The late Michael Dickinson, circa 2014, as he appeared in the Camden New Journal this week…
Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the Camden New Journaland was sad to read about the death of Michael Dickinson.
You’ve never heard of him? Neither had I until May last year, when I was in Camden Town and saw a man walking backwards. Not just for a couple of seconds or a minute. He walked backwards the whole time.
I posted two videos of him on YouTube. This was the first:
Obviously, I looked him up online and found out he had been doing this for years and was former actor Michael Dickinson.
He had been born in either Durham or Yorkshire, depending on which legend you believe, and he studied at the Manchester School of Theatre from 1969 alongside future actors Julie Walters and Richard Griffiths.
Michael Dickinson (right) with Simon Callow in Passing By – Gay Sweatshop production at the Almost Free Theatre, 1975.
In the 1970s, he became an actor himself. In 1975, he kissed Simon Callow in Passing By, a ‘groundbreaking’ two-man show about a gay romance.
Rather miscast as Jesus in another play, he eventually mostly gave up acting and took up collage art.
In 1982, he held an exhibition in Primrose Hill and a review in esteemed local paper the Hampstead & Highgate Express (the Ham & High), said he was “wickedly adept at exposing the two-faced tendencies and follies of our leaders”.
In an interview in the Camden New Journalon 25th May 2017,he claimed that he could no longer walk forwards and had self-diagnosed his condition as ‘retropulsion’.
He said: “It could be psychological, or I heard somebody say it could be a disease, but I don’t feel unwell apart from that. If I didn’t feel this retropulsion I would much prefer to be walking forwards. When it first started happening it was bewildering, to say the least.
“Occasionally people in cars blow horns at me, which is dangerous because I turn to look at them rather than where I’m going.
“I don’t really want to see a doctor, I feel they’ll just put me on some sort of medication and I would rather not be. I can deal with it and there is no law against it. I’m careful that I had never hurt anybody, although I did hurt myself the other day when I tripped over a branch as I walked through the woods.”
From the mid-1980s for almost three decades – before he started walking backwards – he had lived in Turkey, working as a teacher and artist, sometimes telling fortunes to pay his rent.
…with one of his less insulting Turkish collages in 2014… (Photograph by Polly Hancock for the Ham & High)
He somewhat annoyed the Turkish authorities in 2006 by creating a collage which depicted leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dog receiving a rosette from American President George W. Bush in a pet show. The resultant court case stretched over four years.
In 2008, he was prosecuted for insulting Erdogan by creating the collage. He was initially cleared, but the verdict was overturned in 2010 and then, after shouting a political slogan at police in a separate incident in 2013, he was deported.
Back in London between the two incidents, in 2011, he was arrested in Parliament Square (where he was living in a tent) after shouting “No more war!” during a Remembrance Day silence. He was charged with a public order offence, but the case was eventually dropped.
Permanently in London after his deportation from Turkey, he slept in the streets around Camden Town. While living in a cardboard box next to the Sainsbury’s supermarket there, some people who were squatting in the former police station in Hampstead met him at a soup kitchen and invited him to join their squat.
While there, he ate food discarded by shops and cafés and chucked-away in recycling bins. He made some money by telling fortunes on the street.
It was possibly not too rough an existence as it was a Grade II listed building and they had a wide-screen television set.
He was very grateful to the squatters.
He told the Ham & High: “I would still be in that box were it not for them.”
Squatters are evicted from the former Hampstead police station in 2014 with their belongings, including wide screen TV
Eventually, on the afternoon of 2nd May 2014, the police evicted the squatters in the former Hampstead police station and he took to sleeping in a tent in a Hampstead cementery, though he eventually ended up in a legitimate Highgate flat by 2017.
When and why exactly did he start to walk backwards?
Leonie Scott-Matthews of Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead told the Camden New Journal this week: “I remember when he started walking backwards. He was in a play here; he got off the stage and just started walking backwards. It was just after he had got back from Turkey.”
His friend Charles Thomson says: “It was clearly symbolic I felt. He enjoyed being in Turkey and he couldn’t go back. He was walking backwards when I last saw him.”
His friend Kay Bayliss added: “He emailed me around Christmas saying he was having phlegm problems that persisted. He was still suffering this when he emailed me on April 11 and now had serious-sounding gut problems… Michael had a very interesting life. At school all the girls loved him. He was so good looking and very complimentary even in more recent times.”
