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GOOD CAUSES SET TO BENEFIT AS YORK FESTIVAL NAMES ITS CHARITY PARTNERS

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York Festival – the historic city’s major new three-day music event – will support no fewer than five local charities this summer.

Global icon Lionel Richie, pop superstars Westlife and British music legends Madness will headline the brand-new festival at York Sports Club between Friday June 19th and Sunday June 21st.

As well as three days of unmissable live music – which will also include performances by Lightning Seeds, All Saints, Sophie Ellis Bextor and Scouting for Girls among many others – it is hoped thousands of pounds will be raised for local good causes.

Festival organisers Cuffe and Taylor are today delighted to announce they have selected St Leonard’s Hospice (pictured above) and The Snappy Trust (pictured left) as York Festival’s first ever official charity partners.

These two much-loved, York-based charities will be joined at the festival by the Lord Mayor of York’s three chosen annual charities. This means festival goers will be supporting the work of five local good causes.

The mayoral charities will be announced when Cllr Chris Cullwick takes over civic duties from current Lord Mayor Cllr Janet Looker in May.

York Festival director Peter Taylor said: “We are absolutely delighted York Festival will be supporting five local charities and good causes in its first year.

“Just before Christmas we invited applications for charity partners. We were inundated with nominations from so many good causes who all do wonderful work locally. It was an almost impossible task to select which charities would be our official partners.

“Together with St Leonard’s and The Snappy Trust, we are really pleased to be working with the Lord Mayor’s charities. Representatives from all will be at the festival and we would urge festivals goers to do what they can to support these very worthy causes.

“It is going to be a brilliant first year for York Festival. Not only are we bringing a sensational line-up of world-renowned artists but also supporting the great work of these wonderful local organisations.”

St Leonard’s Hospice, which this year is celebrating its 35th anniversary, provides specialist palliative care and support for local people with life limiting illnesses.

As well as offering in-patient care and its Hospice@Home service, which allows people with to be cared for in their own homes, the Tadcaster Road-based hospice offers bereavement counselling, occupational therapy and spiritual care.

Dawn Clements, St Leonard’s Hospice’s Director of Income Generation, said: “We are thrilled to have been selected as a charity partner for the inaugural York Festival. 2020 is a special milestone for St Leonard’s Hospice, as we celebrate our 35th anniversary, and we look forward to celebrating with the community we serve. Because they care we can!”

The Snappy Trust (Special Needs Activities and Play Provision for York) supports children and young people with wide-ranging disabilities, from across the York area.

​It now helps youngsters by maximising personal development and providing good quality play and recreational opportunities for children and young people with special needs.

Anne Stamp, project manager at The Snappy Trust, which is based at Lowther Street, said: “We are delighted to be working with York Festival – a major new event for this great city and we cannot wait for it to begin.

“The people of York are so generous with their support of The Snappy Trust and we look forward to seeing them at the festival. Come and say ‘hi’ and see how you can help us continue to make a real difference to young people’s lives.”

And Cllr Chris Cullwick added: “As the Lord Mayor elect I look forward to taking up this important role in the city from May and I am delighted York Festival has kindly offered to support my nominated charities each of which is doing vital work in the local community.”

York Festival has a stellar line-up in its debut year.

Opening night headliners Madness, who have chalked up no fewer than 15 UK Top 10 singles and seven Top 10 albums, will be joined by indie chart-toppers Lightning Seeds, Craig Charles with his famous Funk and Soul Club DJ set together with Leeds indie rockers Apollo Junction and York’s very own Violet Contours.

Westlife headline on the Saturday night as part of their UK-wide Stadiums in the Summer Tour. The UK’s top selling album group of the 21st century will perform classic hits such as Swear It Again, Flying Without Wings and You Raise Me Up together with new songs from their forthcoming album Spectrum.

Joining Westlife on the night will be superstar pop group All Saints, Brit singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis Bextor, indie rock band Scouting for Girls and Take That’s Howard Donald, who will be spinning the discs for a very special DJ set.

Sunday night headliner is none other than international superstar Lionel Richie. The four-time Grammy Award-winner will perform a hit-packed concert that covers his extensive and much-loved repertoire – from his hit-making days with the Commodores right up to the present day.

For more information and tickets go to www.york-festival.com

UK’S RISING STARS JOIN WEST END MARVEL MARISHA WALLACE ON STAGE

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Young singing stars will join Broadway and West End leading lady Marisha Wallace on stage when her debut UK tour kicks off in March.

The powerhouse star of such smash-hit shows as Dreamgirls, Waitress, Aladdin, The Book of Mormon – and very soon Hairspray – will play a series of spectacular live shows throughout March.

