If you are in Hayes next week, keep an eye out for Mark Steel. Tell him your funniest memory of the town to help him find the borough’s biggest local celebrity.
When the Gazette caught up with Mark he was sitting in the corner of a cafe in Crystal Palace, where he lives. He told us what he loves about London, or rather, the very separate areas that make up the conurbation.
“That’s what I love, there is no London, there are just loads of different separate areas,” he said. “Whoever wrote that song Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, they must have been someone who had no idea about London because Londoners aren’t really from London, they’re from Deptford or Ealing or Finchley.
“One of the funniest things I’ve seen is when someone said on an internet forum ‘Went to Hackney City Farm today, the kids loved it’. That must be the most innocent and simple statement it’s possible for anyone to make.
“Except there’s another city farm up the road called Mudchute City Farm, so someone replied ‘Never mind Hackney, Mudchute beats you any day. We’ve got more llamas than you and f****** everything!’
“Just this obsession with protecting your own area – and you’re talking about city farms – that’s amazing.”
Following five series of his highly acclaimed, double-Sony Award winning and Writers Guild Award-winning Radio 4 comedy show Mark Steel’s In Town, the stand-up comic is bringing his live In Town show to the Beck Theatre in Hayes on February 4.
“I’m very, very familiar with Southall now – which is really just over the canal from Hayes isn’t it?” said Mark. “I like to get a feeling for a place where I do a gig, just the general sense of it.
“Southall was very exciting for me. Someone sent me this clip on YouTube of a Lloyds Bank that had been shut down and then reopened again and the people had a party in the street to celebrate because this bank had reopened.
“In the clip you can see a little old lady trying to get in the bank but she can’t get past because everyone is dancing and having a party for a bank, it’s brilliant.
“I really like that sort of stuff, just the funny, everyday brilliant stuff that is very local to an area.”
Mark says he will be making a trip to Hayes to find out all the brilliant and funny stuff people do in the area. He wants to hear your stories, and says he will even be reading the Gazette to pick up a few ideas, so you could be the star of his show.
Just like when he performed in Finchley, and found a local anti-hero named Horace.
“Everybody knows who Horace is,” said Mark. “All he does all day long is wander round and round Finchley just saying ‘good day to you’ to everyone.
“I put a photo of him up on a screen when I did the show and the place just cheered and clapped. They all knew who this guy was. He was the most famous person in the whole of Finchley.
“I bet if I had put a photo of Rihanna up some people wouldn’t have a clue who she was, but they all knew Horace.
“These are the things that I think are quite amazing in each area. I love that even in the most unlikely areas there are people who are hugely proud of their local history.
“I went to Didcot and bought a book in a charity shop called A Complete History of the Railway in Didcot and inside the front cover it said ‘This book is in no way a complete history of the railway in Didcot’ I thought that was worth my 70p just for that line.
“I want to find out everything about Hayes, I want to find the most famous person in Hayes and I want people to come along and have people in the audience say ‘you forgot about Old Ted – don’t you know about Old Ted?’. I’d love that. It should be great fun.
“I’m going to come to Hayes and do my research. The audience know if you haven’t. It’s like at school when you have a supply teacher, everyone can tell when you haven’t prepared and you’ve just nicked a Powerpoint off the internet.”
Send your funny stories, memories, thoughts about the borough and its people to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward them to Mark. Alternatively, find him on Twitter @mrmarksteel
Mark Steel’s In Town is at the Beck, in Grange Road, Hayes, on Tuesday, February 4, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15. Call the box office on 020 8561 8371, or visit www.becktheatre.org.uk to book online.