Michael Dickinson died “from peritonitis resulting from a gut obstruction”, in his Highgate bedsit, aged 70, on 2nd July 2020.
We talked about strange acts, swearing, David Cameron’s penis and the pig, the Moth’s storytelling, free shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and UK comedy in general.
Janey published her jaw-dropping best-selling autobiography Handstands in The Dark in 2005 and also started blogging regularly in early 2005. So, during the podcast, we talked about her widespread social media presence. Here is a short extract:
You stopped blogging regularly. Why? Were you just going with the trend.
Yeah, well, I use Twitter, I use Instagram, I use Vine and people have got access to lots of different… And I Periscope! I was one of the first British comics to use Periscope.
Well, you were one of the first bloggers. The sad thing is now you are very Twittery and Periscopey and they’re all transient. They don’t last at all. So people, in two years time, will never see what you’ve done whereas, when you used to blog, there’s something there. But I suppose that’s like live comedy as opposed to recorded comedy.
I like the fact that I can Tweet and Periscope. One of the amazing things about Periscope was that, as soon as I started Periscoping, my book started selling (even more) because people all over the world were watching me. Periscope’s a great medium for comedians and people who aren’t worried about folk being abusive online. You get all these beautiful women that go: I’m going to be doing a make-over online and you can talk to me and I’ll be in my bikini. And then you get all these men who go: You’re an ugly bastard! And she’s: Oh my Gawd! I can’t believe you said that! Whereas, if you say that to me, I’ll say : Shut up! Away and fuck yer mother and get burnt in a caravan! I don’t care, y’know?
Whenever I see tags for your Periscope, they seem to include things like Kim Kardashian.
Yeah, sometimes I dress up as… What I do is sometimes I’ll put on loads of make-up and put on a big hairpiece and I’ll say KIM KARDASHIAN – LIVE ON PERISCOPE! – VIP ACCESS ONLY – There’s no such thing as VIP Access on Periscope. But, immediately, the whole of Turkey… cos Turkish men really love Periscope and they’re really, really abusive and misogynistic on it… I know that sounds like I’m racially profiling, but I can back it up by news reports. Other people have had to ban the majority of men in Turkey who come on Periscope and go: Open boobs! Open boobs! We have a hashtag Open Boobs. They’re asking you to show them your breasts, as opposed to heart surgery.
I know. Open boobs! doesn’t quite compute, does it?
And we have a song: Open boobs! Open boobs! Open boobs and anal!
They sometimes ask for anal.
Abso-fuckin-lutely. If your opening gambit is Open boobs! Anal sex – and sex is spelled SEXCT, which is bizarre… They want sex; they want anal. They want open boobs… So the minute they do that, I abuse them back. It’s a really weird thing that some people think they can abuse you if you’re in the public eye but, if you immediately say: Go fuck yourself! (and sing)
Go fuck your mother And if your mother’s dead Dig her up and fuck her instead
… they’re horrified you say that.
But it’s OK for them to say Anal.
And this sells books.
It does. All my Periscope followers will say: Sing the song, Janey! So, as soon as someone says SEXCT! OPEN BOOBS! I say: Go and fuck your mother! – And there’s a dance – And if your mother’s dead Dig her up and fuck her instead – They’re like: That’s horrific! and I say: You started this, ya cunt!
This is a serious point: Periscope is selling your books, but Twitter isn’t?
Twitter does as well, but it’s mostly Periscope.
And you’re still in print, which is a rare thing, because it’s ten years old, isn’t it?
Yeah, yeah. It is still in print and it’s going great.
I still think there should be a sequel, but there we go.
Yeah, shut the fuck up about the sequel. I don’t want to hear about that any more.
You could self-publish the sequel. That’s where the money is.
John, there’s nothing to talk about.
JOHN Janey Godley: My Rise To Infamy… I can see it now.
This is what he explained at the very start of his hour-long show.
Billy Watson at last month’s Edinburgh Fringe
I was married to a Turkish lady and she, basically, had a series of mental breakdowns over the course of twelve years – because she was married to me, basically. Trying to make that shit funny isn’t easy. How do I turn that into a comedy show? It was a challenge.
I gave her acid.
