Friday, 17 April 2015

Pushing the Boundaries

Last Friday I put on the second Pushing the Boundaries show. For the uninitiated, this involves plenty of puerile, juvenile humour and live Question and Answer sessions with cricketers in aid of Melanoma UK. The first one was at Headingley last September and involved Melanoma UK ambassador Ryan Sidebottom, along with Uvistat ambassador Jonny Bairstow, Yorkshire opening bowler Jack Brooks and the hilarious Steve Kirby.

From l to r...Dan, Steve Kirby, Sam Robson, John Simpson, Tim Murtagh and Gill Nuttall from Melanoma UK
This one was back on my home turf in Southgate in North London and had more of a Middlesex theme, although Kirbs being an integral part of the show was requested by the boys. John Simpson was superb in getting the players together, and Middlesex as a club should be applauded for their efforts in tweeting and helping to market the event. The Walker Cricket Ground is a historic venue and the home club of ex professionals such as the Walker family who played for Middlesex and England back in the 1870's, Phil Tufnell, Michael Brown, Gareth Berg and many others, and this picturesque venue provided a gorgeous backdrop to the chaos and carnage that ensued.

A younger, more raucous crowd than those who attended in Yorkshire of over eighty people filled the intimate venue, and some of the audience were well oiled by the time that I took to the microphone.

The evening started with me telling a few gags about Surrey including a video of what one man from North of the Thames did to a Surrey's Ian Salisbury when he was on England duty. I'm not saying that Middlesex have issues with Surrey but make your own mind up when you watch this below. 

John Simpson then came on stage with Sam Robson, and were excellent. Initially the posters for this event organised by Gill Nuttall from Melanoma UK showed John Simpson, the BBC News Correspondent and Simmo joked that he had picked up his wicket keeping skills in Syria and Iraq. Sam described what it was like to be stuck on 98 over tea awaiting a Test match hundred, and spoke eloquently and openly about some of the opening bowling around the English and international circuits that he has faced. He even had time to sledge Anthony Morris who does my visuals, telling him that "he had the best haircut in Southgate"! Both Sam and John were great value, and not only attended but fitted in with the crowd, chatting with people and posing for photographs, and went above and beyond the call of duty. They deserve huge credit.

A short break followed for food, whilst some of the audience watched highlights of the 1983 Middlesex v Essex Benson and Hedges final, others sought solace and refreshments at the bar.

Simmo and Robbo meet The Middle Stump

After the break, Tim Murtagh came on stage. Murts is a very busy man, yet still had the time to attend this event despite having a new born baby, being in the midst of his well deserved benefit season and being in pre season training. Murts was on stage with Steve Kirby, who drove all the way from his home in Somerset to support Melanoma UK. Both of them had a packed audience of over eighty people in hysterics at times, regaling them with their brand of humour. Murts tried to get me to do the show in my pants at one point. One Kirby anecdote of Dickie Bird was particularly amusing, and others regarding Darren Gough had the audience in hysterics. Murtagh is a great lad, and deserves as much support in his benefit year as he possibly can. Not only a great servant for the game and Middlesex CCC, he is charming, witty and good fun. I am sure that anyone who attends his benefit events this summer will have an entertaining time as well as supporting a deserving beneficiary.

Strange Places and Questionable People for John, not that one!

An auction then followed with some outstanding prizes on offer. Auctioneer Kirby was fantastic and surely a career at Sothebys awaits? Angus Fraser the Middlesex CEO had generously donated a prize of a pair of hospitality tickets to Lord's this summer, Melanoma UK ambassador Andy Flower had donated a signed England shirt, and Ryan Sidebottom had donated an England training top from Gary Ballance. Mr Ballance may have a history of taking his top off and dancing on nightclub tables but this time his top was for a good cause. The evening finished with us all singing Happy Birthday to a chap called Richard Gale in the audience, led by experienced crooner, Tim Murtagh.

The audience went home happy having had many laughs, and the feedback is that people want us to do more shows. Some of us didn't, erm go back until a few hours after the show, and Steve Kirby showed his flexibility and dexterity by not only answering questions, fronting up the auction but then coached my fourteen year old son, joined in with a poker table in a neighbouring bar before finally ending up serving behind the bar at the Southgate Adelaide CC end of the venue. There is no end to this man's talents! Kirby is a great guy, and underneath the laughs is a man with a serious message to help Melanoma UK. He is a deep thinker about the game, people and life in general and one who deserves massive applause for his charitable work.

The new barman at Southgate Adelaide CC

All of the players deserve great credit. Not just for turning up, but their attitude, friendliness and charm when they were there. All of them gave up their time for nothing and helped raise well into four figures for Melanoma UK. They are a credit to their clubs and the game in general. I have met some decent individuals through the game of cricket, and these four would most certainly fall into that category. Middlesex County Cricket Club also deserve a mention for their help, as do the people of North London for turning out. Anthony Morris, Greg Mackett, Gill Nuttall, Andy Worthington and many others also deserve a shout for their work in helping get the gig on. For £15 a ticket including food, a show that lasts over two and half hours and sends everyone home having laughed a hell of a lot, represents decent value.

So where next? People want us to take the show to Manchester, to Durham, to Taunton, to Cardiff. If you can sell the tickets, we will go there. Wherever we go, we will have a laugh doing it, but more importantly we will raise awareness and a few quid for those wonderful people at Melanoma UK.

They deserve it.

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