Memoirs .... from 2000 onwards ....


WALLS SAUSAGE ADVERT - January was mainly singing in folk clubs. In February I went to Shepperton Studios in London for a three day shoot to record an advert for Walls Sausages, in which I led an escape party of prisoners digging an escape tunnel from prison. It's all been worked out wrongly, and instead of popping up through the ground beyond the prison walls we're still inside!

MAGNIFICENT MONOLOGUES - When I wasn't singing for a crust, March and April were consumed with recording the album "Magnificent Monologues." I did this in digital format throughout for the first time, and gathered together seventeen of the greatest humorous monologues ever written - all with piano accompaniment. The finished album came back from the CD factory on May 28th 2000.

ANOTHER OLDHAM TINKERS WORLD TOUR - May saw the Oldham Tinkers and me doing another world tour, again reaching far flung places. We did the Municipal hall at Colne followed by a sell out at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre. As part of BBC Music Live 2000, we did another sellout, this time at Bolton Albert Halls. It was promoted by GMR, quickly edited, and broadcast the next day. That same evening I went back to the Municipal at Colne and had the great pleasure of presenting a concert with the Nelson Civic Choirs and Peter Skellern. It was broadcast live, complete with my counting down everyone to sing "Perfect Day" in sync with the rest of Britain at 10pm. Then home for a rub down with a paraffin rag.

RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET - At the Octagon Theatre Bolton - Played the part of the announcer. This is an unusual role since it's prerecorded, so you're in the live show every night but don't have to turn up!

HEARTBEAT - In an episode called "The Traveller" I played the part of manager of a Betting Office. David Essex guested as the travelling man.
Here's a clip where the bad lads try to raid my betting shop:

PAROLE OFFICER - A Steve Coogan film, in which I played the organizer and spokesman of a cycling rally. There were hundreds of cyclists gathered outside Manchester Town Hall - my job was to inform them of the rally’s events whilst the action of robbing the bank was taking place. Some of it was done the week after in Liverpool, and in true film style it all edits seamlessly together. With hours of shouting to address the assembled throng I lost my voice, just about managing to do a wild track before it went all together. Then, when you see the edited version, all those hours become 3 minutes! That’s filming.

*to be uploaded*

STRUMPET - I did 3 scenes in this made-for-TV Jim Cartwright play directed by Danny Boyle (of “Trainspotting” fame). When it got to the editing stage there was 25 minutes too much, so many scenes had to go - including mine. Very strange to see the credits at the end with my name on - yet I’m not in it. Turned out Danny Boyle and I went to the same secondary school (ten years apart) so we had a lot of tales to swap.

PHOENIX NIGHTS - Filmed my first appearance as Dodgy Eric in the first series of this landmark production. I love the outtake on the DVD where I do the whole scene in one, but get the very last word wrong “Come on Brian, it’ll be shitting bricks” instead of “shitting money.” Great fun.

VICTORIA WOOD & ALL THE TRIMMINGS - A Xmas special where Victoria wrote spoofs of many famous pieces from the literary and film worlds. I was in “Brassed Up” which was another way of looking at “Brassed Off”. It was the bandroom scene where Gloria turns up with her flugel horn and shyly asks to play in the brass band (she actually did play for the recording, too). I played the euphonium player in the band (James Bolam played the conductor), and found that if you sing down the instrument it sounds remarkably like the real thing. This came in really useful in 2008 when I was in the Oldham Coliseum production of “Brassed Off”.
Here's the BRASSED UP sketch:

I also played in another sketch, being a spoof of “ER”. All the cast, including Derek Jacobi, Richard E. Grant, Lyndsey Duncan, & Geraldine McEwan, had to speak in dodgy American accents. Luckily, that’s quite easy. It’s speaking in authentic ones that’s more difficult. I should have been in the big finale scene of the Xmas prog, but a prior concert arranged for Radio Lancashire meant I couldn’t.
Here's the WI sketch:


SHIPMAN - Played a market trader in this drama about the life and deaths of Harold Shipman, the doctor from Mottram (starring James Bolam). It involved one scene and the telling of a couple of gags (which would have been rife at that time). The scene was twice delayed, went through 3 different locations (finally ending up in Barnsley) and then never included in the final edit!