The relationship wasn’t working too well and I gave her some LSD and then, three days later, she just went completely… I came home from work at 7 o’clock in the morning and she was completely out to lunch.
She started speaking in tongues. She’s going Argwahburgh! Speaking in tongues. So I think: What’s the fuck’s going on here? and I go to the policeman and says: Help me! Help me! The policeman told me to piss off.
Policemen are supposed to help society. He just ignored me.
After two days of this crazy woman – completely out to lunch – I got her to the doctor’s and the doctor was saying: Right, we’d better get an ambulance here – and she jumped out of the doctor’s window. Fortunately, it was on the first floor. But I grabbed her and she was that strong she dragged me out the window too, pulling my trousers down to my ankles.
I fall on the other side of this window. She starts to run. I start chasing after her and the doctor starts chasing. It was like a scene from Benny Hill. He grabs her; I pull her down to the ground. The medical staff turn up and they get this syringe of something, inject it in her leg and it makes her totally zonked. I was trying to get the name of it from the bottles. I thought: I could do with some of that myself.
They put her in a mental ward in Falkirk. She got sectioned for two weeks. That was the first one. Then, every eight months, something would trigger it off and I’d have police at the door.
Basically, we had all these break-ups, right? Because being married to me isn’t easy, right? And we had temporary break-ups. One time she went to Turkey and I thought that was the relationship finished, but she came back and said: I really love ya. God knows why. She wanted us to have a baby to try to save the marriage.
I should have known having a child with a psychotic patient was not the wisest idea.
So, when the baby started to grow inside her, I had to say I thought it would be a good idea to go and be a hotel entertainer in Majorca. I left her and went to Majorca to train as a dancer in Grease – I was 34. For six weeks, I performed in Grease. I was John Travolta at one point. It was awesome.
But she came out there after six weeks. She packed up the house to rent it out to have the baby in Spain but, after a week, she had another mental breakdown.
So I didn’t go in to work that night because I had something to deal with – I got her to hospital.
This is funny, isn’t it? This mental shit was good.
Billy Watson at The Grouchy Club last month
I got her to hospital and then, the next day, when I went in for work, the woman – the boss of the hotel – says: Why didn’t you come in to work last night?
Well, my wife had a mental breakdown. I had something to deal with.
The boss, she says to me: Oh, I think you are finished.
I got a major red eye; tears were pouring down my face. My bottom lip was trembling: My wife’s in hospital.
She said: I’ve got a hotel to run here.
I said: Well thanks for your boundless compassion.
She’s just sacked me. I’ve got red eye. Then she says to me: By the way, for the rest of today, can you take the Killer Darts? This game. The fucking Killer Darts.
I said: Aye. I’ll take the Killer Darts. Here, you hold the fucking board. We’ll start with the eyes closing. Whoever throws the killer dart wins.
Basically, I didn’t go to work for the next six months. I had to hang around Majorca while my wife had the baby there. Then, six weeks after having the child, she had another breakdown, right? I grabbed the baby off her. There’s this guy at the door saying: What’s going on there? I say: Phone an ambulance! Phone an ambulance!
This ambulance comes, takes her to hospital again and I’m left with a six-week old baby in Spain and I know nothing about babies. I’ve got to try and look after that child for a week while she was in mental hospital.
This woman who rented me the apartment got some of her friends and came to see me and I just cried and said Why did I bring my schizophrenic wife to have a baby in Spain?
(At this point, a member of the audience interrupted Billy and asked: “Did you know she was schizophrenic when you dropped her some Acid?”)
(“Well, it was the acid,” said the man in the audience.)
That… You would… Maybe, you see…
(“The kind of causation ends with you,” said the man in the audience.)
That’s why I probably stuck with the marriage for fourteen years, to be honest with you. I felt guilty.
Billy Watson at The Grouchy Club last month
But, after that, right, listen to this… She has had the baby. She has had a caesarean. And now I’m looking after the child. Then, after that, she was having a check-up for the caesarean. The pediatrician – or whatever the doctor’s called that deals with that part – he tests her and discovers she has cancer.
She’s got lymphoma, so we had to go back to Turkey, where she had an operation to take out the cancer, but she wanted to go back to Scotland to see what the doctors there said.
So we took her and her mother – who doesn’t speak English – back to Scotland and she got chemotherapy and all her hair fell out and I was working in a call centre and that was pretty bad.