And now local choirs and musical theatre students will perform with Marisha at the shows. They will join the West End star for what will be an unmissable rendition of This Is Me from the blockbuster movie The Greatest Showman.

The groups to join Marisha are:

Manchester Contemporary Youth Choir and Stagecoach Salford will perform at Sale Waterside

Everybody Sing community choir at Newbury Corn Exchange

BITA Musical Theatre at Birmingham Hippodrome

Showdown Theatre Arts and The Act Too Arts Academy at Horsham Capitol

Stagebox at Leeds City Varieties

Guildford School of Acting (GSA) at The Arts Theatre in London’s West End

Marisha is currently winning rave reviews in the West End smash hit Waitress and will soon play the iconic role of Motormouth Maybelle in the eagerly awaited West End return of Hairspray, alongside Michael Ball.

Before then though, Marisha cannot wait for her debut UK tour and to perform alongside young singers from across the UK.

Marisha said: “I could not be happier that so many community choirs and musical theatre students are joining me on stage throughout my UK Tour.

“This is my first ever headline theatre tour and I really want to make these shows unique and extra special. I cannot think of a better way to do that than to be joined on stage by such super-talented local performers.

“These shows are going to be amazing, so my advice is to get your tickets now!”

Inspired by the likes of the late, great Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald, Marisha’s voice will pull you from your seat and to your feet. She effortlessly infuses jazz, gospel and R&B with a healthy dose of soul that will leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.

On Broadway, she has starred in shows including Disney’s Aladdin, The Book of Mormon and Something Rotten and then here, in the UK, as Effie White in the stellar West End hit Dreamgirls. Last summer she starred alongside Will Smith in Disney’s big screen summer blockbuster Aladdin.

Beginning at Sale’s Waterside (March 8), Marisha’s tour then heads to Newbury Corn Exchange (March 11), Horsham Capitol (March 13), Birmingham Hippodrome (March 14), Leeds City Varieties (March 16), Lichfield Garrick (March 17) and the Arts Theatre in London’s West End (March 23).

Tickets – priced just £25 – are on sale now via www.cuffeandtaylor.com

THE SHERLOCKS AND ELIZA SHADDAD TO JOIN KEANE FOR UNMISSABLE NIGHT

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Yorkshire indie rockers The Sherlocks and formidable songstress Eliza Shaddad will join Keane for an unmissable night at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

Keane – one of Britain’s most successful bands of the last 20 years – delighted their legions of devoted fans by returning from a six-year hiatus in 2019 with brilliant new album Cause and Effect.

They have won rave reviews since returning to the live arena and will play a massive headline gig at Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Friday July 17.

And they will be joined on the night by two of the UK’s most highly-regarded up-and-coming artists.

It is almost five years since Sheffield alt-rockers The Sherlocks burst onto the scene with a succession of radio hits and stellar live shows. Their 2017 debut album Live for the Moment was a Top 10 hit and was followed last year by their sophomore offering Under Your Sky, which won rave reviews and boasts anthemic new single One Day.

The Sherlocks – Kiaran Crook (guitar/vocals), Brandon Crook (drums) and Josh Davison (guitar) and Andy Davison (bass) – have played some massive gigs and festivals both as headliners and as special guests to such rock luminaries as Liam Gallagher, The Kooks and Kaiser Chiefs.

When Scottish-Sudanese singer-songwriter Eliza Shaddad released her debut album Future in 2018 it instantly won praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, MOJO and The Sunday Times. Her new EP Sept-Dec, features a grungier and edgier sound that has had the critics purring their approval.

Named a Rising Star of 2019 by the BBC, Eliza’s reputation for powerful live shows has seen her touring extensively with the likes of Kate Tempest, James Bay and Turin Brakes. She will join Keane throughout their 2020 UK Tour.

Before pausing in 2013, Keane had sold 13 million records worldwide, released four Number One studio albums, won two BRIT awards and an Ivor Novello award.

Their 2004 debut album Hopes and Fears, which gave the world such timeless classics as Somewhere Only We Know, Everybody’s Changing, This Is The Last Time and Bedshaped, is ranked among the UK’s 40 best-selling albums of all time.

Their 2019 return Cause and Effect – which includes the singles The Way I Feel, Love Too Much and Stupid Things – was produced by David Kosten and the Keane themselves, and is the sound of a band rejuvenated.

Tickets for Keane, The Sherlocks and Eliza Shaddad at Scarborough Open Air Theatre are on sale now via www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com. They can also be purchased, in person, from Scarborough Open Air Theatre Box Office (01723 818111) and the Discover Yorkshire Coast Tourism Bureau (01723 383636).