RADIO LANCASHIRE - Hosted the morning show quite a few times when the presenter (Jim Bowen) was otherwise engaged on cruise ships. I hosted a concert recorded at Colne Municipal Hall which featured the Andy Prior Big Band and special guest Bill Tarmey (Jack Duckworth of Coronation Street) who is a fine interpreter of classic songs. Also interviewed him on the morning programme as well.
I also recorded a series of ten programmes called “The Tales Of Tommy Thompson” in which I read many of the short stories that Tommy wrote in the 1940s for the Manchester Guardian newspaper. They were later issued in book form by the publishers Allen & Unwin and featured such titles as “Lancashire Lather”, “Lancashire Lines” and “Under The Barber’s Pole”. This last title was also a BBC radio series starring Wilfred Pickles.

This is a sample of one of my readings.*TT*

Let me know if you’d like more because I could issue them on CD. Each one would contain 9 or 10 stories.

BARBARA - Filmed scenes for this sitcom in Nottingham. I played the manager of a petrol station shop, along with Sam Kelly and Mark Benton.

ALADDIN - Sixty two performances as a Chinese Policeman in this Duggie Chapman production at the Albert Halls in Bolton. I wrote and performed 2 of the songs in it - here’s the song of the Chinese Policemen, where the “fat” and “thin” chorus refers to me and Paul Fairclough, the radio presenter, who was 22 stone at the time (not that I’m thin, but I looked it next to Paul).

"The Song Of The Chinese Policemen”

PHOENIX NIGHTS - During the pantomime run I was asked to be Dodgy Eric again in the 2nd series of Phoenix Nights. It turned out to be the classic scene where Eric tries to sell Brian Potter a bouncy castle with a huge phallic extension. Here’s a pic from it until I upload the whole scene:


Many gigs around favourite haunts. Another restricted world tour with Oldham Tinkers, including such watering holes as the Mechanics in Burnley (that’s the equivalent of the Town hall), Oldham Coliseum, Accrington Town Hall and Fleetwood Marine Hall.

MARK & LARD’S HALON MENSWEAR AWARD SHOW - Mark Radcliffe & Marc Riley dedicated an afternoon of their BBC Radio 1 programme to this Awards Ceremony. Tables, food, and waiter service were provided. Here's the invite we received:

Radiohead, the Charlatans, Pulp, New Order, Richard Hawley and the BBC Philharmonic were among the nominees present in the studio. Mark interviewed each in turn. This was mine:

Halon Awards

Turned out that I won! The “Fairly Truthful Tales” CD was disc of the year (it could only happen on such a daft programme).

DICK WHITTINGTON - We were asked to do the panto again at Bolton, with most of the same cast. Here’s a pic of me as Captain Codpiece:


and one of the songs I wrote. Paul Fairclough was my sidekick again - this time as Kipper, the 1st mate. Here’s the song of the Saucy Sal:



THE ROYAL - Filmed an episode of this in summer. It was to be shown at Xmas, and I played George, a bit of a recluse, who was in charge of a forest on the hills. The interiors were shot in Leeds, and the exterior scenes were in Scarborough, so imagine how unusual it would have seemed to see a street in Scarborough completely covered in snow in September! I couldn’t find my car keys on the Wednesday I was due to leave, and the only way to get to a booking that night in Mawdesley was to have a courier bring my spare set from home. Rather fraught journey back - happy days!

One of the memorable gigs from that year was the Village Hall in Mugginton, Derbyshire, when my trusty spotlight bulb blew up part way through the first half. Still a good night, though the 2nd half looked a little dimmer.