So we decided to go back to Turkey and after about a year there I got a job as an estate agent and, after two weeks of me working, she had another mental breakdown.
At one point, she decided to jump out a fourth floor window. She was going mental, right? Basically, her dad wouldn’t take her to hospital for three nights. One night she had this purse on round her shoulder and she wouldn’t take it off: a very small purse. But then the next day, when the medical people eventually came… Remember, every time she sees the medical people, she runs away… I realise – Fuck! The window of the kitchen is open! She runs past me, heading straight towards the window. I grabbed the strap of the purse she had refused to take off… I grabbed that, pulled it, pulled her to the ground… another injection in the leg.
Afterwards I thought maybe I could have done something differently because, if she had jumped, about 50 of my problems would have disappeared just like that. Though probably it would have created 100 new ones.
The thing was we got her to hospital that day and this big, new, huge hospital said they didn’t have a bed for her. The ambulance people just dropped her off, then the psychologist people wouldn’t take her in and wouldn’t even explain to me what the situation was because she didn’t speak perfect English. Turkish people are a bit embarrassed if they’re not perfect.
The doctor said to me: Ask your father-in-law.
I said: He doesn’t speak English.
Anyway, they refused to take her and made us go to this other hospital out in the sticks.
Billy Watson (left) with me and Mr Townkey (right) (Photograph by Kate Copstick, courtesy of Billy Watson)
We get there. I think: Great. I’ve done my job. She’s saved. She’s gonna be locked up.
I get a call two days later. She had escaped from the hospital, jumped into this big thing, broke her back and busted her leg all up, right? She still walks with a limp.
After that, I said: I don’t think this relationship’s doing either of us any good. Moreso you. So that’s why I ended up getting divorced. It wasn’t going too well.
Is this comedy gold??
Two days after this gig in Edinburgh, Billy Watson returned to Turkey where, as I understand it, he intends to stay.
So I got an e-mail from comedian Matt Price. It read:
Last November, I received a stab vest through the post from a friend of mine with a “colourful past”. I was wondering if you have time to discuss this or if indeed it would be of interest to you in your blog.
So obviously we met up in Camden Town this week. Less obviously, we met in a McDonald’s. He had tea. I had ice cream. He brought along the stab vest in a suitcase.
“I don’t know what they’ll make of it in McDonald’s if I get it out,” Matt said.
“Better than getting it out in a bank,” I suggested.
Matt show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe had consequences
Last year, Matt’s Edinburgh Fringe show Turkeygate, Tinky Winky and The Mafia was about a dodgy UK promoter who booked him on a dodgy series of gigs in Turkey involving some dodgy Turks with alleged criminal associations.
There was a problem when Matt performed his show.
“During the Fringe last year,” Matt told me, “there wasn’t an altercation as such but there was an incident with another comedian every day. The guy who was on after me said I was not there to do an hour, I was there to do 45 minutes and so he would turn up after I had been doing my show for 40 minutes and I ended up getting kicked out on the street every night, performing my show to my audience out on the street.
“Then I got a threat from Turkey, saying: I hear you are out on the streets of Edinburgh talking about my family!”
“So this dodgy Turkish guy,” I asked, “thought that you were just generally standing in the middle of Princes Street in Edinburgh bitching to passers by and one-and-all about him and his family?”
“Yes,” said Matt, “and he was understandably upset. I think he was concerned I was going to start badmouthing him in London too. I was having nightmares. I was staying in a room in (Scotsman journalist) Claire Smith’s flat and quite often she told me: Matt, you were screaming in the middle of the night!”
“And then you got this threat?” I asked.
“Yes. On Facebook. I wasn’t thinking clearly. So I phoned up ‘Stab Vest’ Steve and said to him: Look, I’m actually quite frightened.”
Matt demonstrates in a Camden back street that the stab vest does not quite fit him
“’Stab Vest’ Steve?” I asked. “In London?”
“Hertfordshire,” said Matt.
“That’s where I live,” I said. “This is not re-assuring.”
“So ‘Stab Vest’ Steve sent me a stab vest recorded delivery through the post and my missus Martha signed for it, thinking it was something she had bought off eBay. She opened it up and, when I got back home again, she said: We’ve been together for nine years. I know we’ve had our ups and downs. But why have you got a stab vest?