Music Hall Legend Dan Leno to Return to London for West End Premiere

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The amazing life and tragic demise of music hall legend Dan Leno is being celebrated in an unmissable production making its West End debut in April.

Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno will premiere at the Criterion Theatre on Monday April 27th. Tickets are on sale now HERE

Comedian, TV star and radio presenter Steve Royle stars as Dan Leno while comedy giant and music hall aficionado Roy Hudd OBE will guest star in the cameo role of Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

The London premiere of Naturally Insane! comes as the production has already toured across the UK and enjoyed rave reviews including the seal of approval from comedy legend Peter Kay.

Speaking about the production, Peter said: “It’s great to see the life of the great Dan Leno being brought to the stage with such brilliance. Steve Royle has funny bones and this unique heartfelt production allows us to see both Steve’s magnificent talent and Dan Leno’s.”

Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno is set in Camberwell Asylum in the last weeks of Dan Leno’s life as he reflects on his life and career.

The Criterion Theatre has been chosen for this special premiere as it sits opposite the former London Pavilion Music Hall in Piccadilly Circus – where Dan Leno performed hundreds of times at the height of his fame.

A legend of his time, Dan Leno developed his skills as an artist in the Northern and Lancashire music halls before becoming a huge celebrity in London theatres. He also established his name as the pre-eminent pantomime star at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he created some iconic dame roles and became a favourite of King Edward VII and the Royal family.

Written by playwright David Slattery-Christy, Naturally Insane! presents a joyful insight into the life of a legendary comedian.

Roy Hudd agreed to perform in the Criterion Theatre production after seeing the play in Eastbourne.

He said: “So many folk have tried to bring the Victorian comedian to life – almost impossible I thought until I saw Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno by David Slattery-Christy.

 “This really is quite something. It captures the wild imaginings of a comic genius perfectly. Steve Royle looks like the man, moves beautifully, like the dancer Leno was, and makes you love him on sight. I do urge you to see it if you can.

 “I’m excited about it. I do believe this play is a bit special.”

Steve Royle was offered the part of Dan Leno after David Slattery-Christy saw him performing in Blackpool Grand Theatre’s pantomime where Steve has performed as lead comic for almost 20 years.

Speaking about the role Steve, who has appeared in a string of comedy TV shows including Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy and Stand Up Britain, said: “Dan Leno was as passionate about pantomime as I am and hopefully I do him justice on the stage.

 “He is a hero of mine and it is therefore an absolute honour to get the opportunity to portray him in this masterpiece of a production.

 “Everyone involved is thrilled to be bringing Naturally Insane! to the West End so it will be very exciting indeed when we walk out onto the stage at the Criterion.”

After the performance there will be a short interval before Roy Hudd, who is president of the British Music Hall Society, gives a talk about Dan Leno and his legacy.

For more information about Naturally Insane! The Life of Dan Leno and to buy tickets go to www.criterion-theatre.co.uk/whats-on

Alternatively, you can call the Box Office 033 33 202 895.

 

ALFIE BOE TO HEADLINE SPECIAL ARMED FORCES DAY CONCERT

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Alfie Boe is to provide a thrilling climax to this year’s Armed Forces Day with a sensational concert at Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

The nation’s gaze will be on Scarborough on Saturday June 27 when the historic Yorkshire coast resort has the prestigious honour of being the host town for this year’s Armed Forces Day National Event.

An estimated 200,000 people – including leading politicians and members of the Royal Family – are expected to head to the resort for a series of events that will honour the dedication and sacrifice of the nation’s servicemen and women.

And Armed Forces Day 2020 will be brought to a close in style as superstar tenor Alfie Boe delivers unmissable concert at the Open Air Theatre. Tickets for the event go on sale via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com at 9am on Friday February 21.

Chart-topping mezzo-soprano Laura Wright, who has performed at major events around the world, will be among those to join Alfie on stage for what will be a moving and magical evening.

Alfie said: “It is an amazing honour, as well as a huge thrill, for me to be back at this wonderful venue to perform on Armed Forces Day.

“I’ve played this venue many times and I’ve always received such a warm welcome from the good people of Yorkshire. The fact I will be performing as part of Scarborough’s hosting of Armed Forces Day’s National Event will make it even more special.  I cannot wait for June 27 – it will be an amazing evening.”

Alfie has conquered the world’s greatest stages and arenas as the star of such legendary stage productions as Les Misérables and La Bohème – together with his own sell-out concert tours. His unmistakable voice has cemented him as one of Britain’s biggest selling and best loved vocalists.

And he is no stranger to Scarborough OAT having previously headlined Armed Forces Day concerts at the venue, in 2015 and 2018, as well as performing there alongside his good friend and musical collaborator Michael Ball in 2017.

