Widcombe was alive and kicking last week, with much of the Bath Comedy Festival taking place within its hallowed borders. Flags and temporary hoardings gave the place a touch of the Edinburgh Fringe, and local hostelries reported a welcome surge of customers.
Laughter proved to be the best medicine with the Social Club, a building reaching end of its days in its present form, absolutely heaving and the Natural Theatre’s more sober studio across the road echoing to the rafters as the conference on what makes women laugh invited the public in to see the hilarious results of their weekend of somewhat serious discussion.
That bane of our village within the city, the traffic, ground to a halt on several occasions as Arthur Smith’s animated Easter egg hunt wound its merry way around the streets. Arthur came with his own zebra crossing, so for once Widcombites were able to cross the busy road whenever and wherever they fancied!
There was something for everybody, and one wag pointed out that you could tell what was on at any particular time by the type of cars parked up. Look, he said, surveying the street, these are very Radio 4 cars. And indeed, a glance at the programme showed that the BBC favourite Jeremy Hardy was at that moment rocking them in the aisles.
Jeremy was very accommodating. The club has no Green Room for visiting celebrities. Given the choice of a skittle alley or a glorified broom cupboard in which to wait, he chose the broom cupboard. The club’s wayward heating system doesn’t quite reach this nether region, but brave Jeremy refused the offer of a hot water bottle and actually built the experience into his act.
Barry Cryer on the other hand waived the age old variety artist’s rule of never leaving the building before a show and chose the luxury on offer at the Naturals over the road. It was a bizarre image to see this grand old man of comedy, a veritable national treasure, resplendent in his famous shock of snow white hair, relaxing with a bottle of beer and a banana in my office, regaling all and sundry with tales of Tommy Cooper and other past comic greats. Wonderful stuff!