VICTORIA WOOD’S BIG FAT DOCUMENTARY - I was asked to sing a song for this prog about fat people in Britain and America. As part of the programme, Victoria came to Radio Lancashire’s studios for a live guest spot on Ted Robbin’s morning show. I sang “Does my Bum Look Big In This?” and remembered asking the director how long the programme would be. She replied “46 minutes”. When I asked how much footage they’d shot she said “46 hours”. Thus, I wasn’t surprised when the song didn’t make it to the final edited version. It should appear on my 2009 CD “Every Song Tells A Story”. There was a Wrigley presence on the programme, though, for as Victoria entered the studios of Radio Lancashire one of my jingles was playing.

MARK & LARD - Mark Radcliffe & Marc Riley asked me to read a series of very stupid customs on their Radio 1 afternoon show. They were written by Patrick Gallagher and lovingly sculpted with sounds effects by Chris Lee. I did them from the point of view of a country rustic. Some of the titles included “Boning the Beyonce” and “Humping the Hucknall”. I remember looking at the producer part way through and saying “Aren’t some of these libellous?” She replied “Well you’re reading them!”
Here’s “Podging the Elton” - do let me know if you want to hear more of these.

1096 - I did a little scene in a pilot show for a proposed BBC3 series. The "1096" title refers to the policeman's number on his jacket. It starred Neil Fitzmaurice (co-writer of Phoenix Nights) and was directed by Noreen Kershaw. Unfortunately, it didn't make it it through to be a series.
In the scene I did, the policemen had just used the car vac at the filling station to clean the panda car's rear seat - someone had crapped on it 3 times!

BBC R2 FOLK AWARDS - Was asked to present an award at this gathering in London. I was just after Peter O’Toole and immediately before Martin Carthy, so - well placed. The award was to Nancy Kerr and James Fagen for “Best Duo”. They couldn’t be there since they were touring Australia, but I did a concert with them in 2007 at Saltburn - they’re great!

BBC RADIO - August was a radio month for me, where I hosted Jim Bowen’s Radio Lancashire Morning Show for 2 weeks, as well as being guest twice on Mark Radcliffe’s Radio 2 late evening prog. On one of these I played a compilation of all his “err ... ums” that he’d uttered on his programme earlier in the week. Luckily, he didn’t take offence .....

"Mark Radcliffe Umms & Errs”

On one of the programmes, Mark Lamaar was standing in for Mark Radcliffe. He had a knack that week of pressing wrong buttons. Needing no further encouragement, I edited some cock ups he did a couple of days before I was guest. I played them on the show and again, he didn’t take offence.
On the other hand, he hasn’t spoken to me since .....

"Mark Lamaar Nearly Gets It Right”


FAT FRIENDS - This particular episode was written by Ruth Jones, and I was asked to play the part of Tristram, an almost unintelligible Yorkshire farmer. I asked Dave Burland, the King of Barnsley, for some dialect coaching. Wardrobe and Make-Up had a field day with me.
Here's the clip:

BAFTA AWARDS CEREMONY - I was invited to Victoria Wood’s BAFTA Award ceremony in London. A lovely evening at a London theatre, complete with red carpet outside. The evening was hosted by Ted Robbins, who was the only celeb not to be phased by the malfunctioning autocue. A true pro.
I was very pleased to see one of my scenes from “Dinner Ladies” played on the big screen “ give us a teabag and I’ll suck it on the way home ...”

BBC R4 DRAMA - In “Woman’s Hour” every day on Radio 4 there’s a drama spot of 15 minutes (repeated in the evening). Sometimes they’re complete, other times they’re a series of five. This one was called “The Nocturnalists”, written by Lavinia Murray. It was a two hander about a male and a female zoo keeper. The female was played by Rachel Davies, whom I first met at the Octagon, Bolton, all those years ago, and who also played my wife in the TV episode of “Harbour Lights” we did in 1999.

GOD’S OWN COUNTY - I was part way through what I thought would be the next CD when I changed tack and recorded nineteen songs which have some connection to Lancashire.

HEARTBEAT - Played George Costello, owner of a travelling fair. David & cohorts had stolen a food kiosk - George and his brother turn up to claim it back. Turned out my silent, menacing brother was a fellow performer from the folk world - Joe Stead!
I always wanted to have a go in one of those 1950s cars, but when I drove the Standard Vanguard in this episode it shattered a myth. Makes you realize how far car technology has come.
Here are the scenes:

THE LOWRY, SALFORD - Together with the Oldham Tinkers, we hired the Quays Theatre for the first time. Great night. We did it again in 2007.