Last November, and for the first time since 2015, Alfie returned to the solo spotlight with the release of his vibrant and instant classic As Time Goes By – an album that celebrated the golden era of music from the 1930s and 40s.

Boasting Alfie’s voice at its strongest, and performing alongside Grammy award winner Gordon Goodwin and his Big Phat Band, As Time Goes By journeyed through the defining songs of the era, from the full force of Sing Sing Sing, through to slower, smoother numbers The Way You Look Tonight and the legendary title track.

Alfie will be singing songs from As Time Goes By, together with a host of other classics when he takes to the Scarborough OAT stage on June 27.

Laura Wright’s stunning Number One debut album The Last Rose has made her one of the biggest selling classical artists of the last decade. She is currently writing and recording her 7th album.

At the age of 24 she composed the Invictus anthem Invincible for Prince Harry and went on to write the official anthem for Women’s Cricket two years later. She wrote Brave for the Military Wives and became the first ever ‘official singer’ of the England Ruby team. Laura has performed at prestigious events such as the Rugby World Cup, NFL series, The Grand National, Royal Ascot and the FA Cup Final.

The Armed Forces Day concert is presented by Scarborough OAT programmers Cuffe and Taylor. Director Peter Taylor said: “Alfie is massively popular and is someone we are asked to bring back every year, so we are delighted to be welcoming him back to Scarborough OAT this summer.

 “Saturday June 27 will be an extra special night as the nation’s focus will be on Scarborough. It is such an honour to host the Armed Forces Day National Event and so we really could not think of anyone better to headline this concert than Alfie who will be joined by the wonderful Laura Wright.

“It will undoubtedly be an incredibly moving and special concert and, we feel, the perfect climax to a day that celebrates the dedication and sacrifice of our Armed Forces.”

 Stuart Clark, Scarborough OAT Venue Manager and Event Manager for the Armed Forces Day National Event added: “Alfie Boe is a firm favourite at the OAT and we are delighted to welcome him back in 2020. His show will be a highlight of the prestigious Armed Forces Day National Event in Scarborough and a wonderful musical celebration dedicated to our Armed Forces.”

 Tickets for Alfie Boe’s Armed Forces Day concert go on general sale at 9am on Friday, February 21 via www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com. They can also be purchased, in person, from Scarborough Open Air Theatre Box Office (01723 818111) and the Discover Yorkshire Coast Tourism Bureau (01723 383636)

For more information, and a full lists of Armed Forces Day 2020 events in Scarborough, go to www.scarborougharmedforcesday.co.uk

LOUIS TOMLINSON ADDS MASSIVE OPEN AIR DATE TO WORLD TOUR

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Louis Tomlinson is extending his first ever solo World Tour with a massive outdoor show on the Yorkshire coast.

The chart-topping and multi award-winning singer-songwriter will play Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Saturday August 15.

Tickets go on general sale via www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com at 9am on Friday (February 14).

As a member of global pop phenomenon One Direction, Yorkshire-born Louis sold more than 100 million records. He honed his song writing skills during his six years in the band which is clearly evidenced on his acclaimed debut album WALLS which was released last week to wide acclaim.

Louis’ World Tour kicks off on March 9 in Barcelona and then includes shows in Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Sydney, Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro, five sold-out nights in the UK, before heading to North America.

And now Louis can confirm an extra UK date on the stunning Yorkshire coast.

The show at Scarborough OAT is presented by promoters Cuffe and Taylor. Director Peter Taylor said: “We are delighted to be bringing Louis Tomlinson’s first ever World Tour to this wonderful venue.

 “Louis was an integral part of the biggest global pop phenomenon of the last 20 years and is also a proud Yorkshireman, so this is going to be a must-see date for his fans.

 “His debut album is brilliant and demand for tickets for his World Tour has been immense. We cannot wait to welcome Louis and his fans to this special arena for what will be a fantastic night.”

Louis began life as a solo artist with two hit collaborations – the club-ready Just Hold On with Steve Aoki and the brooding Bebe Rexha duet Back to You. These two singles have garnered more than one billion streams alone.

But 2019 was the year he truly found his feet as a solo artist. He followed his award-winning return in March with a run of acclaimed singles – the raucous Kill My Mind, the heartfelt Two of Us, reflective We Made It and the soaring pop perfection of Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.

Lyrically, he is rightly proud of all 12 tracks on the album, most rooted in real life, but in particular those that dig deep on subjects ranging from relationships and family to the folly of youth and days of self-doubt. Live, he is most looking forward to performing the songs that reflect the indie-rock he grew up on and still adores today.