“The thing is it doesn’t actually fit. My stomach’s exposed. So Steve either thinks I’m physically smaller or that I‘m a teenage girl. It’s of no practical use.
“I phoned up Steve and said The missus is being a bit funny about this and he explained the situation to her, then he told me the stab vest was worth £400 and got me to phone ‘The Boss’ (a well-known celebrity criminal mentioned under this nom-de-crime in Matt’s show last year) and, once ‘The Boss’ stopped laughing, he said:
“Now, look, I’m really sorry, but you’ve been threatened on Facebook. Have a think about that for a second. If I threatened somebody on Facebook and that person ended up hurt and I was taken to court, people would turn up just to piss themselves laughing.”
“Had the Turkish guy,” I asked, “threatened you from a Facebook account with his real name on?”
“What had the threat been?” I asked.
Matt at his Natural Born Storytellers gig
“He said: I am going to send a North London crime family around to your storytelling night in Camden to beat you up.
“‘The Boss’ told me: You need to e-mail him back and say: Thankyou very much. Hope you and your family are well. Message understood completely. Tell the family to arrive early, because we are a very popular night.
“‘The Boss’ told me: You are a very easily frightened person. If you were going to get killed, they would have just killed you. There’s plenty of holes in the ground.
“But it was mindless panic I felt. The result was I spent several months this year being very angry with myself for being under-assertive. I thought: Why don’t you stand up for yourself? You get walked over all the time? And that led me to this year’s Fringe show.”
“Well promoted, if un-subtle,” I said. “What’s it called?”
“Initially,” said Matt, “it was inspired by the true story of a local character called Arthur in his mid-fifties who believed he was a dinosaur. But the show has turned into being about my own lack of self-assertion. The basic premise is that I spent several months of last year feeling bad about myself for being a guy anybody can walk all over. But then I realised that, if I wasn’t that guy, I wouldn’t have met all these great people.”
“Gangsters,” replied Matt.
I said: “I think it’s wise not to be too assertive to certain gangsters.”
“Well,” said Matt, “I’ve sort of reached a point with the gangsters now where I can speak my mind with them. I know where the boundaries are and, actually, they quite like it. The only thing that gangsters seem to dislike is anybody who pretends to be one of them when they’re not.”
“Oddly,” I said, “I think the biggest thing proper criminals don’t like is dishonesty. The really dangerous people are the quiet ones. I’ve met about three allegedly-ex-SAS men and they were all very quiet and polite and wouldn’t say boo to a mouse.”
Matt’s 2009 Edinburgh Fringe poster
“Have you ever met people who pretend to be in the SAS?” asked Matt. “That’s a very popular thing in Cornwall. You get a certain breed of middle-aged man in his fifties… Mythology is something people can manipulate. Years ago, I mentioned to (the comedian) Ian Cognito: There’s a rumour going round you used to be an opera singer and he said: Oooh! Keep that one going, dahlin’ – I do like that one!
“‘The Boss’ likes to be talked about. He saw my show in Essex last year and, afterwards, he asked me Why didn’t you use my real name? and I told him I didn’t want to be another hanger-on. The world’s full of people who say Oh, I know ‘The Boss’ but I don’t want to be that sort of guy. And I like him. I don’t like the crime, I’m not drawn to the violence. What I’m drawn to is the humour and the psychology and who wouldn’t be? Because gangsters think differently and yet – as you know – they’re capable of compassion and they can be very nice and yet they may bite your nose off.”
“What’s interesting,” I said, “is there has always been a cross-over between showbiz and crime.”
“Yes,” agreed Matt.
A photo from former criminal Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days – Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Roza, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor and actor Ronald Fraser
“It’s partly the financing of the business,” I said, “but it’s not just that. There’s some sort of mentality link-up. Maybe a performer wants to be up on stage and hear the applause and be watched and that’s like being a ‘Face’ in your local community. You can stride round Bethnal Green or Lewisham or Tottenham and people will be frightened of you. Maybe it’s that Godfather thing of respect. Comedians want to get up on stage and boost their self-esteem by being laughed at and, when The Krays walked round the East End and people were frightened into showing them respect, they thought they had ‘made it’ in much the same way. Though maybe not so many people laughed at the Krays.”
“I see what you mean,” said Matt, “but I’ve always felt comedy and boxing are more linked.”
“Have you boxed?” I asked.