SHAMELESS - After saying I wouldn’t do a part in “Shameless” if ever asked, I was asked in September to be in an episode from series 3 and said “Yes”. I played the manager of a “Cash Generator” shop who also went in for cottaging in gents’ toilets. Spent the whole time in or just outside the public toilets in the centre of Swinton, near Manchester. Oh, the glamour of filming.
Fool that I am, I accidentally wiped the recording from my hard drive, otherwise I’d put a clip here in all its glory.

TRIBUTE TO HOVIS - The Bolton poet, Hovis Presley, sadly died this year, and we held a tribute to him at the Albert Halls in Bolton. Everyone performing gave their services for free with all the money going to charity. Performers included Mark Radcliffe, Johnny Vegas, John Shuttleworth, Badly Drawn Boy, Archie Kelly and meself, the whole thing being ably compered by my good friend and Hovis buddy Bob Williamson.
Here’s a pic from the night of Bob and Johnny Vegas:



KELLOGGS NUTRIGRAIN - It’s always satisfying to be asked to do an advert, especially one like this - a voiceover using animatronics so that real animals seem to be speaking as if human. So, I did the audition, did the recall, and went to a studio in London to record two scripts. The next thing is they don’t want you after all, and here’s a couple of hundred quid for the studio fee & bye-bye. Must have been someone from Kelloggs who decided that, so I’m pleased not to buy their sugary shite any more on principle (not entirely true, since I never bought it before).

RADIO LANCASHIRE - After hosting many Morning Shows and doing four of my own series - that’s it. That BBC local radio station isn’t employing freelance people any more. After all, the Beeb has to pay Jonathan Ross six million pounds a year, and the money for him and similarly serious salaries has to come from somewhere.
Still got all the programmes though, for I recorded them myself. I’ll make some of them into CDs, and some of them would suit being posted on the site as podcasts. Watch this space!

SHORTS FOR ALL OCCASIONS - When I got to 184 one verse poems I asked Gary Hogg (of Fairly Truthful Tales) to draw cartoons for a quarter of them. This way I could make a book of 96 pages and every double page could contain 4 verses and one cartoon. You can see pages from it by clicking on the “Books & CDs” link.

CONCERTS - I decided not to include the singing side too much in these memoirs, or it would all get too long. Suffice to say the village halls, theatres and folk clubs were really enjoyable this year. If you came to one - many thanks! Hope you enjoyed it too.


IT'S ADAM & SHELLEY - A couple of days after I saw Steely Dan in concert at Aintree, I played an irate hotel manager in a funny sketch from a BBC3 series featuring this talented twosome. Involves a naked bum shot at the end, but all is revealed (heh) if you watch it from the beginning:

MANCHESTER MONOLOGUES - Along with actors Noreen Kershaw and David Crellin I was asked to pick a short list of entries in the Manchester Monologues competition. “Monologue” in this context didn’t refer to the humorous rhyming sort, but to a “Talking Heads” style narration.

At the finals showcase in the futuristic looking URBIS building in Manchester the selected entries were performed, some by the authors, and some by us. I compered it as well, doing selections from my “Shorts For All Occasions” to break the ice. Great night all round.

BBC R4 DRAMA - Did an episode in a series called “Take Away” which charted a particular shop in Yorkshire throughout the ages. Each episode was a chapter portraying the different nationalities of families that had owned the premises (Italian, Asian etc from the 1930s to the present). This episode was “Patty’s Patties” featuring the West Indian owners, and I played the electrician who fell in love with Patty, the owner.

CONCERTS - Apart from my own gigs, I think the Oldham Tinkers and I had the best year ever. We did seven of our favourite venues (Burnley, Morecambe, Oldham atc) and loved each one.