“I feel like this is the start of my career, with so much to look forward to and all the plans in place,” says Louis. “Honestly, I’ve been through every emotion possible in the past few years and come out the other side stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been. I know I’ve made an album that my fans will like, one that sounds like me and has its own identity. There were times I wasn’t sure if this was what I should be doing. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Louis Tomlinson’s debut album WALLS is out now.

Tickets for his headline show at Scarborough Open Air Theatre go on general sale at 9am on Friday, February 14 via www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com
They can also be purchased, in person, from Scarborough Open Air Theatre Box Office (01723 818111) and the Discover Yorkshire Coast Tourism Bureau (01723 383636).

Q&A with Britain’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer comedian KOJO ANIM ahead of debut UK tour

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Britain’s Got Talent 2019’s stand out stand-up comedy star Kojo Anim is heading out on the road with his debut UK tour.

The 39-year-old father of one was Simon Cowell’s golden buzzer act on this year’s series of the ITV talent show.

The head judge was so blown away by Kojo’s first audition routine he sent him straight into the live semi-finals, saying: “I don’t really like comedians on this show… But I love you!” That first BGT performance alone has had almost 27 million views on YouTube.

His new and exciting show Kojo Anim Presents The Taxi Tour will take in 26 towns and cities across the country.

Born in Ghana, Kojo moved to London as a child and grew up in Hackney – and he’ll be returning to home territory for the final show of the tour at Hackney Empire on Friday, March 20.

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com

Getting set for his debut UK tour, Kojo said: “For me, Britain’s Got Talent wasn’t about winning £250,000, it was a chance to get in front of the judges, and to prove to myself that I can perform in front of anybody. My goal was to make it to the final, and now here I am – preparing my first solo tour, something I’ve been working towards for 20 years.”

Here, we chat to him as he prepares to make the world laugh, sharing his funny observations and stories about life, parenthood and family.

 

HOW HAS LIFE BEEN SINCE THE FINAL OF BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT BACK IN JUNE?

“Life is great – it’s all kicking off since the show, I mean… I’m going on a UK tour! I went up to the last week of the Edinburgh Festival, to do some shows, spread the word and mingle, which was brilliant, and I’ve had a sold-out try-out show in London too. So it’s all coming together ready for the tour.”

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND – YOU GREW UP IN FOSTER CARE, HOW WAS THAT?

“I was raised in Hackney, East London. My parents are from Ghana, and they got into a bit of trouble, so, from the age of five I was in foster care until about 16.

“I had an amazing experience of foster care. My foster family were from Guyana and Grenada, and I was with them the whole time. I was never moved around, which is brilliant, and a big part of what I want to share about having been a foster child – it’s important for both foster carers and the children to hear that message; foster care is not always a temporary thing.

“Some children don’t need to be in care forever, some do need long term. But consistency is what’s important, if that’s possible. And if they can get an injection of their culture, then it’s also OK for them to be with foster parents of another race, if they’re getting that background and input too. It helps ground you.”

IT’S GREAT TO HEAR A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE OF FOSTER CARE. ARE YOU STILL CLOSE TO YOUR FOSTER FAMILY?

“My foster mother, Aunty Sandra, she’s the main person in my life that I had a strong relationship with, and I still see her regularly now. She’s the first person I tell anything. My parents are in and out; we have good times and bad, but that’s all in a good place at the moment too. We’re all happy.

“With being a dad now, it’s important for me that those things are ironed out, for Roman’s sake. I’m big on energy, and I don’t want negative energy in his life. He is my priority, for him to be a happy boy – and he is.”

WHEN DID YOU REALISE YOU WERE FUNNY?

“I’d always been entertaining my family and friends. I was witty and quick with a response; in school, if I got in trouble, it was what I said not what I had done. I had an answer for everything.

“Comedy happened almost by accident. My first love was always football, but I had terrible discipline as a footballer. I was selected for a school of excellence with some of the best young players in England, on a course to study and play football. I was selected, but I had a terrible attitude about being on time, etc., and relied on being very talented. But it didn’t work out.

“I learned a big lesson in hindsight, and it turned out to be a blessing. Missing that opportunity to change my life, the pain I felt when it ended, that kept me disciplined when I found comedy. I would never let an opportunity ever slip through my hands again. I have so much respect for every opportunity that comes my way now.

“I realised I was a natural with comedy, but that I was going to work hard, find solutions and make no excuses.”

YOU WERE ‘DISCOVERED’ ON BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT, BUT YOU’D ALREADY BEEN WORKING ON THE COMEDY CIRCUIT FOR 20 YEARS. HOW DID YOU TURN THAT NATURAL ABILITY INTO A CAREER?

