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Grumpy Old Man comic Arthur Smith heading to Holt

PUBLISHED: 10:27 29 June 2011

Comedian Arthur Smith who is heading to Holt Festival

Comedian Arthur Smith who is heading to Holt Festival

Archant © 2005

The cliff-tops of Hunstanton and the saltmarshes of north Norfolk are not where you would expect to bump into Grumpy Old Man Arthur Smith.

But then, out walking in the countryside would also see him have a fair merrier demeanour. “I am a rambling man,” he laughs, his deep Cockney growl more suited to smoky clubland than the bracing coastline.

The chance to wander the Norfolk by-roads is one of the perks of his visit to the county this month, where he is one of the headline acts at the Holt Festival when his Arthur Smith Exposed show visits the Auden Theatre later this month.

“It won’t be my first time at Gresham’s actually,” he admits. “I was in a 400 metres team for university athletics and we raced up at Gresham’s once. I don’t think I will be trying to recreate that moment this time though!”

Still regularly and extensively touring country with his rather surreal stand-up, Arthur relishes the opportunity it gives him to “get to the heart of the community and visit places I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to see”.

“I have a friend in Hunstanton and would like to visit him while I’m up there for the week,” he explains. “I have some very happy memories of rambling in Norfolk and, of course, I was a student in Norwich.”

It is stories of these wilder days, when the young Arthur spent three years at the University of East Anglia in the mid-1970s, studying comparative literature, that will form part of his “ramblings” at Holt.

“I went from school in London to Norwich. It was rather nice and a real change from life in Bermondsey for me as a young man.

“I had a wonderful time,” he recalls. “I was on campus the first year and lived at a place that was called somewhat ironically Sea View Farm.

“I also lived in a tent in the woods for a while because I couldn’t find anywhere that I could afford to stay, but then I got a flat on Earlham Road. It was a happy time; I would go to the Jacquard Club and saw George Melly and Stephane Grappelli there.

“I suppose I was slightly too wild and would lark about a bit. I was quite experimental with my look in those days and had a great, big affro haircut.”

Hard to imagine perhaps, for those of us who have only known the close-cropped and characterful-faced Arthur of TV programmes such as BBC’s Grumpy Old Men series and BBC Radio Fours’ Excess Baggage, Loose Ends, and most recently Arthur Smith’s Balham Bash.

Yet, the big-haired student of the ‘70s cut quite a dash in his days at uni.

“I was a mad disco dancer with the UEA’s Dance Society and won a competition,” he reveals. “I was quite a dancer in my day but I have retired from disco now,”

Arthur Smith Exposed is at The Auden Theatre, Holt, on 28 July. Tickets £18 and £15 through the Festival Box Office, High Silver, 35 High Street, Holt; 01263 711284; boxoffice@holtfestival.org.

●The full interview with Arthur Smith is in the July edition of the EDP Norfolk magazine out now.

The programme for this year’s Holt Festival is wide-ranging and first class, from Sunday, 24 to Saturday, 30 July, with international music, theatre, family and kids shows, film, comedy, dance, poetry and visual arts.

Composer and pianist Sir Richard Rodney Bennett will be celebrating his 75th birthday in style at the festival where a series of events will reflect his many talents, from films including his music to Sir Richard himself appearing in a special concert with acclaimed jazz singer Claire Martin, performing his own arrangements of songs from the Irvin Berlin songbook on 27 July at The Auden Theatre,

There’s poetry from Martin Newell, John Osborne, Molly Naylor. Anthony Thwaite, Alan Brownjohn and Andrea Holland, plus dance, art and many children’s events to entertain even the youngest festival-goers.

Free events, including circus training, street dancing and puppet making workshops and performances for the whole family, form a large part of the week . . . and look out for the Talking Postboxes around the town on 28, 29 and 30 July!

Classical chart-toppers I Faglioni will be in concert on 28 July with a wide-ranging programme of ensemble favourites, and rock legends 10cc will perform the closing concert at Gresham’s stunning Theatre In The Woods on July 30.

Tickets for 10cc are also available from Bakers and Larners Department Store, 8 Market Place, Holt; www.bakersandlarners.co.uk


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