“Oh, I was terrible at boxing. I wasn’t very assertive, but I don’t like to give up easily. So that made it a nightmare. When you punch someone in the head and then apologise, they don’t take it very well. I found it makes them furious.”
Yesterday afternoon, I heard from comedian Daphna Baram – the woman with her finger on the pulse of rising comics – that comedian Chris Dangerfield had pulled out of his show at the Edinburgh Fringe. His show had been billed as Chris Dangerfield: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.
I looked up Matt’s website and it said he was in Turkey throughout August. No mention of the Edinburgh Fringe.
So I asked him what was up.
“I was supposed to be in Turkey for four and a half months,” he explained, “but it went horribly wrong after six weeks. Chris Dangerfield dropped out because of death threats from some very bad people and so I’m taking his time slot in Edinburgh – 6.30pm at the Hive from August 1st to 26th.
“I have only had a week in which to prepare my show, so it should be interesting… It’s been a very strange few months, but it’s quite a story. I could tell you more, but I don’t really know quite where to begin and I don’t want to give away what’s in my show.
“My concern at the moment is for Chris Dangerfield. I was dealing with some bad people myself, hence why I’m going to Edinburgh. The difference is they are in Turkey. The bad people Chris knows are in Britain.”
The billing for Matt’s new show says it “features fake Ralph Lauren polo shirts, holiday reps, the Turkish Mafia, Jason Manford’s brother and the bloke who played Tinky Winky (yes, the Teletubbies).”
Colin Manford: unexplained important photo
Yesterday, Matt told me: “The photo that stands out most for me from the trip is one of Colin Manford. It was in the stage area at one of the gigs. We did the last show there and were planning our escape via Rhodes. A plan that didn’t quite work out…”
As Tinky Winky from Teletubbies was involved – the ever creative Dave Thompson – I asked him what on earth had happened out in Turkey.
“The situation,” Dave told me, “was that an Englishman who spends a lot of time in Turkey saw what he thought was a gap in the market for stand-up comedy in the Turkish resorts around Ölüdeniz. This was a year ago last June.
“He decided to go full steam ahead with promoting comedy out there this year, with no experience of it whatsoever.
“Instead of trying out a few shows last year to see if there really was a demand for them, he went into full-scale production. He booked nine comedians to work in three packages, all of which would be doing twelve shows per week for the entire summer of this year… His preparations were highly inadequate.
“We were booked for the Englishman’s shows through a British promoter and the British promoter was superb in every aspect. They were completely open with us, giving us the contact details of the Englishman so we could meet him and judge for ourselves if he was worth dealing with.
“I met him in Leeds, when I arranged for him to come to see me in Harry Hill’s show Sausage Time (which was being recorded for the live DVD).
Harry Hill’s Sausage Time DVD became involved in the saga
“I noticed he didn’t buy one drink, allowing me to buy them all in the pub afterwards or drinking the beers from the rider in the dressing room. I got the feeling he didn’t have any money and that the entire project depended on the shows in Turkey being nearly sold out from the start. But, as I love travel and he paid for my plane ticket out there and arranged for us to be accommodated in a villa with a shared pool, I went out there just in case the project was a success.
“I was with Matt in the first group booked and I went out there anticipating the whole thing might collapse fairly soon, but prepared for it not to.
“The first show we did was in front of tour reps and their managers, for no money. The venue had been refurbished at the expense of the Turkish club owner, but there had been no consultation with anyone who had ever promoted comedy.
“Consequently, lots of money had been spent to build a dedicated comedy room that was totally inappropriate for comedy. The sound desk was in a separate room and had no communication with or view of the comedy room. There was no microphone stand. The sight-lines were appalling. The stage was too high and at the end of a long narrow room. There were no seat backs on the seats, which had been specially made and installed, even though he expected the shows to last for over two hours.
Dave Thompson – no room for comedy
“The room could have been superb for comedy – if the English guy who initiated all this had bothered to consult someone who had run comedy shows before – or even consulted comedians.
“As a result, the large amount of money spent on the room was totally wasted.
“I don’t normally swear onstage, but the show was such a fiasco – with a few fat, thick tour reps who hadn’t paid to see the show – that I did swear on this occasion.
“After the show, the English promoter was euphoric about it, saying it was going to be a huge success. The next day, though, it turned out the tour rep managers were not keen on the show and I was singled out as having sworn. I was sacked a few days later, having only done one unpaid show.