“So, yes, I’ve been doing comedy 20 years, and now I’m the newcomer – thanks to BGT. 20 years in a nutshell…

“I was doing talent shows at university, and had the chance to go to comedy school, so borrowed £150 from my Aunty Sandra – I’ve more than paid her back now. After that I did a lot of university comedy gigs and built up a fan base.

“From that, I was able to set up Kojo’s Comedy Fun House, which ran every Sunday for eight years, with 300 people queueing up outside each week, packing it to the rafters and coming along week after week. I came from a partying background, so would invite celebrities to the comedy shows, as well as hosting exciting new comedians and DJs, so it became somewhere people wanted to be.

“What really made it big though was when David Chapelle was in town and heard about the club. I called someone who had seen him and got them to put him on the phone. He just came down and performed. ‘Going viral’ wasn’t even a thing at the time, but that’s kind of what happened. It was the first show he’d done after going away following his big success so everyone was talking about it, it was huge on YouTube and was a real international moment to see him back on stage.

“People started talking about the Fun House and I was hearing from American comedians over in the UK who wanted to come down. I was just a young comedian wanting to express myself there, and all this came from that small place.”

ALONGSIDE STAND UP – YOU’VE WORKED IN TV, MADE A FILM, DONE RADIO. TELL US ABOUT ALL THAT…

“On the back of the Fun House, MTV Base got in touch, wanting to film the Fresh Prince Of Hackney, a take on the Will Smith show – when he was kind of fostered by his relatives in the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. That was my first national exposure, and led to radio bookings – I did the Choice FM Breakfast Show, which is now Capital Xtra.

“I started writing too, I just didn’t know which was comedy was going to take me, so wanted to cover all the bases.

“I made a film called The Weekend on an absolute shoe-string budget and with a lot of new talents involved. And it got picked up by Netflix.”

AND BEFORE BGT, YOU WERE ALMOST BETTER KNOWN IN AMERICA THAN HERE IN THE UK. HOW WAS THAT?

“I’d met Nick Cannon through friends, who at the time was still married to Mariah Carey – how crazy is that?, and he was bringing a big improv[isation] show Wild N Out back to American TV and wanted to include some UK talent. I leapt at the chance; I’d watched the show as a kid, and it was a ridiculous opportunity to go and work with all these famous and amazingly funny people in America. Everyone I grew up with used to watch it, and there I was being invited to be the first British comedian on it.”

SO WHAT MADE YOU AUDITION FOR BGT?

“I had been going through a bad period financially and in opportunities. I’d had my son, and that made it so much more pressurised to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life… I was feeling like I’d been placed in the ‘has-been’ box so far as a comedy career was concerned.

“I was approached by BGT, they’d seen some videos online – although I didn’t actually know it was BGT at the time. I was told the producers had loved the videos and they were dying to get me on the show, so I decided ‘Why not?’

“I’d always said it wasn’t for me, I didn’t think it was credible. But, when I discussed it with my fiancée, she said the fact they’d had to find me as an ‘unknown’ meant they didn’t know me – so I had nothing to lose.”

 WHAT WAS IT LIKE PREPARING FOR THAT FIRST AUDITION?

“I didn’t just plan for the first audition, I planned my acts for every round from the first audition to the final. I had 20 years of material, so why not? I just had to decide which way round to use it, and to get my head straight about what was to come.

“As I gradually went through each phase, I realised what the opportunity was actually going to mean to me. OK, it’s ‘Britain’s’ Got Talent – but I didn’t realise the world would be watching online, ‘Got Talent’ is a global thing.

“I know people in the comedy industry were saying ‘Why is he doing it?’, but people across the country didn’t know me. I had to be able to look at my son and know I had taken the chance, taken that massive leap of faith.”

SIMON COWELL FAMOUSLY HATES COMEDIANS ON BGT, BUT HE GAVE YOU HIS GOLDEN BUZZER. HOW DID THAT FEEL?

“I was so nervous. The judges genuinely do not know what’s coming next as you walk out; it’s a conveyor belt of talent.

“Simon had given two comedians on before me absolute hell that day. My plan was that I wanted Amanda Holden and David Walliams’ approval. Alesha Dixon had seen me at gigs, so I hoped she’d be on side. I’d actually written Simon Cowell off, as I knew I only needed three of them to back me.

“It was the very first day of filming, and – to add to the madness – Simon had never pressed his golden buzzer on day one. So when it happened, everyone was so shocked; day one and a comedian!

“The reaction was so gratifying. It told me ‘I can do this’. I had proven myself and removed the doubt about myself. After that, I knew I was good enough.”

HOW’S IT BEEN SINCE THE SHOW?

