Sunday, 28 September 2014

Leeds, Leeds, Leeds

Apologies for lack of writing for a couple of weeks. This was because I had to research, write and prepare a show called Pushing the Boundaries that was unveiled to the general public at the Premier Suite, Headingley Stadium last Thursday, all in aid of Melanoma UK. Pushing the Boundaries featured some comedy, followed by interviews with Yorkshire and England cricketers live on stage. The feedback seems to have been extremely positive, and if it can raise a few quid for a worthwhile cause, then it can't be a bad thing, can it? The Yorkshire public certainly seemed to enjoy themselves, and with the show lasting for two and a half hours in total, they certainly got value for money; something important to Yorkshiremen.

Talking of tightness, I aimed to open with a gag about the parsimony of people up there, but this was completely ruined by a chap by the name of Steve Stocks, the chairman of Boston Healthcare who own Uvistat. Steve generously put his card behind the bar, meaning free drinks to all and sundry who attended, but with me having to speak, and with both myself and Steve Kirby under strict instructions from Gill not to have too many beforehand, unfortunately I couldn't take full advantage of Steve's goodwill.

We were staying in the Headingley Lodge which overlooks the ground and the view is amazing, side on to the wicket. Lovely hotel room, great value and even Dickie Bird was staying a few rooms down from us. Rumour reaches us that the rooms had to be of great value where Dickie is concerned, and Kirbs told a highly amusing tale the following day of him purchasing a suit from Oxfam for an event in Scarborough a few years previously. There were a couple of technical issues such as laptop failures, sound problems in the Premier Suite, video links not working, microphone issues and to say I was getting flustered was an understatement. My mate Anthony had come up with me from London to help with the video and audio stuff and his help was massive.

The view from our room at the Headingley Lodge

With events like this, you never know how they are going to go. Would the Yorkshire public get my London sense of humour? How would they take this Cockney coming up to their backyard telling jokes about their lads? Would I get bottled off the stage? Would it be a massive flop? You don't know what people are going to say, how the cricketers will come across or whether they will give one word answers. I interview for a living so I have experience of throwing out open ended questions to people, and coaxing the best responses out of them but at the same time if your interviewee wants to clam up, there is not a lot that can be done. It is also one thing, speaking about a rude joke involving Yorkshire player Jack Brooks, but another actually telling it when his mother is sitting less than ten feet away from you! Luckily, the whole family found it amusing and I even had a pint with his father at the bar afterwards.

Dan and Jack bombed by Marcus from the Cricket Family

The evening started with jokes about Geoff Boycott, films for Yorkshire players and a couple of gags regarding Joe Root looking so young, Michael Vaughan's hair and being a southerner in Yorkshire. The Leeds public seemed to enjoy them. The audience were onside with me due to ranting and getting on my soapbox regarding the recent stuff regarding Andrew Gale. The players weren't allowed to speak about it for legal reasons, but I could, and I got a round of applause for my view on it. Then it was time to get the first two players on and Jack Brooks and Jonny Bairstow were first on stage. Champions of the LV County Championship this year, both gave great accounts of themselves but in quite different fashions. Brooks was articulate, measured in his answers yet highly amusing in a laid back manner. Bairstow meanwhile, was gregarious, open and honest, and the public loved them. Talking of fashion, this seemed to be the theme of the night and socks were first up. Jonny, who wasn't wearing any and Jack who had an odd pair on.

Dan and Gill with a sockless Jonny

They were brilliant and after an interval where food was served, and I had a good chat with Jonny off stage (what a nice bloke he is too!) a short film about the history of Yorkshire County Cricket Club was played, before the main course of the evening. Enter, Ryan Sidebottom and Steve Kirby. These two stars of Yorkshire's 2001 Championship winning campaign, made what was a good show, into one that was memorable. At one point Kirby had the audience in tears with tales of fashion shoots in Leeds, a near fight with Shoaib Akhtar and ambulances. There were actually a number of stories that Kirbs had up his sleeve, but couldn't say due to the age of the audience. Some of them would have split their colostomy bags!

Ryan was equally as funny and had some outstanding stories about the Yorkshire Snipper, a prankster in the Yorkshire dressing room who cuts up clothes. Rumours abound about who the Snipper is, with Ryan the prime suspect, but I think there may be a few snippers. Sid then talked about his England days, the hat trick, being a World T20 champion and the audience was transfixed. The audience were then invited to throw their own questions to the players and I had to suddenly switch from Parky to Dimbleby mode.

Kirbs and Ryan on stage discussing the Yorkshire Snipper

The show finished with a raffle, which would have raised a few eyebrows at a more official event due to Siddy blatantly fixing it and ensuring that a table in the front row walked off with a bottle of wine, but here at this, chaos and anarchy reigned. The top prize was a signed Yorkshire jumper of this season, generously donated by Ryan himself.

After the show, beers flowed and the players went off to a bar around the corner. We left them to it. A combination of being knackered but also giving the players their own time and space to have a beer together was the reason we did. They had been generous enough giving up their time anyway and Steve Kirby drove all the way from Taunton to Leeds to donate his time for the event. We met Kirbs for breakfast the following day and the stories were still flowing. We were wetting ourselves laughing, and we got the man nicknamed Tango, to pose for a photo with a can of Tango. The women in the cafe thought we were mad. Underneath the loveable ginger lunatic though, lies a genuine warm person and I cannot give him enough credit. He hasn't got a bad word to say about anyone and walking around the car park and foyers of Headingley, you see the love the public have for him. He was getting stopped every couple of minutes by young, old, male, female and stopped for a chat with all of them. The way he handles his fans and the cricketing public is excellent and this is why people adore him. The game will certainly be poorer for his retirement.

That Tango moment in the cafe

The players deserve a lot of credit for the way they handled themselves. All four were fantastic both on stage and with the public. No one was paid a penny for the night, and at a time of the season when physical and mental fatigue has set in, none of the lads complained. They were engaging with the fans, stopped for photos and nothing was too much trouble. All four are fine ambassadors for not only Melanoma UK or Yorkshire and Somerset County Cricket Clubs, but the game of cricket in general and they should be applauded for their efforts.

The support we had from the public was also outstanding. The Cricket Family and Langwith CC attended and I met loads of different people from all over Yorkshire with places such as Huddersfield, Doncaster, Sheffield, Wakefield and even Durham represented at the event. There were people from Oxfordshire, Cheshire and shhh, whisper it quietly, even from Lancashire. All of these people made the night a success. Yes, they are a different crowd to a London crowd but their love for cricket is like a religion up there, with Headingley the temple that they come to pray at. I met some lovely warm people and yes Yorkshire people say it how it is, but that is not always a bad thing.

Tango, Dan and Sid

Gill Nuttall of Melanoma UK should also be applauded for her energy and ideas, and she is an inspiration to us all. As someone with a friend in their thirties suffering from this disease, people like her are an inspiration. A lot of good was put back into society that night and was refreshing in a world that is not always so thoughtful. The Headingley Experience, Anthony Morris, Steve Stocks, Andy Worthington and Mike Nuttall should all get a mention for their help in getting the event on too.

Was it fun? It was outstanding to be a part of. I hope the Yorkshire public liked it and the feedback so far has been very positive. Already, other parts of the UK have been asking us to take the show to their county and to interview their players. It would be a lot of fun to do so.

Pushing the Boundaries? We certainly did that night.


  1. YORKSHIRE. Proper County, Proper Folk..

  2. Excellent evening looking forward to the next one.

  3. Thanks guys. Looking positive that we will run another one.