“As I always knew it was a strong possibility the whole project would collapse, I had continued booking work elsewhere for the summer. So I stayed in a different resort in Turkey for a few days and returned to Britain after having had a pleasant week swimming in the sea and the pool every day.
“But it had become clear while we were out there that the owner of the hotel and nightclub where the performances were happening was connected to the Turkish mafia.
“Mafia is maybe rather an umbrella term. But it was obvious that, in certain ways, they were not concerned about the law or the police. We did not have work permits and we were told that, if the police came to the show to enforce the law, as soon as they saw a certain person who would be in the audience, they would leave without interfering.”
I asked Matt Price yesterday what happened after Dave Thompson left.
Matt Price, armed, waiting for the Mafia to arrive
“For the five weeks that followed Dave’s departure,” he told me, “things really went downhill. Every day was more and more tense. The Englishman was, shall we say, ‘a fantasist’. He was drink driving every day and there were daily talks of ‘killing Tinky Winky’.
“I took the gigs in good faith thinking that it was the trip of a lifetime – and in so many ways it was, but not the way I expected!
“When I said goodbye to Dave Thompson, I never expected to end up on the last night sleeping in my clothes, holding a kitchen knife and wondering if was capable of killing anyone. Cole Parker and me locked ourselves into a luxury villa with weapons waiting for the Mafia to arrive.”
“Weapons?” I asked Matt. “Was that just the kitchen knife or something more substantial?”
“I would prefer not tell you?” said Matt. “The weapons will be explained in my Fringe show. It’s a huge part of the story, as is our escape.
“I’d like to create as much intrigue as possible really, John. You’d laugh if you heard some of the rumours going around about how we had to be rescued in the middle of the night by helicopter, we stole a car and drove to Istanbul, came home via Europe on the train, the SAS were sent in. The list goes on.
“I’ve had to get my show together at such short notice – one week – I’m hoping the mystery behind the story will get people in. All I want to say is that Chris Dangerfield and I have both been involved with some bad people. I just hope that none of the bad people confuse me for him.”
At this point, obviously, I asked Chris Dangerfield why he had cancelled his Edinburgh shows just one week before the Fringe began.
The logo for Chris Dangerfield’s cancelled show
“Due to the sensitive nature of my situation,” he told me with unusual care, “I have decided to explain the situation myself on a podcast which will be aired this week. I apologise to anyone negatively affected by my cancellation, I wouldn’t have done it if I had any other options. Have a good festival and see you next year!”
“What about your sponsors?” I persisted.
“I’ve already had more press than I had last year,” said Chris, “and last year was a great success in this area. My Edinburgh sponsors this year sorted me out with 100 syringes, 100 x 27 gauge 25mm spikes, 100 2ml bottle ampoules of sterile water and 100 alcohol swabs. They are over the moon because of the coverage I’ve already had.
“They are wonderful people – Exchange Supplies. They were set up by drug workers to improve the harm reduction response to drug use. They developed the nevershare syringe – the world’s first syringe designed specifically for injecting drug users – and they also supply injecting paraphernalia. They are involved in harm reduction on the front line of a society that usually prefers to turn its back on its less palatable creations – usually causing a cultural sciatica we all have the pleasure of feeling.
Chris Dangerfield not surprisingly gets enquiries daily
“I’m also getting enquiries daily,” he continued. “The British Comedy Guide just contacted me, asking about my cancellation and about hosting a podcast about the announcement. I’ll be using such platforms to raise the entire censorship debate as well as the ugly negative gender politics that seem to be doing their best to strangle the last breath from the weary lung of stand-up.”
I presumed this meant Chris did not want to talk to me about the alleged death threats and why he cancelled the show.
“So where are you going to perform it now, if not at the Fringe?” I asked. “It was a good title: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.
“This show will not be performed now – ever,” said Chris. “Mainly because it didn’t exist in the first place and it seems pointless to bother making the effort now. Much like last year’s show Sex Tourist, I was just going to wing it and cross my fingers.”
That doesn’t quite explain everyone’s reference to death threats and Chris clearly did not want to tell me any more details, but I look forward with interest to the explanatory podcast.
In the meantime, the whole sorry saga does have some good resulting from it.