“Absolutely life-changing. My dad was in Ghana and it came up on the news. I didn’t leave the house for four days after the golden buzzer audition was on TV; I had so many messages on my phone and everywhere I went, people we giving me their love and support. All the work during those 20 years had been gearing up to it, and that’s made it all a bit easier to cope with.

“It’s crazy, and has all been at the same time as adjusting to life as a first time dad. Roman’s oblivious to it, but we’re capturing it all on our phones and it’s amazing that he’s been on the journey with us.

“Roman’s also been life changing. He’s allowed me to be selfish, and people told me how much harder I’d want to work after becoming a parent… You’re making decisions for your child and not just for you.”

WHAT WAS YOUR AIM WITH BGT AND HOW DO YOU FEEL AHEAD OF THE TOUR?

“It wasn’t ever to win, it was to be in a better position – to hopefully get a call, to get management and to progress. I had opened for Kevin Hart and Chris Rock, I knew what you need to have around you with a good team. The older you get with comedy, the more experience you have to draw on.

“Touring nationally is a dream come true and the hard work is happening. We are working on the material, there’s definitely going to be a look at fatherhood – looking at what goes through a man’s mind as a new dad, as well as asking some kind of serious questions, like ‘Will I end up looking like my parents, will my child end up in the same situation as me?’

“I’m looking forward to touring, going to places I’ve never been to – like Swindon, Malvern, New Brighton, places in Wales I can’t even spell…

“In January, I will be 40. I told my fiancée Tiff, I believe the best years of my life will be my 40s – and it’s definitely looking that way. Let’s have it!”

NATIONAL HOLIDAYS NAMED OFFICIAL PARTNER FOR 2020 SEASON

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Leading travel company National Holidays is joining forces with event promoters Cuffe and Taylor to support live music and tourism on the Yorkshire coast this summer.

The nation’s foremost specialists in short breaks and holidays by coach have today been named an official partner of Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the eighth year running.

This summer’s fantastic Scarborough OAT line-up includes headline shows from the likes of Lionel Richie, Westlife, Little Mix, Keane, Supergrass, Snow Patrol, McFly and Mixtape 80s’ and 90s’ night starring Mark Almond, Heaven 17 and Living In A Box. More artists and dates will be revealed very soon.

Almost a quarter of a million music fans have attended concerts at Scarborough OAT over the last three years creating a multi-million pound boost to the local tourism economy in the process.

And National Holidays, which offers travel packages to concerts and festivals across the UK and Europe, will again be bringing music fans to Scarborough to enjoy what promises to be another unforgettable summer of live music at the UK’s largest open-air arena.

Martin Lock, Commercial Director of National Holidays, said: “National Holidays is delighted to again be an official partner of Scarborough Open Air Theatre for what is now the eighth year running.

“Our Showtime breaks go from strength-to-strength as do the superb acts that this brilliant venue brings to the ever-popular resort of Scarborough.

“We look forward to working with Cuffe and Taylor in making 2020 a record year for this leading venue and wonderful resort.”

Cuffe and Taylor, which is part of Live Nation (Music) UK, programme and promote all live music events at Scarborough OAT.

Director Peter Taylor said: “It’s fantastic to once again welcome National Holidays on board as official partners. We have built up a really good relationship over the last few years so we are delighted they will return in 2020.

“We pride ourselves on delivering concerts which attract music fans from across the UK to this stunning venue and wonderful town. Having trusted partnerships, like the one we have with National Holidays, is very important

“We have already announced a really exciting and varied programme of concerts – which includes music legends to world revered rock stars and chart-topping pop bands – and we will be revealing more headliners very soon. It’s going to be a brilliant summer at Scarborough OAT!”

Tickets are available for all events from Scarborough Open Air Theatre Box Office (01723 818111), online at www.scarboroughopenairtheatre.com or by calling 0844 844 0444.

For more information about National Holidays visit www.nationalholidays.com or call 0844 477 8000.

 

RUSSELL WATSON TO HEADLINE NEW LYTHAM PROMS CONCERT

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Russell Watson, one of the world’s most popular classical singers, will headline the brand-new Lytham Proms concert.

The celebrated tenor, hailed as The Voice following his debut album of the same name back in 2000, will be accompanied by The Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra and guest artists when he performs at historic Lytham Hall on Saturday August 29.

Remaining tickets for the event are available now from www.lythamproms.co.uk

Lytham Festival organisers Cuffe and Taylor are behind the Proms spectacular which will see ALL money raised gifted to historic Lytham Hall for the continued restoration of the venue.

Lytham Proms marks a return to Lytham for Russell following his performance at the traditional Lytham Festival Proms Concert in 2013. 2020 also marks Russell’s 20th anniversary as a chart-topping classical recording artist and he said he is thrilled to be returning to the town.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be returning to Lytham for the brand-new Proms concert,” said Russell.

