staying healthy.
3. Have a really productive writing session while listening to a chill out or jazz/blues podcast.
4. Go for a long bike ride in the sunshine with my wife, Kay, around Cuerden Valley Park
5. Meet my mates for the craic in the local pub early doors for a couple of pints of craft ale – Dead Pony Club or Camden Pale Ale if he’s got it on. It’s a highlight of my day meeting up and having a good laugh after work with all my old friends.
Can comedians can have so much exposure on television they are no longer funny?
There is some truth in the old adage: ‘You can have too much of a good thing.’ You can tire of seeing the same faces no matter how funny they are. I might add that by contrast there are many excellent comedians on the circuit who rarely get the chance. A lot is decided by the agency they are signed up to. If a comedian is with a smaller agent or freelance (as I am) the opportunities are severely limited which is unhealthy and dispiriting.
Do you have a sitcom begging to be written?
One that revolves around the world of ballroom dancing would be a winner. I don’t mean at a high level but, say, in a small hotel in Blackpool where they have weekly sessions. I think that there would still be the same competitive elements and snobbery, elitism and personality clashes between the couples attending. Oh, hang on! I’ve written that with Neil Fitzmaurice. Any takers?
Advice to young people wanting be comedians?
Only perform material that you think is funny; so funny that when you wrote it, it made you smile or laugh yourself. If you don’t find it all that funny then the audience certainly won’t. Talk about personal experiences that you found funny or things you’ve noticed about life or seen on television or in the papers because you are not unique - if it’s happened to you it’s probably happened to them. This is the comedian’s art. Final note. Be yourself. Be natural. Woody Allen said: ‘Rule Number 1. Make them like you.’
What are your memories of your home town, Bolton?
Growing up in the rows of terraced houses round the mills on Chorley Old Road. Two up, two down houses with an outside loo which had a paraffin lamp to stop the cistern freezing and newspaper on a nail. Coal fires but no firelighters, my mum Donkey stoning steps - she got that off the rag and bone man.
The mills were our adventure playground and we played football and cricket on the cobbled streets. I drove past recently and the painted-on wickets are still on the mill wall. We had different rules – one handed catches off the wall allowed and a peg-leg in any kind of dispute. They should introduce that into test cricket. You have to hold the cricket bat upside down and run whether you hit the ball or not.
Most weekends and summer holidays we spent in Queens Park, on the swings, or on the boating lake which had an island in the middle. For danger, we’d walk round the outside of the pie-crust which was a sort of stone terrace at the end of a promenade. It just happened to resemble a giant pie crust!
Watching Bolton Wanderers at Burnden Park. There were big crowds in those days which could get very scary - some days your feet hardly touching the floor. My first game was November 5, 1960 and we beat Man City 3-1. Nat Lofthouse scored for us. After the game we’d walk back down Manchester Road and by time we got to Trinity Street a mobile printing van would have copies of the BUFF newspaper ready and we’d buy one and read all about the game we’d just watched!
I have happy memories of going up to Barrow Bridge in the summer. It was a real treat to catch the No 2 bus and arrive in that beautiful spot with the picturesque houses across the stream with their own little bridges. Stark contrast to the terraces of Chorley Old Road. We’d climb the 63 steps up to the top of a hill, have a quick look round and then dash back down. There was a wonderful boating lake there with a tuck shop and candy floss kiosk.
As a kid, I loved going to the Odeon for Saturday morning pictures and later when I was a teenager they had touring rock and pop shows. I saw the incredible Jimi Hendrix at Bolton Odeon and Cat Stevens and many more. Then, the Octagon Theatre started Saturday afternoon blues sessions – Bluesology. What a great age to be a teenager!
Dave Spikey’s Punchlines tour will be stopping in Workington (April 7), Southport (April 28), Ulverston (May 5) and Oswaldtwistle (May 26). For more information go to www.davespikey.co.uk.
David Ridings writes for 5thingstodotoday.com and has been shortlisted for ‘Blogger of the Year’ in the Dot London Small Business Awards.