UNEARTHING THE LITTLE QUIRKS OF BRITAIN'S TOWNS
When: Saturday, March 23, 8pm
Where: Junction, Paradise Place, Goole
Tickets: £13 to £15 To book: 01405 763652
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Terms: Trial flying lessons, 2-seat aircraft, half-hour £75, hour £130; 4-seat aircraft, half-hour £90, hour £160.
Contact: 01964 770415
Valid until: Saturday, June 01 2013
Stand-up: Mark Steel, a 52-year-old comedian, started stand-up in 1982. It was, he recalls, "The circuit of bizarre gigs, going on after jugglers and escapologists and people who banged nails into their ear."
His work has included radio shows and three television series of the Mark Steel Lectures on BBC 4 and BBC 2, alongside weekly columns in Socialist Worker, the Guardian and the Independent.
His working life sees him uncovering the weird and wonderful quirks of small-town Britain. Mark Steel tells Will Ramsey why he loves his life on the road
S howbusiness is not all glamour. For every gala opening, or gold- leafed invitation, there is a flip-side. Just ask comedian Mark Steel.
"People think it is all swanning about in Jean Paul Gaultier suits, or going to nightclubs with Lindsay Lohan," Mark said.
"It's not. It is sitting at 8am on the internet, looking up Goole."
Mark's morning has been a frustrating one. For some reason, the search engine keeps taking him back to Google, rather than the East Yorkshire town.
But it is all a necessary part of the research for Mark Steel's In Town – the live spin-off from his radio show.
"It's fascinating, that whole area around the Humber," said Mark.
"It's just not very well- known. You don't go through it to get anywhere – they are the places you see as a glow in the distance as you pass."
Since 2009, Mark has travelled the country for the Radio Four production, which has seen him make merry with the quirks of small-town Britain.
Some moments have been surreal – at the Isle of Portland in Dorset, he found that schoolchildren are given detention for saying "rabbit", as the word is considered unlucky by the locals.
At the recording, someone threatened to throw a missile at the stage if he dared utter it.
"What I like is that a lot of people are passionate about where they live – it is not just the oddballs," he said.
"There are many people who love the quirks and the bits that stand out about their town, which I find really heartening.
"There will always be people who come up to you and say 'You've got to do something about the bloke who dressed up as the bear' – and often you'll find that the preconceptions you have about a place are deceiving.
"When I went to Chipping Norton, I had a bit planned about the Chipping Norton set – David Cameron and the rest. As soon as I said the words, the whole place booed. It's at the moment you realise it is not the posh, twee place you'd thought."
Those flashes of inspiration are what he enjoys most.
Recently, Mark was in Aldershot, Hampshire, the Army town that has a large population of Nepalese Gurkhas.
"A couple of people called out that the Dalai Lama had blessed the football team," he said.
"At first I thought they were taking the mickey – I asked if the Pope had given his blessing to Greggs the bakers – then it all made sense with the Nepalese connection.
"As a comic, the bits of a show you really like are the bits that could only be for that night – the moments of improvisation."
And while Mark mocks each location, the shows are always tempered by a fondness for the civic pride he finds – not least in the quirky books he finds on local history.
"I've just taken six huge boxes of books to the charity shop, with titles like The Pavements Of Burnley.
"My favourite was The History Of Railways In Didcot – the first line of which said 'This book is not about the history of railways in Didcot'.
"I'm certain, if I go to the bookshop in Goole, there will be similar. I love the passion that goes into something like that – despite the thought that only ten people and me will ever buy the book.
"There's something really endearing about it."