A MEMENTO FROM YORK - Here's a cameo interview with me from an evening in 2008 at the Black Swan folk club in York. It was recorded & edited by Oliver Crocker and Mervyn Cumming - thanks, boys!

click here: "THE BOLTON BULLFROG" on YouTube

THE LONGS AND THE SHORTS OF IT - My second book of one verse poems. The title came about because some of the poems aren’t just four lines long. Certain situations need eight or twelve lines at times - otherwise I like to say it’s similar but different to the first book.

Click here to see sample pages

WESTHOUGHTON FOLK CLUB - After having won the BBC R2 award for best folk club, and running for 35 years, Patty Batty decided to call it a day. All the stalwart punters were invited to a celebratory bash at the magnificent Rivington Barn, and I was asked to compere the event. I had the great pleasure of introducing the likes of Maddy Prior, Vin Garbutt, Julie Matthews, Phil Beer, Strawhead, and the original line up of the Oldham Tinkers for a truly memorable send off. Ceilidh by Rogues Gallery was great.

for loads more pictures go to

BBC R4 DRAMA - Took part in “Worktown”, which is a new drama based on the extensive range of photos that Humphrey Spender took in Lancashire for the 1930s “Mass Observation” campaign. The writer, Michael Symmons Roberts, wrote the dialogue using his imagination whilst looking at Humphrey’s evocative pictures. As well as being on Radio 4, this was also made into a multimedia presentation with new photos alongside the originals.
You can view the original photos at the website for Bolton Museum:

Mass Observation Images

ENGLISH INTERNATIONAL: 3 CD BOXED SET - Roots Records released a sumptuous 3CD boxed set with a booklet about the history of the English concertina.

Many historic recordings from wizard box squeezers throughout the ages and around the world are included, as well as works specially recorded. Fans of the instrument will appreciate this labour of love.
Here's "A Civil Affair" - one of the 3 tracks from me on the album:

If you'd like one, and would like to save a tenner, (£15 instead of £25) then email me!

WOOD & WRIGLEY - Phil Wood, Manchester radio presenter, and I began recording daft sketches for inclusion on his Sunday programme.
Here’s one such - it's what you might call a turbo driven piece:

"The Animals Of Farting Wood”

BRASSED OFF - Was asked to play the part of Jim in Kevin Shaw’s production at Oldham Coliseum. So, when we arranged to do the 9th Tinkers/Wrigley concert there for 2nd October, little did I know I’d be making 44 trips there during August and September.
Jim & Harry have most of the daft lines (some pathos too) in the play, which was written from Mark Herman’s screenplay. Every performance had a live brass band on stage (different band every week) and the miming down the instrument I perfected during Victoria Wood’s “Brassed Up” sketch came in very useful for the scenes when we were part of the band.


SOULED OUT - During the run of “Brassed Off” I nipped over to Stoke to do a part in the cinema film “Souled Out”. I’m an irate factory manager who sacks two of his employees for caring more about soul music and Wigan Casino than their jobs.

MASSIVE - Played another irate character - this time the owner of a video shop who doesn’t really want to sell a camera to the daft lads. Six part series, including Ralf Little and Johnny Vegas.
Here's the clip:

BBC R4 DRAMA - Played the part of Vodicka in Christopher Reason’s adaptation of “The Good Soldier Svejk”. Svejk was played by Sam Kelly, with whom I’d last worked on “Barbara” in 2001.


May saw the release of the CD "Every Song Tells A Story". You can hear a sample of every track by clicking the "CDs & BOOKS" link, and here's an animated feature specially made by Huckleberry Films for the track "Hobo's Blues":

Thanks to Dave & Caroline! This came about when they were asked by Friends of the Earth to make a short feature called "Soy Story" in which I play a bull who travels to South America so that he can answer his daughter's questions about where their food comes from. It features hip hop artist Scroobius Pip and has played at the LIVEstock comedy event in London and Yale environmental film festival in the USA.
Here it is:

Hear me talking with Mike Harding on his BBC R2 folk programme in July:


Whereas I handle the singing side myself, all enquiries regarding the world of professional acting should be directed to Emma Ashcroft at:

Sharron Ashcroft Management (click to see the website)

Tel 01422 883090