Matt Price will be performing his show Matt Price Is Not In The Program: Turkeygate, Tinky Winky & The Mafia throughout the Edinburgh Fringe, even if I do not approve of the spelling of ‘Program’. And Dave Thompson tells me:
Dave Thompson (centre) was a fake vicar at a real wedding
“Shortly after returning from Turkey, I was offered a role in Harry Hill’s forthcoming feature film and did five days work on it. I have also had a lucky streak of work since, including being a fake vicar at a TV executive’s wedding and I will be relaxing on a beach in Croatia during August, a long way from Edinburgh and the Scottish weather. Be sure to mention I will also be handling the almost overwhelming surge in orders for my book The Sex Life of a Comedian.”
Roll up! Roll up! Promotion! Promotion!
Everyone even remotely connected to the Edinburgh Fringe in August is promoting their product(s).
Opposite our hotel, a new block was being built and its skeleton was showing massive cracks in the concrete. I asked an architect why this was.
“They are using the wrong type of concrete,” he told me. “The decision on which type of concrete to use in the building was made centrally in Moscow. They have a very cold climate in Moscow. This is Uzbekistan. We are in the middle of a scorching hot desert. They are using the wrong type of concrete because those are the decisions made by the bureaucrats in Moscow.”
The Soviet Union was partly an organisational disaster because it made centralised decisions for a nation which stretched from Uzbekistan and the Balkans in the west to Siberia and Mongolia in the east.
In 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated, largely because, like the Soviet Union, it was a fake country with such disparate constituent parts that it never made a sensible whole. It just never held together as a single country because it was not a single country.
The UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973 and I remember the 1975 referendum in which English politicians Edward Heath, Harold Wilson and other pro-Europeans lied through their teeth and claimed we had joined an economic union which no-one had any intention of making a political union. The referendum was said to be about joining an economic Common Market.
The European Economic Community then became the European Union in 1993 and Eastern European countries joined after the fall of the Soviet Union. Turkey is likely to join, if it can get over its habit of routinely torturing people (or even if it doesn’t). There is even talk of Uzbekistan joining – a ‘partnership and co-operation agreement’ came into force in 1999.
So we have the ludicrous spectre of a new Soviet-style Union with a centralised bureaucracy increasingly making decisions on the same basis for towns and cities from icy cold Aberdeen (I was partly brought up there in a council estate on a hill, so don’t talk to me about cold) to the baking hot deserts of western Asia (I’ve been there).
And, give me a break, Scottish culture bears no relation to Balkan, Turkish or Uzbek culture, let alone Italian culture.
In Scotland yesterday, at the time of writing, the governing SNP (Scottish National Party) appears to have won a decisive victory in elections for the Scottish Parliament, possibly helped by the fact the opposition Labour Party seems to have mostly attacked not the SNP, but the Conservative Party which is virtually non-existent in Scotland. It would be as if Britain, at the start of World War Two, had decided to concentrate on waging war against Italy instead of Germany.
Presumably this own-goal disaster of a strategy was masterminded from London – another example of why centralised control is a bad idea.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will introduce a referendum on Scottish independence in the next Scottish Parliament.
I used to think Scottish independence was a ridiculous idea because Scotland is not economically large enough to be independent but I have changed my mind because of the European Union.
Clearly I do not think we should be in the European Union but there seems to be no practical way to get out of it.
If Scotland were to separate from the United Kingdom and become an independent country, then financially it would gain massively from being a small country within the European Union – I worked in Ireland in the 1990s and saw the massive financial benefits that country had reaped and was still reaping from Europe.
If Scotland became independent I do not know what would happen in Wales but there is some likelihood that it would move towards independence from England (for – whisper it quietly – it is in the United Kingdom not as a separate country but as a principality of England).
Instead of one country (the UK) being part of the EU, there would be three countries with three votes but the same outlook on almost all issues – an outlook shared by the island of Ireland (which is going to unify eventually, however it happens).
Quite what happens to Britain’s ‘voice within Europe’ and to the British Armed Forces at this point, I can’t even begin to get my head round. But we may yet live in interesting times as I cannot see a vastly enlarged European Union lasting very long without a Soviet style acrimonious break-up or a Yugoslavian type civil war.
Edward Heath, the lying cunt who took us into Europe may yet be the British leader who created a very bloody civil war within Europe.