Blowers’ looking forward to Sidmouth gig

Cricket commentator Henry Blofeld talks about his forthcoming show at Sidmouth’s theatre

AHEAD of his visit to Sidmouth next month, Steve Chilcott meets the irrepressible Henry ‘Blowers’ Blofeld, the distinctive voice of BBC Radio’s Test Match Special…

“I’m looking forward to Sidmouth hugely. People think Henry Blofeld? It must be cricket, but it isn’t; it’s humour and it’s going down jolly well. Often to full houses, particularly since I did Jools Holland’s Show…

“Jools is a friend of mine. I went along to his hootenanny at New Year... a fantastic evening.”

When was your first show?

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“Around 2002. It started with Dudley Russell - Pam Ayres’ husband. He puts on shows and now runs Pam totally. He thought I ought to do it. I started at The Everyman at Cheltenham to 600 people… now I’ve done over 600 shows …I love it.

“As I say, not really a cricket show. It’s comedy, humour, stories about my rather curious life.

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“It’s rather a different format now. Lots of new stories, although there are one or two old bankers that one has to include!

“I talk at length about my background, my upbringing, and all the rest of it, which contrasts rather strongly with the way people are brought up today.

“I talk for about an hour in the first half and about 50 minutes in the second. No cricket per se - obviously stories from the commentary box which have a cricket background; Brian Johnston, John Arlott and all the others, you know, which I think people like to hear about. I was friends with Noel Coward, Ian Fleming, Lawrence Olivier and Clive Dunn. I tell a lot of stories about them.

“In the last 15 minutes I do a controlled question-and-answer! When everyone arrives they get a piece of paper. I always say they can ask about my sex life…anything they like; they always come out with cricket questions.

Were you a good cricketer?

“Probably. I hit two centuries at Lords. In 1956 at 16 I hit a hundred at Lords for the Public Schools against Combined Services. In fact only two other players had scored hundreds in that game. One was called Peter May and the other was called Colin Cowdrey – both rather good.

“Then I had this bad accident in 1957 - I got run over by a bus and spent 28 days unconscious - in effect screwing up my cricket career. One of those sad things. I was a wicket-keeper - quite a good one.”

Johnners was a keeper, I think?

“Yes, a fairly elderly and upright keeper, if you see what I mean? Johnners was a dear man and very funny. You never quite knew what was going to happen next! BBC Television sacked him - for being too funny! Can you believe it?

“Then of course there was dear old Arlott. A brilliant commentator, but not the easiest of men. You had to play him quite carefully. A little bit ‘chippy’ but awfully nice. I got on terribly well with him and that inimitable Hampshire voice that was such a joy.

Both did a great deal for cricket in their very different ways.

Talk about the show…

“I do about 100 a year. I watch terribly little cricket - 25 days a year, that’s all - then I do this show heavily in the autumn and i n the spring and through the summer. In fact I’m doing a two-man show starting in May, with Peter Baxter…sort of ‘Memories of TMS’ which I think should be quite a ‘runner’.

“Baggers and I are great friends and we spark off each other very well. Peter also joined TMS in about 1973, as a producer, so we’ve covered the same period.

“But as I said my show’s different - it’s very ‘lady-friendly’, if you see what I mean. I hate the idea that Blowers is just going to be cricket and really frightfully boring.

“It’s not like that at all! I talk, for example, at the start for about 10 or 15 minutes about old age – I’m quite well qualified to do that now!

* Shaken not Stirred – an evening with Blowers, is at Sidmouth’s Manor Pavilion Theatre on Saturday, February 11, from 8pm. Tickets, �14, from its box office: 01395 514413 or by phoning/texting 07891 663044.

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