“This is a very special year for me. I am celebrating 20 years of doing what I love and now I can also look forward to sharing some very special moments when I perform at Lytham Hall.”

Russell’s first album The Voice raced up the UK classical chart and held the number one spot for a world record 52 weeks. At the same time, he held the number one spot in the USA, making him the first British male artist to attain a simultaneous transatlantic number one. The Voice subsequently became the first and only album by a UK classical artist to achieve 1m sales.

Since then Russell has released a further 10 studio albums, performed for some of the world’s leading figures and at countless prestigious sporting events while also touring the world.

Cuffe and Taylor director Peter Taylor added: “It is fantastic that we have Russell headlining the first Lytham Proms concert at Lytham Hall.

“He has the most wonderful talent and is also a great guy who will really entertain the crowd.

“Lytham Proms 2020 will be a very special event and our aim is quite simple – we want everyone to have an extremely enjoyable time while raising a lot of money for this historic Lytham landmark.”

The move to Lytham Hall marks the start of a new era for the ever-popular Proms concert and promises to bring all the pomp and circumstance of a traditional picnic proms event.

Cuffe and Taylor are underwriting the full costs of the event in year one so 100% of each ticket can be donated to the charity and go directly to Lytham Hall’s ring-fenced restoration fund – The Lytham Hall Appeal.

The Hall is managed by the Heritage Trust for the North West and all money raised from Lytham Proms will be used for further restoration and projects at the heritage venue.

General manager Peter Anthony said: “It is incredibly exciting that Russell will be headlining the first ever Lytham Proms at Lytham Hall and we can’t wait to welcome him here.

“This is going to be a wonderful event and we look forward to celebrating the pomp and circumstance of a traditional Proms picnic concert with a phenomenal performer while raising money for our beautiful Lytham Hall.”

Lytham Proms stands alone from Lytham Festival which will continue to take place on Lytham Green. The dates for 2020 are Wednesday July 1 to Sunday July 5 with headliners Westlife, Lewis Capaldi, Snow Patrol, Lionel Richie and Little Mix.

Tickets are on sale now for Lytham Proms 2020 from www.lythamproms.co.uk and for more information about Lytham Festival go to www.lythamfestival.com

MUSIC FANS URGED TO BECOME YORK FESTIVAL AMBASSADORS

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York Festival organisers have today launched an Ambassador Scheme which allows music fans to earn free tickets and exclusive money-can’t buy gig experiences.

Global icon Lionel Richie, pop superstars Westlife and British music legends Madness will headline next summer’s brand-new live music festival staged at York Sports Club between Friday June 19th and Sunday June 21st.

And York Festival organisers – concert promoters Cuffe and Taylor – have today unveiled a dedicated Festival Ambassador Programme.

By becoming a York Festival Ambassador you will be able to earn:

  • Free tickets
  • A backstage tour for you and two friends
  • Side of stage access for an act for you and a friend
  • Drink tokens
  • The chance to win a ‘Top Seller Prize’ of four x VIP tickets and drinks for your group

The Programme works on a points-based system whereby the more festival tickets an Ambassador sells the more points they earn. These points can then be redeemed for free tickets and rewards.

Cuffe and Taylor director Peter Taylor said: “We run successful ambassador schemes at many of our events and festivals across the UK.

“They are a great way for people to get involved with the Festival, to not only secure free tickets but also exclusive access such as watching a set from the side of stage. These really are things that money cannot buy.

“We are really excited about York Festival. It’s going to be three amazing days of live music in this historic city – headlined by a host of global stars. We would love local people to get involved and become an Ambassador.”

For more information about the York Festival Ambassador Scheme go to
york-festival.com/ambassador

York Festival has a stellar line-up in its debut year.

Opening night headliners Madness, who have chalked up no fewer than 15 UK Top 10 singles and seven Top 10 albums, will be joined by indie chart-toppers Lightning Seeds, Craig Charles with his famous Funk and Soul Club DJ set together with Leeds indie rockers Apollo Junction and York’s very own Violet Contours.

Westlife headline on the Saturday night as part of their UK-wide Stadiums in the Summer Tour. The UK’s top selling album group of the 21st century will perform classic hits such as Swear It Again, Flying Without Wings and You Raise Me Up together with new songs from their forthcoming album Spectrum.

Joining Westlife on the night will be superstar pop group All Saints, Brit singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis Bextor, indie rock band Scouting for Girls and Take That’s Howard Donald, who will be spinning the discs for a very special DJ set.

Sunday night headliner is none other than international superstar Lionel Richie. The four-time Grammy Award-winner will perform a hit-packed concert that covers his extensive and much-loved repertoire.

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